Since her entry into her second year, my youngest has proven to be a quick study as far as tantrums are concerned. Whereas previously she was a docile and almost strangely quiet baby, she now has perfected the highest-pitched squeal—one that, I swear, makes the windows rattle. She can transform, almost instantaneously, to a deep shade of purple-red. And she can clench every muscle in her body so tightly that it appears she is angrily vibrating.
Like any 2-year-old, she is a daredevil, a boundary-tester, and a firm and gleeful user of the word “no.” She will scale a kitchen cabinet in hot pursuit of an errant chef’s knife, chip away at your resolve to not agree to do Thing A, and then when you finally give in to Thing A, decide that Thing A is never what she wanted in the first place. She is stubborn and reckless, moody and explosive—and, in every way I can possibly imagine, she is an absolute dream of a human being.
Yes, my toddler daughter exhausts and exasperates me, but to me, there is no age quite as magical as 2. Here’s why.
The Perfect Blend
In my mind, 2-year-olds combine all the sweetness of babyhood—the snuggles, plump cheeks, and soft little rolls—with the companionship of someone you can’t help but love being around. Spending my days with a 2-year-old makes time feel almost malleable: look at this kid one way and she’s a tiny baby; look at her again and she’s bounding across the yard all wild and spirited. By 2, a toddler’s personality really begins to emerge, and with it, your interactions reach a whole new playful, silly, and totally amusing level.
Your Biggest Fan
Is it so wrong to love being adored? While I relish having some quiet time to myself, my 2-year-old is just the opposite: she can’t get enough of me. Give her a choice between Santa Claus and me, and the answer is always me. I have a 6-year-old too, so I know enough to understand that this mom-worship won’t last forever. I’ll enjoy it while I can.
Everything a 2-year-old does is downright adorable. Even things that shouldn’t be cute, just are. Take all those times my toddler has parroted my swearing, for example. I shouldn’t laugh, but I’m powerless to her cuteness.
OK, I’ll admit it: this one is a double-edged sword. On one side, that fearless sense of exploration is an inspiration and a sight to behold. On the other, catching my little one diving headfirst down the playground slide is almost enough to bring on a heart attack.
As toddlers near 2 years old, they begin to understand that their thoughts and ideas can differ from those of their caregivers. This is why 2-year-olds so often exhibit a fiery and stubborn sense of independence. Lately, my daughter’s newfound favorite phrases are, “I can help!” and “Let me do it!” They are often accompanied by her dragging out a child’s step stool and joining me at the kitchen counter. From there, a mess ensues.
A Word About Survival
I am not blind to the drawbacks of this stage of toddlerhood. I understand how many people can interpret a 2-year-old’s budding independence and appetite for exploration as mischievous and troublesome (I have my moments too). But lapping up the magic of year #2 means also living through its struggles. Empathy helps.
Two-year-olds are driven by a developmental need to express their will, but they have very little control over their impulses. In short, they’re reactive and short-sighted, which isn’t always easy on their parents. When my toddler is riding the waves of an intense tantrum, there are absolutely times when my knee-jerk reaction is to roll my eyes, sigh, or throw some sort of subdued tantrum of my own. I am human, after all.
But the more I practice a respectful, empathetic response—validating her feelings and letting her know I’m right by her side—the better we both feel and faster. And the better we both feel, the more I can enjoy the wild, messy, and beautiful ride that is life with a 2-year-old at my side.