When Julia was two, we taught her to say "terrible two" whenever anyone would ask her how old she was. It always made people laugh, but most of them never got the real joke, which was that in truth, there was nothing whatsoever that was terrible about Julia at two. Julia at two was a sponge, and her delight in learning about the world around her was contagious. She was funny and good natured and genuinely interested in virtually everything. She made sharp and witty observations and asked great questions and was generally very good company. While she admittedly had her moments, they were for the most part few and far between. The pleasure I found in parenting a two year old was an unexpected surprise given all of the terrible things I'd heard (and, in some cases, witnessed) about two year olds, but two ended up being my very favorite year to date.
Lest I come off as some sort of Polyanna Mommy here, I feel duty bound to point out that large portions of the year that Julia was three were truly hellacious
. I am the first to admit that my daughter can do plenty wrong, and she did more than her share of wrong at the age of three. I was not always a big fan
of three. I should also add here that I remain unconvinced that four is going to be much better, as it seems to be shaping up to be a mouthy, balktalking version of three, which I am somewhat less than thrilled about. But two? Two I loved.
I was pretty sure that Julia's twos had to be a fluke and I waited the way you wait for the guy in the ski mask to jump out in horror movies for Evan's twos to begin. "He's a boy," I just kept telling myself as I prepared for the inevitable. "Two and boy are not such a good mix. I just need to be prepared for that." I watched and I waited and I held my breath. And now, nearly a month after Evan's second birthday, two has arrived with a flourish.
I know that two has arrived because I ask my son where something is and he answers "behind you." Such a simple response, really. Look behind you. I don't even think twice about exchanges like this any more. But I should. Because after two years of struggling to deduce what my pre-verbal child was trying to communicate, I'm suddenly having two way conversation that are both clear and useful to me every day. And better yet, I'm starting to take them for granted.
I know that two has arrived because Evan sees the letter A in the way the yellow lines are painted in the parking lot or an E on a street sign and he screams "Oooh... A!" or "Mommy... E!" with the kind of delight usually reserved for life's greatest moments. Spotting letters is a joyous game. Counting the cars in front of us at a stop light is the. most. fun. ever. And did you know that the sky is big? Evan tells me so every single day, and each and every time he says it, I can tell that he is truly amazed.
I know that two has arrived because I hear portions of the books we read together quoted verbatim as Evan plays quietly by himself. It's not the word-for-word start-to-finish rendition of Corduroy
I used to get from Julia just yet, but Evan's version of Go, Dog, Go
shows that he's not just passively listening any more; he's processing what he hears and thinking about it later. As a bonus, it's grand entertainment for anyone in earshot. "Heyo. Heyo. 'At? I do NOT. Buh bye. Buh bye."
I know that two has arrived because the testing has begun. I put grapes out on the table for each of us and Evan gestures toward mine and asks "mine too?" I shake my head and he asks again, more insistantly. This could turn into a battle, but for some reason it never does. When I laugh and tell him no, that we each have our own, he cheerfully accepts that. He's equally accepting (albeit eventually) of a time out or a request that he share a toy with a friend. At two, adults are still in charge and my word is still golden. (Perhaps this is the true secret to my love of two?)
I know that two has arrived because the tantrums are here; hugely dramatic shows of tears and flailing arms and legs and much wailing. But they are over as soon as they start; I sit down with a puzzle or a matchbox car and he is at my side instantly, desperate to get in on the action. Two, I'm suddenly remembering, is usually still distractable if I'm creative enough.
I know that two is here because I am having more fun with my son than ever before. He is at an age of discovery and growth that I find exciting and exhilarating, and watching him grow into himself is blowing me away. Forget the newborn snuggles and the long, peaceful nursing sessions. Forget the first steps and the first solids and really, the first anything. Forget all that I know lies ahead, even the stuff that I know is going to be really great. This, right here, right now -- the joy and the learning and the communicating and even the testing -- this is the best that parenting has had to offer me. Julia wasn't a fluke after all. Two is quite simply my favorite year. And I have eleven glorious months of it left.