Two year olds are people too, it turns out.
- on August 5, 2011
This morning, as she does almost every Friday, my mother-in-law arrived early in the wee hours to babysit our son. Today, he was not quite awake yet when she came, but he woke up shortly after, so she got to see his "wake up" routine.
Usually, he's clam-happy in the morning, delighted to see me, to get his breakfast, to take in his morning episode of "Yabba". But today he was a little "off" - fussing over what he wanted to drink and gritching when I wasn't quite fast enough with the cereal. This behavior doesn't phase me. One in ten mornings are like this. I know he'll quit in a hot minute. Something just set his mouth wrong and it will take him a minute to, as my friend Sergeant Koch says, "RE-cover!" I knew as soon as he was settled with juice and cereal and Yo Gabba Gabba he'd be back to clam status and on he'd go with his day.
My mother-in-law, who is used to seeing him after he's already had his proverbial morning coffee, was a little surprised. "He's crabby this morning," she said. "Is he still teething?"
"No," I told her. "He's two."
Johnny will turn two in three weeks. I can already see the difference. At two, he knows his mind and can (mostly) articulate it. At two, rather than just crying when he's hungry, he can tell me it's time to "EAT!" and he can let me know which of my food offerings are acceptable. It might be that he wants a muffin (or four) on day, but the next day? No way, man. He's over the muffin.
He knows what he wants to play with and he knows where it lives. He won't be fooled by the banana in the tailpipe. Where I used to be able to distract him so that he'd end up playing legos when he initially wanted to go swimming, now he has a memory like a steel trap.
If I promise him in the morning we'll go see Aunt Debi at the bank after daycare, I better be prepared to take him come 4:00, because, much to my dismay, he won't forget. "DEBI!" he'll cry, when I open the door to his classroom. He's been sitting there for nine hours, counting the minutes until he can go see Debi and color on a deposit slip with a ball point pen.
At two, I have a lucid human being. I have a person on my hands who has preferences and emotions. He can get his feelings hurt and he can choose door A or door B based on some magic formula that only he knows. And I think it's my job, at some level, to respect that.
Don't get me wrong. I won't let him eat cupcakes all day because he prefers it. And I won't let him play with things that aren't his and I won't let him be mean or rude. But if he prefers apple juice over pear? Why not. If he likes the Old McDonald book but not the Mother Goose? Fine with me. Old McDonald it is.
I like to think that Johnny feels not only loved and adored, but that he'll know, as he grows, that we respect him. We know his preferences matter, and while he's not running the show, his personhood is considered. I want to raise him in a house where he's heard, and his opinion isn't dismissed, and his thoughts are valued. Even if those thoughts, at age two, are limited to the choice between Buzz Lightyear coloring pages and fruit and vegetable-shaped puffy stickers for afternoon fun.