The first baby presents such a learning curve. As Lulah grew through toddler-hood I knew, conceptually, that she would grow out of it, and grow up. But in reality, I was completely unprepared for how rapidly she changed from that quasi-baby into a full flung little big girl with fashion sense and strong opinions. I don’t feel like I missed enjoying and watching her grow, but I certainly learned something about the preciousness, and speed, of the process.
With Levon, I will not be fooled. He is completely two years old, and fast approaching three. He’s beginning to resist taking a nap. He puts on his own pants and shoes (on the right feet!), and plays his own story-telling games. They all have threads of reality running through them. Like this:
The screen door slams and I hear him coming in. His right hand is swinging like hammer onto his left forearm. Serious forehead there, little buddy.
“Daddy was hammering on the wheel hoe,” he reports. “And I was vrroomin’ my twactors in the yawd. And I was vrroomin’ awound while Daddy was fixing the wheel hoe. (His arm stopped hammering, and his forehead un-furrowed.) And then an owl swooped down and took one of my tractors! And the owl stopped to pway wif me. (translate: play with me) It was a good owl.”
He resumed his arm swinging and went back outside.
Two year olds get such a bad rap. “Terrible Twos”. Every parent who meets another parent of a two year old gives a knowing smile and shake of the head. And, to be honest, yes, there’s a lot of screaming and crying that accompanies the territory of early childhood. The combination of intellectual development, verbal acuity and physical agility converge in a perfect storm in the emotional two year old person. Levon seems to need to test every object as to whether it can be kicked, stomped, thrown, or eaten. If he can’t eat it, he might lick it. It’s just the truth. But there’s so much more, as well, and I strive to let our experience be colored by THAT.
Two-year-olds don’t miss much. Say something off color and you’ll hear it repeated, over and over, while the child digests the sounds, and effects, of the words. Our boy revels in his ability to make requests: “I want my bitafin (translate: vitamin). Pweeeese.” “Come heeeere. I waaaaant you.” He can also condemn :”You’re a bad one Wuwah!” (translate: Lulah), praise: “Nanny sure has some good vrroomin’ stuff” (translate: toy cars), and report: “It’s mornin’ time! I waked up!” “I’m just a hard worker!”.
He watches our every move, then replays them in his own version of reality, usually involving some combination of the small tractors, hand tools, and beanie babies that accompany him through his day. He may need prompting to apologize, but he will, usually with a sweet kiss, too. When he feels good, he’s a completely delightful, courteous and helpful little fellow. When hungry, tired, pent-up, or feeling manipulated, he’s wretched to handle. He is in the process developing his physical strength, coordination, vocabulary, immune system, beneficial microbes, I/Thou recognition, and moral fiber. No small wonder he might feel sensitive sometimes.
It’s a joy to see how much he picks up on the basics of our lives. Work is his play, and play his work. He can handle a broom and dustpan with amazing agility, and like all children, there is a love of ‘washing dishes’ a.k.a. playing in water. But what really gets me is his insight into providing food. After all, it’s what we’re all about here, so that’s what he’s learned.
One day as I prepped dinner, he came to the door with an unopened tube of caulk under his arm, held in a firm way.
“I shot a deer in the woods.” he says. “So we’ll have pwenty of deer meat.”
“Great,” I say. “Did you hang it in the barn?”
“Yeah,” he replies, “but a bear came and took it.”
“Oh no. Did it take it all away?”
“No. I grabbed it back, but the bear bwoke the leg off. I got it and glued it back on. It won’t bweak anymore. We’ll have pwenty of deer meat.”
It’s a great exercise to keep a straight face during these conversations.
On the way out to town one day, we passed a tree fallen along side the road. The huge root ball was exposed, and I guess it made an impression on him.
“I’m gonna take a chainsaw and cut up those roots. I’m gonna cut ’em up and cook ’em and we’ll eat them all up.”
So my theory goes that if two-year-olds have more physical freedom, they tend to be easier going people. They still need basic boundaries, regular meals, and help when help is needed, but they really seem to thrive with plenty of SPACE for exploration. This is one of the major benefits (blessings) of our lifestyle. Levon can walk out the door and play in the yard, the woods, the garden, without endangering life and limb. Not that he doesn’t get bug bites, scrapes and bruises. I know he’s eaten weird things (green strawberries and grass come to mind), but nothing truly dangerous. He is never out of sight or earshot from wherever I am, and he learned quickly to respond when I yell for him. Verbal response is an non-negotiable skill around here.
I know that sort of freedom isn’t available to everyone, and it pains me. Please don’t think that I judge you and your parenting because you don’t have five acres to set your children free upon. I know it’s not completely possible, and for some, not even desirable. But I do believe that water, dirt, and mud are serious occupational therapy for children. I know they’ve done wonders for the development of mine.
All people need nourishing food, clean water (to drink – mud will do for playing), and adequate shelter to live. We also all need love. Love, unconditional, is the primary requirement of children. It can’t be measured. It’s active, and invisible, but the results of loving a child are tangible for the rest of his or her life. Loving Levon is a work that universally engages, exhausts, enriches, educates, challenges and amuses me. I’m in love with a two year old. And there’s nothing terrible about it.