Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why I love my two year old

My husband and I got into a big argument the other night. It all started with bedtime.

Little Sister, who is almost 3, is a vocal and stubborn opponent of bedtime. Every night I live in hope that my careful bedtime routine (calming bath, bedtime story read as we snuggle together happily, loving goodnight words and kisses) will work its intended magic. Every night, within minutes of my leaving the bedroom, Little Sister has thrown off her covers and is standing up in bed, insisting she be released from the drudgery of having to sleep, and loudly and systematically demanding drinks of water and warmer socks and extra toys (and, of course, company, since Big Sister across the room fell asleep within seconds of her head hitting the pillow and is no longer an adequate companion).  

Most nights, my tolerance runs out approximately 30 minutes after my first attempt at Goodnight. Little Sister plays me, and I know it, and I stand firm and refuse to give in, but it makes me crazy to the point where I can no longer muster the energy to behave as the adult I’m supposed to be. It’s as though my patience and calm is an empty bucket slowly filling with drips of annoyance and splashes of frustration, until it suddenly reaches full capacity and overflows spectacularly, causing me to stomp into the bedroom, hiss at Little Sister angrily through gritted teeth, and on occasion burst into tears and reach for a glass of wine. At the moment of overflow, I feel angry, defeated, a failure as a parent, exhausted, and horribly disappointed in myself.

One night, my husband watched my usual outburst, and said, with some venom and just as much sadness, “She’s just a child. Why do you get so angry at her for being a two year old? She’s a great kid. It’s as though you don’t see that at all.”

He was completely right. I find myself believing, sometimes, that my 2 year old is out to get me – that she knows better but constantly pushes the boundaries to see how long I will hold out, and that she does it on purpose.

Well, of course she does it on purpose – classic two year old behavior! – but although she’s out to test me, in desperate times I forget that she isn’t deliberately trying to push me over the edge emotionally. And it really is not right to let myself feel that in her boundary-pushing she has evil intent or is out to destroy me.

I have to let her be two years old. I have to be kind and firm and not allow myself to superimpose my own negative feelings and self-doubt onto my little girl.

My husband is also right that she’s a great kid. Smart, loving, sweet, happy, enthusiastic, creative.

Today and every day, I will remember to celebrate who she is, and why she is absolutely awesome. Here are a few of the reasons I love my 2 year old absolutely to bits:

She puts her heart into life. Everything she does, she does with enthusiasm and passion and strength. She hugs like a boa constrictor. She sings at the top of her lungs. She gasps with unrestrained joy on being given a pink heart-shaped cookie. She loves to dance, and twirls and jumps and flings herself around the floor in giggly excitement:

She is feisty and fearless. She climbs the highest ladders. She demands to slide alone down the tallest waterslides, overcome with giggles as she splashes into the pool below. She stands up for herself in the playground and doesn’t take shit from her big sister.

She feels for others. She goes and holds hands with children who are crying. During the summer, we watched clowns performing daring tricks on the high diving platform at our local pool. She started sobbing, pointing at the clowns and shrieking, “No! They’re going to hurt thesselves!”

When she kisses me, she says, “You’re so special, Mama.”

She is so clever with her hands. Yesterday I watched her drawing. She carefully drew a small circle with orange felt pen, then painstakingly coloured it in, trying so hard to stay inside the outline. She leaned back and surveyed her work with pride. Then she drew another circle, and another, until she had covered a whole page with careful little blops that made a strikingly pleasing impact. I'm thinking of contacting Marimekko :)

If she is hoping for a particular comment from us, she just comes right out and prompts us word for word. Silence in our home will suddenly be broken by a little voice saying, “What's Jessi up to?” or “Why do you look so sad, Jessi?”

She is hilarious, sometimes intentionally, but more often than not unconsciously. I challenge you to put together a better disco outfit than this:

Who says that eye masks can't be worn as boob tubes?

I love you fiercely, my little girl.
xx Mummy

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  1. love the disco pic !! if it makes you feel any better my two won't go to sleep unless I am either laying down beside them or holding their hand! they sleep in the same room because it is easier for me ! most nights I fall asleep in my efforts to put them to sleep because we listen to a hypnotic relaxation app......

  2. Of course you do, you wonderful - and REAl - mother!!

    But it is alright to express exasperation...because normal human emotion is good for little sister to see too...and also because she does need to know that sleep is good and that you are boss. You sound like a fabulous mother. Think legal dispassion and objectivity - and practice deep-breathing before you go in that last time. Better still, get Dad to do the night nights...

    BTW really have lots to say about your language post earlier - just trying to find the time!

  3. My son (4) is high functioning autism, therefore he's on the spectrum and you would describe him as special needs. I always tell people that my daughter's two year old behaviour is much, much harder than my son's. He's a positive angel in comparison.

    The night before my daughter appeared at the side of our bed. I know she wanted to get into bed with us but I kept on telling her crossly and sleepily to get back to hers. You know when you're in that stage of sleep where you are so lethargic you can't even open your eyes properly? That was my state.

    Apparently my husband woke up the next morning (luckily very early) and she had wedged herself between our bed and side table, asleep standing, with her head on the top most corner of the bed.

    Bad bad mother. So please don't feel bad. We are all the same.

  4. Thank you all for your warm and highly reassuring comments!

    Lakehousewriter, hypnotic relaxation sounds wonderful. Maybe one day if I give in and buy that iPhone I am secretly coveting...

    la mujer libre, love your recommendation of legal dispassion and objectivity! putting a bomb under Daddy also excellent advice.

    scribeswindow, your story was such a comforting read. Cannot tell you how many times similar things have happened to me. You may be right that we really are all the same...