“Mommy, read ‘Hop on Pop.'”
“I want milk.”
“Mommy, play puzzle.”
These are only a handful of the commands I’m given multiple times a day by my 2-year-old son. We are working on saying “please” and “thank you.” Sometimes he gets it right immediately; usually, he needs to be reminded.
Like all parents, I was warned about the toddler years — those “terrible twos” we’ve all heard about. The baby stage comes with all the stress and worry of new parenting, sleepless nights for feedings, lugging around tons of gear and equipment for one teeny tiny person. But compared to the toddler stage, it was a breeze. Most babies don’t challenge you. Babies don’t ignore you. Babies just need the basics and they’re cool for the most part.
Once upon a time I had a 1-year-old who played independently, was easygoing, and ate whatever food was prepared for dinner. But somehow, almost overnight, that little boy transformed into wanting nonstop attention, seeing how far he could test his limits, and having very particular preferences on everything from books to clothes to food. I understand that all these things are par for the course in childhood development. I read about it, I used to work with toddlers at a daycare and have seen it firsthand, but still, nothing really can ever prepare you until you experience it as a parent.
I’ve found that minor changes, like switching to a lighter jacket for the spring, can set off big emotions. I try to talk to my son about how it’s OK to feel a certain way about something, but it’s still a lot for his developing brain to process. Just as he makes specific demands of his parents every day, I find myself saying things like “use your words” constantly. But because he’s still figuring things out, he can have a hard time expressing himself. Really, we’re both learning together. And sometimes, I need that as a reminder when I feel like I’ve hit a parenting wall.
Despite all the stress these big emotions and outbursts bring, it’s still amazing to watch his little personality develop right before my eyes. The things he says are hilarious. He knows what he wants, when he wants it. Yet the choices he’s adamant about one day will be yesterday’s news by tomorrow. Seriously, in the span of a couple of months he went from watching the Toy Story franchise on loop to exclusively Daniel Tiger, and then it was Cocomelon or nothing. Just as his preferences change, so can his emotions. One moment he’s fighting me about what T-shirt to wear and the next he’s barreling into my arms for a hug.
The toddler years truly are a roller coaster. But I’ve always loved roller coasters, so I think we’ll be OK.