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Why We Love 2-Year-Olds: An Essay

Having a 2-year-old isn't so bad.

"Surely you jest!" I can almost hear you say. For some parents, the occasion when their little baby turns 2 -- and begins to act her age -- is more terrifying than the thought of a McDonald's indoor playland being closed on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

But I'm serious. My older daughter has me awed as I watch her make her way into terrible two-dom. Although I've been through this stage before with my son, it's been a while. The event makes for an interesting case study as my child changes from a sweet, loving baby into, well, a 2-year-old.

Despite having what I consider expertise in the area (and being prepared for the worst), I still marvel at the way toddlers are equipped, at such a young age, to develop a mind completely of their own. So I do the only thing I can do: Try to maintain my sense of humor -- and my sanity -- by seeing her behavior in a new light. For instance:

  • When she takes a running leap and lands on top of me, she is questioning whether she will always be able to lean on me. And because I always want her to know the answer is yes, I tolerate it.
  • When she yells "No!" and points her finger, returning the glare she undoubtedly learned from me, she is asserting herself. I couldn't be more relieved. I hope she will maintain that perseverance right into her teen years, when she can use it on any boy who dares to try to get fresh with her. And into her adult years, when her stubbornness will be called "determination."
  • When she attempts to stick a bobby pin she's found into the light socket, she is exploring her world and trying to discover how things work. Perhaps she'll be an engineer one day.
  • When she draws on the walls with a purple crayon, she is expressing her creativity. I try to think of her as an artist in training. And even more important, she is learning the value of leaving her mark on the world.
  • When she breaks my favorite lamp and flashes her award-winning smile just as I am coming toward her, she is practicing her people skills. Perhaps she'll be a great politician (though I hope she'd be the rare kind who maintains integrity).
  • When she tries to stuff the kitten into her brother's lunchbox, she is experimenting with spatial concepts.
  • When she wrestles with her brother over a toy, calling "Mine!" loud enough to be heard down the street, she is being bold and going for what she wants. I just hope that in the future, if she doesn't get her way, her solution won't be to bite in retaliation.
  • When she climbs our chain-link fence with bare feet, she is proving that no challenge is too difficult for her to meet. And when I discover her playing in the yard of the neighbors who live behind us, she is reaching beyond her own little world, refusing to be provincial.
  • When she lies on top of her 7-month-old sister, crushing the baby with enthusiastic hugs and kisses, she is unabashedly wearing her heart on her sleeve.
  • When she insists I read The Little Engine That Could to her again, for the seventh time in a row, she is teaching me patience.
  • When she dumps macaroni all over the kitchen floor, stops to acknowledge my "No!" by turning briefly to look at me, and then goes right back to what she was doing, she is showing her ability to follow through with a task.
  • When she gets tickled over something I take for granted -- the toast popping up from the toaster when it's browned, for instance -- she is blessing me unaware. How many times have I longed to see the world through the eyes of a child once again? Thanks to her, I can.
  • When I catch her trying to eat the cat's food, she is proving that she will not be a picky eater -- and that she has survival skills, which may come in handy later in life (especially if she ends up on some reality TV show).
  • When she gleefully rips off her dry diaper, throws it in the sink, and races for the toilet, then refuses to sit on it, she is exercising her prerogative to change her mind.
  • When I call her name and she immediately breaks into a sprint in the other direction, she is listening to her own inner voice and refusing to be a conformist.
  • When she suddenly decides to throw a tantrum in the middle of a restaurant, she is teaching me humility. And that leftovers reheated later at home usually taste just as good as food served fresh.
  • When she steps into my enormous shoes, which swallow her tiny feet, and clumsily tries to walk in them, she makes me reflect upon my great responsibility to provide a good role model for her to follow.
  • And when she stands on the kitchen table with no pants on, refusing to even put on a diaper, and dances... well, I can only think the worst about that. So I try not to read too much into it, because I am choosing to remain positive.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.