September 1, 2013 by Julia
Of course, the Terrible Twos don’t begin the minute a child turns two years old. They gradually sneak up on you, until suddenly your child is having a mother of a tantrum on the ground floor of Ikea, and I can’t find my way out! I’ve been here sixty times but they just rearranged everything and I’m stuck in a labyrinth of quirky pillows and tempting storage options while everyone tries not to stare at the writhing, SCREAMING child in my arms! HA HA, everyone, it’s just the Twos! Don’t mind us!!
When that happened, Jack was around twenty-three months. He recently turned into an actual two-year-old, though. The week leading up to his birthday, he was a mess – clingy, whiny, scream-y, a tornado of demands and frustration – and as he flung food across the family dinner table I announced, “We’re canceling Jack’s birthday this year!” (Fiona is exposed to enough sarcasm in her daily life that she barely reacted.)
At the last minute we went ahead with his birthday, though – what the heck! The presents were already wrapped.
And of course it was awesome. I’ve mentioned in the past that celebrating your kid’s birthday is one of the highlights of this whole parenting thing. And it’s true. There may be a lot of preparation or stress in the days beforehand (depending on how Type-A-ish you are as a parent), but it’s kind of like a wedding in that most of the extraneous stuff falls away when the day arrives, and you feel perfectly justified in just focusing on your beloved child, in soaking up the moments with them…rather than tackling the laundry, or whatever.
We started the day with our usual family tradition of walking into his room while singing Happy Birthday and carrying a balloon. As you can see in this video, he was THRILLED:
(We’ve watched it about twenty thousand times, by the way. I was half-asleep at the time, so I love to re-live the extreme cuteness while awake.)
Then we opened his presents while eating breakfast.
And, because it was a Sunday and everyone was off work, we then went to Dennis’ parents’ house for an early afternoon celebration:
And THEN we went to MY folks’ house for an early evening celebration:
Does these kids have it good, or what? Three rounds of presents, and we were done for the day.
I went into this birthday wanting to keep things pretty laid-back, party-wise. I mean, he’s only two; he barely understands the concept of birthdays, had no expectations for this one, and probably won’t remember much of it. So we kept it simple on Sunday, and had a great time with our families. Jack was in heaven all day.
I couldn’t resist organizing a “birthday play date,” too, though – mostly because he is developing friends of his own, and they are just SO CUTE together. Most of Fiona’s friends have also grown attached to Jack – what can I say? He’s a wild, goofy charmer.
So on the Tuesday following his birthday, we all met up at a local playground for lunch and playtime. It ended up looking like a real live birthday party because I can’t help decorating a little.
I also made an egg-free cake, using a quick solution found by my resourceful mother-in-law, Jackie. Both my kids are allergic to egg, which is in most sweet baked goods. So with this one I substituted a can of coke for the eggs and other wet ingredients that you’re supposed to mix with store-bought cake mix. It turned out pretty decently! The fact that I haphazardly threw in a cup or two of chocolate chips may have helped, too.
Bringing sidewalk chalk and a bin of toy cars for the kids to play with in the pavilion worked out well, too.
Next year I might just have to do a “real” party the same exact way as this “play date.” Jack (and I) had so much fun.
The twos so far have been intensely stressful in moments, but overall intensely good. I love that Jack still wants me to hold him, and that he will snuggle with me like his life depends on it (sometimes I feel like my life does, too). There is also the cuteness factor, which in my opinion peaks during the toddler years. And his language skills are suddenly exploding. He actually cares about trying to say things – so exciting!
Yes, I often lose my mind when Jack is melting down. But big picture, I’m not freaked out by any of the more difficult behavior. I know most of it is a phase.
I remember how Fiona was at two years old, and although she still carries the same personality traits now, they rarely manifest themselves in full-out tantrums anymore. She even went through a period of hitting her toddler friends (and me) at two and half years, but after struggling to deal with it, she has matured into an empathic, thoughtful friend who can say “no” to some things, but is almost never a source of conflict. I feel like I can take some credit for this, but not all of it. She merely outgrew a phase – she is old enough now to understand how unacceptable hitting really is.
The two-year-olds of the world are a rowdy bunch, for sure. But what is the wonderful without a little terrible thrown in for contrast, anyway?