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 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:
I love you fiercely, my little girl.
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