They call them “the terrible twos”, but they’re not really all that terrible. That term drums up images of sinister villains in pull-up diapers ripping the walls from your home. In reality, it’s more like “the confusing and occasionally terrible twos.” Sure, some of the actions that these toddlers display can be seen as “bad”, but most of them are so much more nuanced than that.
When my daughter Olivia was in her toddling years, every word that she said came out adorable. She could have asked me to hurl myself off the roof and, if done in that voice, I would have gone crashing to the ground below like a scene from The Omen. It was that powerful.
This was the age when the universe gives them the sweetest voices you’ve ever heard… but they literally scream everything they say at you. Each utterance is like a Samurai Cabbage Patch Kid. Something about it though, especially if it’s your own kid, is almost impossible to not ball up your face at with a studio audience-like “awwww”.
Keep this in mind as I tell you about the day she walked over to her giant stuffed dog on the couch and asked:
Mista Doggy, you wantda crunchy munchy honeycakes?
As a new parent, my heart melted. My wife, seated next to Mr. Doggy took his head and, in a high pitched voice of her own, replied, “Yes, please!”
Olivia jumped into action.
OK, Mista Doggy!
I had the video camera rolling as she ambled over to the other side of the living room. There, she reached into an invisible box above her toy fridge and retrieved an equally invisible honeycake. With that in hand, she rushed back over to her hungry puppy doll and placed the snack in his fluffy face. My wife made his head move in an eating motion. He thanked her.
Woof! Yum! Thank you!
You want some more ah da honeycakes, Mista Doggy?
She wobbled back to the other side of the room and retrieved a second helping. Once more, he ate and thanked her. She offered another. He again agreed.
After the third time, we were ready to move on from the dog game. My wife tried to end it.
Thank you. I’m getting full. I had so many…
You want more ah da honeycakes?
I don’t know if I…
Mista Doggy! You want more a da honey cakes?!
Sure. One more.
Olivia nodded to herself and, in toddler fashion, quietly repeated that sentence back to herself for verification.
Sure one more. OK!
Another run. Another feeding. It was cute. We were pretty done.
Mista Doggy, you want more?!
My tummy is getting…
WANT MORE AH DA HONEYCAKES, MISTAAA DOGGY!?
Uh, yeah. Sure.
And so began The Great Honeycakes Hostage Crisis of 2010. I don’t even know how we escaped. I’m surprised we’re not still playing it today.
Toddlers can confuse you in ways you never expect. When my daughter was still in her high chair, we had bought her a candy heart for Valentine’s Day. It was your basic run-of-the-mill Valentine heart. Nothing new to you or me, but to baby Olivia, it was a mysterious new discovery.
She studied it. She spun it. She examined it like a fossil. The look on her face seemed to imply that she had no idea what to do with it. We explained it was for eating and repeated that she should “just take a bite”. Still, she stared in astonishment. That’s when my wife got proactive.
Look. Olivia. It’s candy. You bite it. See?
With that, my wife broke off the corner of my daughter’s heart. Apparently, I mean that both literally and figuratively because that’s when Olivia lost her ever-loving mind.
It was sudden and shocking. She screamed in agony while her mom frantically tried to melt it back together with a lighter. The whole scene was nuts. Of course, I got to play it off like I knew this would happen.
Why did you break it off? I wouldn’t have done that.
I also said, out loud in that moment, “One day, you’ll be older, Olivia. Then I can ask you what the heck happened here today.” And just as I promised, a few year later, I actually did.
When she was around five, I brought up the broken Valentine scandal. As you’d expect, Olivia had no idea what I was talking about. When I showed her the video, she laughed until her face was red. It’s a mystery to this day. This friggin’ kid.
It’s not just Olivia either. Lucas’s pre-pre-school age was just as bizarre. While we were aware of some of his delays, we were still introducing him to as many concepts as possible. Like most toddlers, he didn’t fully grasp some of them.
I remember sitting at the local playground with a box of giant oversize chalk. I had drawn some lines and circles on the ground. In between scribbles, I tried to sit Lucas down to watch. Hopefully he could repeat it. Up until now, he had shown little interest in coloring.
See? Look. You just press it and there. Line. See? Line?
He looked at the chalk line on the ground.
See? You do it.
Then I put his hand on mine and, together, we made a line.
Nice. Good work. You want to try yourself? Lucas draws?
With that, I gave him the giant oversized chalk stick. It was bigger than his tiny hand and left pink residue on his fingers as he took it.
There. You do it.
He looked at me. Then he looked at the chalk.
Then back at me. Then back at the chalk.
Then, he shoved the entire piece of chalk in his mouth.
I froze in shock for a full second before shouting out, “No! Lucas! No! What are you doing? Give me that!” It was mammoth. You could see the outline of it pushing against his cheeks from the inside. I disgustingly fished it from his mouth and he toddled off without a care in the world. That was the end of chalk time.
They call it the “terrible twos” but it’s also the time that people are most likely to remind you to “Cherish it. They grow up so fast.” So which is it? Seems like a big ol’ work to me. Those twos aren’t as terrible as they’re made out to be. In fact, I know they’re not. I lived them and I miss them too. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to see your kids grow up and become the people you knew they could.
I’m just saying that this house could still use a few invisible honeycakes every now and again.