Two-year-olds get a bad rap, but I think the term “Terrible Twos” is a misnomer. Don’t get me wrong: parenting a two year old is not a walk in the park. But that’s because it’s parenting, not because they’re two. Do two-year-olds throw temper tantrums? Yes. Do one and three-year-olds throw temper tantrums? Yes. Do adults throw temper tantrums? Yes, and it’s never pretty. I don’t think there is really much in the way of negative behavior that distinguishes two-year-olds from one and three-year-olds. But there are a lot of things that make turning two a big sigh of relief for parents. Here are my top ten:
1. No More Breastfeeding
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age two or beyond, so I weaned both of my kids at age two. While it is true that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and healthy, it’s also true that it’s a little bit like having a giant leech attached to your body for the vast majority of the day. Have a two-year-old? No more leech! It feels like the freedom they sing about in country music songs.
2. Sleeping Through the Night
Neither of my children slept through the night more than once before the age of two. This is because of #1. I breastfed them on demand, and they often demanded to breastfeed throughout the night. We had a couple of feeble (and traumatic) attempts at sleep training, but eventually just accepted the several-times-nightly interruptions as the status quo. Enter weaning. Both kids slept straight through the night four times in the week after I weaned Lily. That might not seem great, but remember that I had only slept that well two times in the preceding four years. It was like heaven.
3. No more Separation Anxiety
As an infant, Nati used to cry for hours if I left him with a babysitter. It wasn’t until he was about two that he started to be more open to spending time with people outside the family. Lily was not as bad as he was, but she is also becoming more receptive to others. This means that we can now occasionally have a night out.
4. Feeding Themselves
It’s true that most one-year-olds can pick up cheerios, but by the time they’re two, these skills have been honed to the point that they can make it through a toddler friendly meal with little or no spoon-feeding. This is nice, because it means that I can eat my own food at a more leisurely pace, thus greatly diminishing my risk of choking.
There are different kinds of tantrums. There are I-can’t-have-what-I-want tantrums, and then there are you-don’t-understand-what-I-want tantrums. The ever-increasing vocabulary of two-year-olds greatly reduces the instances of the latter type of tantrums.
Again, it’s true that most one-year-olds can walk, but they generally only seem to walk in ways and to places that put them in imminent danger. This means that their walking requires constant, hands-on supervision (read: my back hurts from bending over all the time). Two-year-olds, on the other hand, can (usually) safely navigate the stairs at home as well as most areas of a playground, so supervision from a park bench is often sufficient.
7. Playing With Other Kids
One-year-olds might enjoy seeing their age-mates, but even the briefest encounters invariably lead to toy-stealing and physical assault. One-year-olds don’t play well with others. Two-year-olds are still learning, but will occasionally share a toy voluntarily and are better at reigning in their naturally violent tendencies. This means that I can sometimes carry on a full two or three minutes of uninterrupted conversation with other parents.
8. Playing Alone
Two-year-olds are better at entertaining themselves (in non-life-threatening ways) than their one-year-old counterparts. When I’m home alone with Lily, I occasionally hear a quiet muttering as she invents games to play alone. If this happens to you, do not squander the moment! If you time it right, this is your opportunity to go to the bathroom alone. Cherish it.
9. Mommy’s Little Helper
When Yohannes went back to work after Nati was born, I felt like an invalid. I was still recovering and learning how to juggle a baby (not literally), and it was hard to do little things, like getting up to get a diaper or a drink of water. When Lily was born, Nati was my little assistant. He loved to run and get things to help out his mom and little sister. In a lot of ways, even though I had two, it was easier than the first time around.
10. That Face
Even if the Terrible Twos did exist, with a face like that, I could forgive anything.
What do you think? Were your twos terrible?