Terrific Twos: My toddler is far from the terror I was warned about.

Since I was a late bloomer – or should I say, breeder – most of my friends already have kids in middle school. So in a way, I’ve been though the terrible twos many times, at a safe distance, with other people’s kids. For years, they called and complained:

“She magic-markered the wall!”

“He fed the whole meatloaf to the dog!”

“They escorted us out of Barnes & Noble!”

My poor friends, I thought. I observed their furious kids rolled up into a ball on the floor, throwing sippy cups, screeching. My pre-baby self concluded that all the “terrible twos” talk was dead-on. I was dreading my son’s toddler years.

Those parent-friends all fed my fear. I’ve been on Orange Alert since my son turned two, and all the dire warnings lobbed my way have been echoing in my head:

“You think you’re tired now? Ha!”

“You think he’s bossy now? Ha!”

“You call that fussiness? Ha!”

The terrible twos, I concluded, are not for the faint of heart, the unprepared, or the overly tidy. I’ve nailed the TV stand to the wall, bought fasteners for the bookcases, put everything of value in deep storage. Plants? Forget it. Curtains? No way. A nice lamp perhaps to replace the crappy one I found on the street? Maybe next year. Preparing for the terrible twos is sort of like getting ready to have pony in the house: Clear the space, make it safe, and hope he doesn’t poop on the Oriental.

As concerned parents, my son’s father and I looked for signs of the first toddler tantrum like two rookie cops on an all-night stakeout: “Okay, here he comes, he looks mad, he’s not happy leaving the park . . . Look out, he’s gonna blow!” But, nothing, maybe a whimper, then on to the next thing. Even when we put a safety lock on the freezer to keep him from getting at the “Ice ceeem!”, we thought, “He’s not going to like this. He’s going to throw a fit.” He didn’t like it, he’d rather get to the ice cream, but still, no full-scale meltdown.

It’s not like he’s some kind of angel. He has mastered the roll-up-on-the-floor position so I have to pick him up like a heavy bag of dog food. He has also discovered that he can use “No!” to answer any questions. Want to go to the park? “No!” Want some waffles? “No!” Are you sleepy? “No!” And there’s the occasional fit or all around naughtiness, like throwing French Fries at the dog even after threats of Time Out.

But for some reason, none of this classic “terrible twos” behavior bothers me. This, I can deal with. That first couple of years? Not as much. My experience with my two-year-old can only be described as a relief. Anything is easier than having a new baby. Granted, I had a particularly spunky, non-napping, non-stop child. Add that to my vast inexperience and complete lack of help, and I was zombie! Don’t get me wrong, babies are pure magic, adorable little gifts from heaven, precious beings . . . Yeah, whatever. I’ll take a toddler who can climb into the sink and get toothpaste all over himself over another all night burp-a-thon anytime.

One day early in his second year something strange started to happen with my son: he started kissing. My son never really kissed me before. He way always too busy to bother with such niceties. When I would try to sneak one in because he was so flippin’ cute in his SpongeBob PJ’s, he would push my face away because I was blocking his view from more important things, like his mini-lawnmower. I had to wait until he fell asleep to smother his fat little face with kisses at midnight like a smooch bandit. Now, I’m thrilled to announce, he’ll stop smack in the middle of an elaborate farm, tractor or chainsaw project just to come over and plant a nice wet one right on my face, making a “muah!” sound as he does so.

Then there’s the passionate cuddling. He’s never really let me hold him before. Even as an infant, he was always squirming and bucking like a bronco. Now, we watch cartoons togethere, wrapped around each other like two monkeys. Sometimes he even pats me on the back, pressing his face against my shoulder while patting, as if to console me for the last two years.

But what really pierces my heart deliciously is the bountiful amount of “Mommy’s” I now receive. Boone’s first word was “kitty kit.” His second was dog (“gog”). His third was Daddy. And so it progressed for a year: cheese, milk, book, ball, coat, no, okay, alright, outside, car, keys, vacuum, diaper, feet, toes, eyes, nose, teeth, toothbrush, paste, cracker: Then when he was two years old he walked over, tapped me on the leg and said Mommy – actually Mummy (my son may, in fact, be British). Over and over, he touched me and said, “Mummie, Mum, Mummie, Mummie!!!!”

I’m pretty sure that it’s me who has changed the most. I’m pretty sure, however, that it’s me who has changed the most. Boone may have become easier since his baby-that-never-sleeps days, but I too have gotten more secure, more relaxed, more able to just roll around on the floor with him giggling just because it’s fun. Though I was present emotionally for my son when he was a baby, tending to his needs with love and concern, while always making sure I took a little time out of every day to just “be” with him, just breath next to him, there still was always this cloud of anxiety hovering.

Maybe that anxiety is pure instinct, a primal emotion that causes an upsurge in awareness to keep the Sabertooths at bay. Whatever it was, it’s gone now. Now I just love him by the bucketful. I just can’t believe how fun it is, having a lovely son to do laundry with, to buy bagels with, to watch Handy Manny with. I’m only sorry now that I spent so much time dreading this wonderful time, the most precious year of my life to date.

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