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March 15, 2018

Turning two doesnt have to be terrible. When Madeline Tobert looked beyond the tantrums, she found plenty to cherish in her two year old cherub

Two year olds can have a bad reputation. Images of children this age are shown lying on the floor, in public, pounding their little fists with red, puffed up faces, crying their hearts out. Advice is given about how to deal with this age group as though it is a time to be endured rather than enjoyed. I don't deny the tantrums and challenges of raising a two year old - in fact, I'm all too aware of them - there's another side to the story. For many reasons, two year olds are also terrific!

Language 

At two years, a child's language skills explode. Suddenly your little baby is a fully conversant human. I love the way I am getting to know my daughter now she can express herself. If I ask her, “How was your day? What did you do?” she can actually answer, “I went to the farm. I saw a cow. Moo.” That’s a real conversation! Now she can tell me not only that something is yucky, but why she doesn’t like it. She can tell me what she loves, what she wants to do and of course what she hates and refuses to participate in. 

I love some of the words she’s picked up: “ticklish” is a favourite, “monster” another, and the words she can’t quite get. Today “noodle” came out as something like “noosful”, kitchen is always “chitchen”. She’s also actively working on the appropriacy of her language, getting a kick out of saying “bless you” when someone sneezes and “you’re welcome” to a thank you. 

Reciprocal social relationships

Relationships start to become more reciprocal. Toddlers are able to read a room much better at this age and tend to revel in making people laugh. Even parents of shy members of this age group report their kids are frequently found holding the floor at home and getting joy from entertaining others. Language helps with this understanding of the back and forth of relationships. Now my girl can tell us she’s crying or tired or sad, it seems it’s something she notices more in others. Her daddy and I “kiss it better” when she falls over, so now she does the same with us. She’s developing great empathy and will give us cuddles when we’re upset. Recently when I was ill, this child of mine looked at me and said, “S’okay Mummy, s’okay,” and she was right – suddenly it was. The expressing of affection is also much increased in a two year old, and is absolutely heart-warming. “Mummy, I love you so much,” I was told yesterday – and with that sentence, every labour pain, sleepless night and ear-shattering tantrum was totally worth it.

Creativity 

There's a baby dinosaur living in our house. Sometimes it's crawling on the ceiling. Often, it's hiding, or sleeping sweetly. At times it's scary and my two year old is scared; at times it's the dinosaur that's scared. Occasionally when it jumps out and roars, Mummy is scared. My little girl then comforts me. 

Two is a creative age. Imagination can turn the corridors of a hospital into a jungle. It can turn a box into a castle, a person into a horse. In our house we don’t even tend to pretend something is something else; instead we deal fully in imaginary things. For example, if my daughter asks for ice cream and I say no, I might get a classic toddler tantrum – but more and more, that’s not actually the response. Instead, she’ll look at me and ask, “Want some?” and I’ll see that of course her hand is cupped around a cone and she has a whole shop of ice cream at her disposal. I can have any flavour I want – chocolate, milk, green… you name it. As well as imaginary food, we play a lot of imaginary catch. Life is giggly at this age. Everything can become a game.

Independence

Babies turn into toddlers slowly so that one day they’re in your arms and the next you look up and they won’t stay still for a cuddle.
By two, the transition out of that first stage of life is complete and you have a little human who, while still dependent on you, is also gaining their independence. For me this became apparent recently during the most mundane and domestic of moments: when I was hanging the washing on the washing line. This was an activity I used to do baby- wearing or with a bouncer at my feet and it would take a long time… peg and jiggle, peg and jiggle. No more. This week I pegged and pegged as my girl ran from me to the other end of the garden and back, enjoying racing and climbing in flowerbeds and eating broccoli from the veggie patch. I created her but she has a whole life away from me. Watching her enjoy it is such a pleasure.

Parenting wins 

It would be disingenuous to ignore the tantrum side of toddler life, but as another of my friends put it, the silver lining of the twos is that you’re able to see the work you’ve put in as parents. In her early months as a two year old, my little girl would throw her plate of food on the floor if she was finished or didn’t like it, needing it to be away from her right that second. Down it would go, onto the floor. It would bounce and food would be everywhere. One day I made a tactical error and my beautiful yellow tea cup, which I had found in a market in China, lovingly wrapped up and brought home, was thrown down and smashed.

A few months later that desire to throw is still present, but now instead we see her pick up her plate, hold it over the side of the table and then, with Herculean strength, say, “I’m finished, Mummy,” and give it to me. As someone who didn’t enjoy being on her hands and knees, scrubbing mac and cheese off the table legs, I think this little act of restraint on her part may be one of my greatest achievements. 

This is just one example of the little things they learn. You can almost visibly see everything you say and do being absorbed, processed and spat back out. Sometimes the results of this are sweet. The other day I had a little cold and sniffed. My girl ran to get a tissue, held it to my nose and said, “Blow.” When I obliged, she told me I was a good girl and went to put the tissue in the bin. 

Terrific 

Don’t believe everything you hear about two year olds. Or rather know it’s not the full picture. Two year olds are wonderfully communicative, imaginative, creative little people who can be so much fun. It’s a great age to parent.

3 ways to avoid a tantrum

  • Give simple choices between two things: do you want to climb up to the nappy table or shall I lift you?

  • Avoid outings (especially to the supermarket) when your toddler is tired or hungry 

  • Make sure they have had plenty of physical activity before expecting them to sit still in a cafe or supermarket trolley

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