Around 4 months old when babies start laughing, cooing and interacting I think, "I know you now! You have personality!" It's so wonderful that I start planning to have more. (Then they start crawling and I decide it's okay if I don't have another one right away.)
Another moment this happens is about the time a child turns 2. Everett is 2 months away from that birthday and a magical new phase struck him this week. He has decided that he wants to be heard, he wants to make people laugh, and he wants to be talked to like a big kid. He is adding at least 10 words to his vocabulary a day.
I first noticed in the car that whenever anyone tries to talk to me Everett possessively says, "Mommy. Mommmmyyyy!" I wish you could hear it because there is no way to capture the comedy as his voice escalates in intensity. He doesn't scream...he furrows his brow and announces it seriously.
To which he responds, "ah bah Mommy. Ow ah na abba no?" Then he ends his nonsensical sentences with a chuckle as though it's a punch line that we should all get.
Poor Darla and Hudson are frustrated that they can't get a sentence in before Everett takes center stage. I try to be sympathetic but it's so funny to me that I end up over-indulging in my 'conversations' with Everett.
Everett is insisting he pray at every meal. We can make out the words "Jesus, day, and amen." Everything in between is just filler words anyway.
I'm curious to see Everett at 2 because his will is already stronger than the other kids'. In fact, to brush his teeth I have to use both my arms and legs. I put him between my legs, hold his hands with one hand, and brush with my other hand. It might sound harsh but he is downright feisty and I'm determined to not watch his teeth rot!
The other day I heard someone say, "You know how it is- the terrible twos" (and the eye roll that inevitably follows). That phrase grates on my nerves. S. tells me I have too many pet peeves but I'm sorry, I have to add this to the list.
No. I don't know anything about the terrible twos. Do you mean the phase where your child actually wants to do things independently? The beautiful moment where he can put on his rain boots and trek outside without your help? Do you mean when he masters eating yogurt without a bib? When he victoriously makes laps pedaling on a bike? When he's proud to sleep in a big-kid bed? That he can actually use the toilet? Did you want to change diapers forever?
Two year olds aren't for the faint of heart. I know this. It takes a lot of thought to answer endless 'why' questions. It takes extra underwear shoved in the purse while shopping. It takes a vigilant eye because you underestimate how high they can climb. It takes a willingness to abandon a full shopping cart to remove a screamer to the car for discipline.
I can see where I might think two is terrible if my highest aim was compliance. I'm all for obedience, but I am also for my children having passion. I love watching them grow independent. I love hearing their own ideas and opinions. (Even if it is about vegetables and their place on the floor.) I want my children to ask "why" and to start negotiating cause and effect.
Even more than the term 'terrible twos', I cringe when I hear it said in front of a two year old. Why do parents think it is okay to speak 'terrible' into their child's life?
My Aunt Jules (Darla's namesake) once told me that her son Tyler was a picky eater when he was little. She was telling my Beppe (grandma) about it and Beppe advised her to talk about what a good eater Tyler was...within earshot of Tyler. Jules did it. Tyler improved his eating. Hearing his mom speak highly of him made him rise to the occasion. (By the way, Tyler lived with us before he got married and trust me- he IS a good eater.)
This isn't the only phase of life I hear parents moan about. My heart breaks for teenagers who hear their parents lament about the 'teen years'.
Often I have strangers say to me with raised eyebrows, "My, you have your hands full."
I respond with, "I am so blessed! 3 helpers- how great is that?"
To which the negative stranger mumbles, "Just wait until they're teenagers."
I can't let remarks like that go so I respond with, "We can't wait! We've worked with teens for 8 years and we love that stage of life!"
Again, if compliance was my goal, I would be terrified of teens. But I have seen amazing things that teens can accomplish with all the optimism and zeal in the world. They learn to drive! They plan what they want to do with their lives. They master skills. They build friendships and experience heartache. I want to be along for that ride- not isolating my kids with insensitive comments about the stage of life they are in.
I vividly remember being a teen and hearing adults complain about teenagers. My life-speaking Mom would go into great detail about how wonderful having 4 teenagers was. Don't get me wrong, she had every reason to complain. (Okay...she had 2 reasons...I'll let you conclude which 2 it was.) It wasn't easy for her. I know she spent those years on her knees.
Yet my mom believed it was important to instill in us that we are valued and heard, and validate what is important to us. She made the most of each stage. That's why she put in her time listening to us form sentences as two year olds, answering why questions, and then listening to the important things our barbies did during the day. That grew into her caring about who our friends were and who is eating lunch with who. In high school she would pull out an ice cream carton and some spoons when it was time to talk about boys. Soon it wasn't just us racing home after school to hop on the counter with snacks to entertain Mom with stories of the day- our friends would pile into our kitchen to do the same. Mom would never say, "It's only high school. It's not a big deal.", which made it safe for us to share.
I've often thought she probably wishes we would stop talking at some point...too late. We know we are valued and heard! Now she's also listening to two daughter-in-laws, two son-in-laws, and nine grandchildren. At all of our ages we know that we are valued and heard so we continue to include her in the big and menial moments of life.
...And that's my long way of apologizing for talking too long on the phone with you this morning, Mom- when I know I'll see you tonight anyway. (But I know I'll be competing with the other 4 members of my family who think they are your favorite.) I'll try to keep my calls to less than four a day...unless something interesting is going on, of course.