We’re headed home from a blissful long weekend in the mountains of Western Maryland that was everything I hoped it would be: relaxing, wholesome, full of fresh air and chilly nights that are good for sleeping, exhausting in the way that only hours spent hiking trails can be. It was our first time away together since I started my new job, and it was so necessary for me–a pause in the breakneck pace of our new normal, uninterrupted time to make up for the distractions of a role that requires so much attention, even when I’m at home. Not having reliable cell service was a blessing.
We spent most of the weekend with good friends who share our love for the outdoors and for good food, so that made it even sweeter. And they have an 8-year-old girl who’s tolerant of and generous with you. You adore her consistently with how you adore all the older girls in your life, including your cousin. You chase them around with such glee and want to do everything they do. And you miss them when they’re gone.
Yesterday evening, after our friends had left (we stayed an extra evening), you looked around, seemingly just noticing they had gone, and said, “Where is everybody?” We explained that Claire and Ollie (their dog) had gone home with their mommy and daddy. We asked you if you missed your home, and you said “My home is here.” I don’t know if that meant you liked the huge, beautiful, rustic cabin we’d rented so much, you’d prefer to stay there (wouldn’t blame you) or if your home is wherever you’re with us. Either way, it was sweet.
We were unsure of how the weekend would go, as your behavior has been erratic lately. Or rather, it’s been predictably unpredictable. The more I read about 2-year-olds, the more I discover you’re pretty much a case study: sweet as sugar one minute, full of absolute irrational rage the next. And if you’re not wild with the hottest, burning fury birthed in the deepest pit of hell, you’re doing something to evoke just such emotion in Daddy and me. Usually something we’ve either told you not to do no fewer than 1,000 times or something we’ve told you not to do about 30 seconds earlier. And you do it with a lunatic grin on your face. It. Is. Infuriating. Almost unbearably so. But we’re trying different techniques to help us get through this rough patch and all we can hope is it’s short lived.
People have said, probably to make us feel less like the most incompetent parents ever, that your behavior is a byproduct of your intelligence. It’s because you’re so clever–they say–that you’ve figured out so many ways to push our buttons. (And for the most part, they’re just ours, as your reports from daycare are overwhelmingly glowing.) But if that’s the case, I keep wondering why you aren’t learning from the constant lessons we’re trying to impart by taking things away, taking you away from the things you want, timeouts, discussions, distractions, offering choices and every other accountability measure we can think of. Why is being told “no” about a million times not sinking in? Anyone?
And then, once the tears and the wailing have ended, you are the kid everyone wants around. You can have full conversations with adults about what you did last weekend; you can explain why you want to play with a particular toy or read a particular book; you point out things that interest you in your sweet, sing-songy little voice: “Look, Mamma!” You can entertain yourself for a good chunk of time; you rarely fuss in the car; you’ve started cleaning up (if motivated) even without us asking. You eat like a champ, you ask for more broccoli, you sit quietly in restaurants and color or play with stickers until your food comes. You say “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry,” often without prompting.
On our lengthy trail hikes this past weekend, you sat contentedly in your backpack, commenting on the leaves and the trees, taking in the world around you. You are completely unfazed by changes in your environment; you go to sleep happily in your Pack N Play in a room that isn’t yours in a house that isn’t yours. You have no problems making yourself at home wherever you might be.
You are a study in contrasts. A beautiful, bold, frustrating, funny enigma. It may take the entire rest of my life to figure you out.
I’ve heard from some that three is worse than two, and I wonder how that can possibly be the case. Perhaps their two wasn’t as bad? Maybe you’re precocious and we’ll get this over sooner and begin to move on more quickly?
We can only hope. In the meantime, we’ll continue weathering this storm and praying we don’t wind up worse for wear. Your bads may be pretty terrible, but your goods are so good (your creativity, your compassion, your sweet gentleness with animals, your generosity, your humor), I have to think we’re doing something right.