In defense of the terrible twos

People often ask how old my son is when we are out and about. When he proudly says, “Two!”, the most common response is a smile to him … and a knowing glance to me. This is often accompanied by, “Oooh, the terrible twos!”

I’m here today to stand in the defense of two-year-olds. Sure, they have their share of tantrums and the transition from infant to preschooler is sometimes a bumpy ride. But, it is also amazing. Two-year-olds are pretty darn cool. Here’s why.

The language explosion. Suddenly or gradually most two-year-olds emerge from saying a few single, intelligible words to full on sentences by the time they are three. I never tire of the fun of hearing a new word for the first time or the surprise of hearing my own expressions mirrored back to me. My son has recently co-opted, “That’s okay, I’m good.” This is useful in many settings. I say, “Okay, it’s time for a bath.” or, “It’s time to go inside for dinner.” He responds, “That’s okay mommy, I’m good.”

The pearls of wisdom.
Only a two-year-old can tell you, quite seriously, that his dad is a circle and you are a triangle. At least we’re not squares, I guess.

The living with abandon. Two-year-olds truly dance as if no one is watching. They sing with confidence. When they do something, they go all in. There is no halfway. There is no wondering what others think. It’s infectious and liberating.

The determination.
Have you ever watched a two-year-old trying to complete a task? Eyes set in concentration, mouth open. Give them a chance and they will TRY. My son’s new thing is to sort of growl a little at an offending Lego piece or train track and say, “I’m frustrated.” But he takes a breath and keeps trying. And, we let him because. . .

The independence. At some point between 15 and 24 months the independent streak sets in for most toddlers. “I do it” or “my turn” are common phrases. Caveat here, it is always their turn. Attempts to intervene or “fix” something are met with a stern, “No!” The desire for independence and decision-making is the root of some tantrums but, if you can step back from it a bit, this is truly an amazing development. Only a short time ago they were helpless infants and now they have thoughts, opinions, and desires. Crazy, cool, and healthy.

The silliness
. Living with a two-year-old is pretty much a license to be as silly as you want as often as you please. You can have picnics with a group of stuffed animals. You can sing in a false “opera” voice at the top of your lungs. They have a developing sense of humor and will likely think you are hilarious. You can make the same funny face over and over again. It will still be hilarious. This is an incredible confidence booster as a parent. It does not, however, mean you are ready for stand-up. Unless it’s a room full of two-year-olds. Then you are golden.

The discovery.
Every day I count myself lucky to see the world through my son’s eyes. It is, quite simply, to discover the world anew. I hope that I never forget the look in his eyes the first time he saw a horse or heard a rooster crow. Or the sound of his little voice telling me that the trees reach up to the blue sky.

The unbridled joy. Two-year-olds find joy in the everyday. Going on the swings or merry-go-round. Eating a few berries. A recent trip to the aquarium brought squeals of delight as our son ran from tank to tank. Ocean waves touching his feet brought peals of laughter.

The unconditional love. There is not much better in the world, I think, than hearing your child say, “I love you” for the first time. . . and every time after that. And, two-year-olds LOVE you. You are still perfect in their eyes. If they are feeling uncertain, they look for you. In the midst of tears, they run to you. They give great hugs and kisses. They cuddle. You are the best to them. What a gift, to be the best for someone.

So, while life with a two-year-old can sometimes feel like a chaotic dramedy, it is also filled with great wonder. And that’s why most of the time, instead of being “terrible,” I think two-year-olds are actually pretty great.

Heidi Roman is a pediatrician who blogs at My Two Hats.

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  • http://doctor-rob.org/ Dr. Rob

    Amen. A 2 year-old is a scientist exploring his/her environment. They test everything and have an incredible search for knowledge. Now, defending the 3′s may be a bit harder, as the innocense of the 2′s are replaced with the whining of the 3′s. I’d pick 2′s over 3′s any days (speaking as a father of 4 kids), but take a 3 year-old over most adults (speaking as a pediatrician).

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