For some parents, the time when their little baby turns 2 or 3 and begins to act his age is more terrifying than the thought of being trapped in a McDonald’s indoor Playland on a rainy Saturday afternoon. My youngest has me awed as I watch him navigate the ‘terrible’ twos and make his way into the ‘terrific’ threes, and I marvel that toddlers are equipped, at such a young age, to develop a mind completely of their own.
This is not an easy age, for either parent or child. So I have developed a new outlook. I try to maintain my sense of humor – and my sanity – by seeing my child’s behavior in a new light. For instance:
- When he yells “No!” and points his finger (returning the glare he undoubtedly learned from me), he is asserting himself. I couldn’t be more relieved. I hope he will maintain that perseverance right into his teen years, when he can use it on anybody who dares to try and mess with him. I also hope this lasts into his adult years, when his stubbornness will be called ‘determination’.
- When he attempts to stick a fork into the light socket, he is exploring his world and trying to discover how things work. Perhaps he’ll be an engineer one day.
- When he draws on the walls with an orange crayon, he is expressing his creativity. I try to think of him as an artist-in-training. And even more importantly, he is learning the value of leaving his mark on the world.
- When he flashes his award-winning smile after breaking my favorite vase, he is practicing his people skills. Perhaps he’ll be a great politician?
- When he wrestles with his brother over a toy, calling “Mine!” loud enough to be heard down the street, he is being bold and going for what he wants. I just hope that in the future, if he doesn’t get his way, his solution won’t be to bite in retaliation.
- When he climbs our chain-link fence with bare feet, he is proving that no challenge is too difficult for him to meet. And when I discover him playing in the yard of the neighbors who live next to us, he is reaching beyond his own little world, refusing to be provincial.
- When he lies on top of his 12-month old cousin, crushing the baby with enthusiastic hugs and kisses, he is unabashedly wearing his heart on his sleeve.
- When he insists I read The Belly Button Book to him again, for the seventh time in a row, he is teaching me patience.
- When he dumps noodles all over the kitchen floor, stops to acknowledge my “No!” by turning briefly to look at me, and then goes right back to what he was doing, he is showing his ability to follow through with a task.
- When I call his name and he immediately breaks into a sprint in the other direction, he is listening to his own innter voice and refusing to be a conformist.
- When he steps into my enormous shoes, which swallow his tiny feet, and clumsily tries to walk in them, he makes me reflect upon my great responsibility to provide a good role model for him to follow.
- When he takes a running leap and lands on top of me, he is questioning whether he will always be able to lean on me. And because I want him to know the answer is always “Yes,” I tolerate it.
- When he gets tickled over something I take for granted – the toast popping up from the toaster when its browned, for instance – he is blessing me unaware. How many times have I longed to see the world through the eyes of a child once again? Thanks to our small children, we can.
- And when he stands on the kitchen table with no pants on (refusing even to 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.