Back when I’d only been a mother for a handful of days, I was operating on zero sleep and recovering from major abdominal surgery, all while trying to acclimatise to my new reality with muslins, nappies and the fact that my boobs now belonged to a tiny, tomato-faced ball of inarticulate fury whom I was both besotted with and terrified of. During this time, some veteran parents offered the following words as, I assume, a sort of comfort:
“You think this is bad? Just wait until the terrible twos hit.”
It didn’t really occur to me at the time, but “just wait” is, really, an awful thing to say to someone who hasn’t slept for 72 hours. But my point is I don’t think two is as terrible as they warned. My son is two now – and I have to say I prefer it infinitely to his early babyhood.
Babyhood didn’t really agree with him – he spent much of it wailing disconsolately into the night, and the day, and then the night again, like a miniature Quasimodo, while his father and I rushed around, trying to right a wrong we didn’t understand. We winded him. We gave him gripe water. We wrestled him into swaddles he immediately burst his way out of and we played white noise at him while he glared at us as though we’d sold him down the river. After two months of this, we learnt that he had awful, crusty eczema worsened by silent reflux and a milk protein intolerance. So, really, ALL he wanted in the world was a) for us to hold him at an angle steeper than 45 degrees, so that the bile didn’t run back up his oesophagus, and b) for me to stop guzzling Cambazola cheese as though it was going out of fashion, before whacking my nipples in his mouth. But he couldn’t tell us that, because he was a baby.
Now he’s two, he can tell us what he wants. Sometimes, it’s not practical – at 2am today he wanted to get up and out of bed simply because he’d remembered that helicopters exist
Now he’s two, he can tell us what he wants. Sometimes, it’s not practical – for instance, at 2am today he wanted to get up and out of bed simply because he’d remembered that helicopters exist – but so far it’s pretty delightful.
Dinner is sometimes a lengthy affair in our house, mainly because my son is exercising his power. “Mummy! Knock! Light!” he’ll trill, barely able to contain his pleasure in being able to string words together that we will then understand and comply with. I’ll then stand up and make a knocking motion on the ceiling light, while my son dissolves into giggles. The next command will come: “Daddy! Tickle! Spider!” And my husband will duly arachnify his fingers and wiggle them in my son’s armpit, while he squeals with glee.
This stringing words together is new and you can almost see the neural pathways lighting up as he does it. During a recent bath, he stared at the shower, then looked at my husband with a new understanding and proclaimed, “Big water down!” He has a big jar full of model animals, and he’s gone from just approximating the noise they make to naming them and grouping them – and now he gives them little narratives. The other day, he carefully arranged them in a tranquil farmyard scene, which he then decimated with a large rubber dinosaur. More recently, the elephants have embarked on some heart-wrenchingly epic journeys across the sofa.
And, of course, he has now appropriated his newfound verbosity for emotional manipulation.
“Biscuit?” He’ll ask me. “Herbie biscuit?” He’ll clarify, if I demur. “Herbie biscuit, please?” He’ll venture if I stand firm and then he’ll exclaim, “Mummy biscuit!” as though that option hadn’t occurred to me. Finally, he will sigh his acceptance at the floor: “Oh no, no Herbie biscuit, Herbie sad,” at which point – because I am a mug – I generally give him a biscuit.
And that’s something I need to keep an eye on but, honestly, if that’s the worst that two has to offer, bring it. I mean, my son’s been two for a week now, so I pretty much think we’ve nailed it. There are no more surprises for us now, are there? No tantrums or disobedience or grumpiness to come, is there? Is there?