When Rosie was born, she was an incredibly sweet baby. She was healthy, nursed like a pro, slept well from day one, and cried only during the dinner hour--even then, apologetically...like, "I'm sorry to be doing this. I know it's inconvenient. But, I really need to blow off some steam. Okay?" As deliriously ill as I was from my Post-Partum Depression, my perceptions of her mild bouts of crying were grossly exaggerated in my mind. She was a wise baby, gentle with me, and curious about the world around her. She liked people--welcomed attention from siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles right down to the old lady in the grocery store who painstakingly examined a bunch of bananas while praising Rosie's inquisitive gaze. M. and I secretly congratulated ourselves on somehow producing another "peachy" baby.
At Rosie's first birthday her brilliant eyes were set, her smile was permanently affixed to her lips, and her joy was contagious. She walked at nine and a half months--making our boy-o officially our "latest" walker (10 months to the day). She was still a pleasure to be around in every way, with faint glimmers of the tornado to come. From my journal for her: "You are a force of nature. Like gravity, you pull us all in and hold us to you. Like a summer storm, you keep the air sparking with energy. You are noisy and exuberant from the moment you burst from sleep until you collapse, exhausted, onto your lavender-scented sheets to dream. You dash across the floor in two seconds. You tangle around us and kiss fiercely and shove dirt into your mouth by the fistful. Your eyes are blue bowls, drinking the world in with your soulful thirst. We have gates everywhere to try to contain you...to try to hold you. You are so strong, daughter. I admire your boundless energy and your fire."
Then, Rosie turned two...initially, I thought (as I had with my older two children) that this whole "terrible two" thing was just an unfair label slapped on busy, interesting, beautiful toddlers. It was arbitrary. It didn't make sense. Yes, she was high-energy...but with a heart of gold and a pure distilled happiness. We passed a summer consumed with fear for her sick older brother--she didn't get all of the attention a "baby" normally would. She didn't seem to mind. Fall came and she dove into piles of leaves...laughter bursting from her whole being. She loved to be snuggled in and rocked, read to, and kissed. When winter unfurled like a starched-frozen flag, my baby turned two and a half. I'll say this seriously now, my baby vanished. The little girl who took her place looks like this:
"They" say not to call these days the "terrible twos" but, instead, to refer to it as a child's "first adolescence". The idea that this is but one of two rounds of this insanity is terrifying to me...especially since my oldest (a "true peach" of a baby and child) is about to enter the "real" thing. To explain what "terrible two" is to a non-parent (or one whose child didn't experience this) is hysterical. I tried, yesterday, to counteract all of the negativity around her lately. I told M. I felt like a Preschool teacher without pay, of course. We painted--this was more complex than it seems. I had to disperse exactly the right amount of paint into the palate without repeating them or ignoring her direction for "what went where". I had to find just the right brush, not too thin or thick. After some protests about the blue paper (we were out of white), she settled in and made art. We later brought out Play-Dough, but it was a touch too dry. This irritated her because she couldn't cut out her shapes properly. We watched Snow White together, until--at a scary part--she leapt up, turned the TV off and declared, "I hate Snow White." We read "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late" so many times that I was starting to pick up a subtle thread of Existential theory behind the pigeon's resignation to the futility of his arguments and his lot in life (which scared me). She did dress up and played in some water (her favorite). I let her ride her bike and play in her room alone...but, in total, I probably only had an hour without her at my side. (Oh, remember that novel that is due next month? The anthropological paper due Monday? The revision for next month's magazine reviews? Me either.)
I try to laugh at her antics...I do laugh. She's a riot. But, most of the time, I wonder why she fights so hard and is so wild. She thunders through the house and knocks the whole world over to get what she wants. She is too bold...like an obscene Hawaiian shirt, clashing with everything. If she was one, people would just wave it all away and say..."All boy. That one is all boy." She's a risk-taker--she isn't dainty or feminine or quiet or calm. She is my little girl.
On the worst days, I wish I wasn't freelancing from home, but was working full-time. She could go into daycare, and I could be around semi-rational people who didn't spit food, throw pens, or try to bite when they were pissed off. (Well, I would be teaching high school...so, who knows?) Other days, I watch her running around on her sturdy legs and I marvel at her speed and her strength. She is stunning. Then, I think of how she is my last baby. Her physical explorations will ultimately be channeled through sports and she will, eventually, gain rational thought. Even next year, she will begin her slow process of distancing herself from me. Pre-K, three mornings a week...friends, school structure, arts and crafts. I see her liking this, social bee that she is. (Of course...she might burn the place down or take kids hostage in the kitchen center with a plastic spatula and a smile. But, I have to believe she will do well and not be a Pre-K reject.) All I can say is, I'm ready for this "first adolescence" to end...like a true rookie, I say, "bring on the real thing--it couldn't be worse than this!" (All of the parents of actual adolescents are laughing deviously right now.) But, if you're neck deep in toddler-land like I am...you understand.
Interestingly, I found an actual countdown calculator that will tell you exactly how long you have to suffer until your child suddenly renounces the evils of toddlerhood and moves into tranquil childhood (I can laugh deviously at this idea as a seasoned kid-pro). The link below will deliver you to the timeline for all of your frustrations...in case you wondered, we have exactly 111 days, 13 hours, 36 minutes, and 20 seconds until Rosie "graduates" from her terrible two's and all of our problems will be solved...like magic.