Between the tantrums and the defiance and the out-of-nowhere OCD, toddlers can definitely be challenging. Despite all of the meltdowns though–both theirs and ours–kids this age are also particularly adorable. It’s probably what keeps us from leaving them with Grandma…permanently. If you haven’t noticed, time flies, and I have a feeling that once my boys are in kindergarten, I’m going to miss these giggly, squealing, snuggly days. While it’s easy to gripe about the annoyances, I think it’s also important to embrace the sweetness of this stage. So, with that in mind, here are all of the things I actually love about toddlerhood:
1. The adorable way they butcher the English language. I mean, is there anything cuter than a toddler mispronouncing words? Some day, someone is going to correct them, but right now, they can still get away with saying, “That’s for growmups to do,” and “My prolly need to put my shoes on,” and “It’s so cold, I’m brrr-ing, I’m brr-ing,” and “My want a cookie with sprinklers.”
2. The joy they get from the smallest things. Maybe it’s the wide-eyed way that we parents talk up the most mundane tasks, but you can get a toddler psyched about pretty much anything. “Want to help Mommy Swiffer the kitchen?” you ask. “Yes, yes, hooray!” they shout with joy. They’re thrilled to get stickers at Trader Joe’s. They think juice at a restaurant is a super special treat. And going to Costco, with their free samples and double-wide carts and giant frozen yogurt cups? It’s like they won the Mega Millions.
3. They’re perfectly cuddly. Kids in their 2s and 3s have lots of big emotions, which also include full-bodied, whole-hearted love and affection. They will wrap their arms around your neck and squeeze tight, nestle their heads on your shoulder, and throw their bodies around your legs with enough force to knock you off your feet. Their faces light up when they haven’t seen you in a couple of hours, with big smiles and gleaming eyes that make you wonder what you possibly did to deserve this kind of greeting. And in those chill moments when they snuggle in close to read books or watch a show or just to rest, they fit so perfectly against your body, you think this must be exactly what this age was meant for.
4. They don’t hold a grudge. Lately, I feel like I’ve inadvertently been disappointing my kids, telling them we’ll be doing an activity which, thanks to some blech luck, we don’t get a chance to do. A few weeks ago, we made three trips to the same fire station during a city-wide LAFD appreciation day, but since the firemen were out doing, you know, their jobs, we never got to see the trucks or the station. Of course, I was heartbroken and felt guilty, like I’d let them down. At age two, however, they didn’t really care so much. They kind of shrugged and moved on to the next thing…like maybe an exciting trip to the supermarket. There was no whining, “But you promised,” or lamenting, “Why, why, why?” We simply told them we would have to do it another day and they accepted that, with no lingering resentment.
5. The drama, oh, the drama. While little ones this age might not hold a grudge, they certainly know how to milk it. When they’re truly upset, sure, that can be rough, but when it’s simply whining, with fake cries and crocodile tears, it’s hilarious. If I dare refuse to give my son some cake for breakfast, he furrows his brow, wraps his arms around himself and gives an audible “harumph.” If he’s going for a full-on, Oscar-worthy performance, he might even fall back onto the couch, a forearm over his eyes for “Oh, the humanity” effect.
6. They don’t eat all of their french fries. Maybe it’s just me, but I look at the kids’ menu as my opportunity to indulge without fully indulging. Oh, his grilled cheese comes with fries? Then, I’ll just get a virtuous salad…and then have just an itty-bitty taste of his. (Yeah, right.) My husband doesn’t let me mooch junk food off of him, so I have to rely on my kids to get my fix. And at this age, my boys really don’t care because they weren’t going to eat all that anyway. I know the time will come when it’s, “No, Mom, those are mine!” but not now. No, now, those greasy little taters are mine.
7. They still take naps. Sure, there are days when they fight it or spend a good hour making a slide out of the couch cushion in their room. For the most part though, toddlers take a nap almost every day. They give their parents an hour or two of peaceful silence to read a book or watch Bravo or take a snooze themselves. Naps, sweet naps. Please, never ever ever end.
8. They have no filter. At this age, they have pretty vivid imaginations, and maybe even make stuff up sometimes. Still, they have no understanding of what’s polite, they’re not always clear on what may or may not be rude, and they aren’t really capable of lying. That’s why he might tell daddy that he has hair in his nose. Or she’ll loudly, and proudly, tell a stranger, “That’s my brother. He has a penis.” If I get my boys up from a nap wearing a sports bra and workout pants, they have no problem telling me to “Put a shirt on.” The best though is that they are blatant tattletales, and will confess to anything, which is especially helpful when you have twins. If one boy is crying, and I run in to see what happened, the other will usually tell me, “He took my lovey so my hit him in his face with my hand.” See? Mystery solved.
9. Their style is unique. Many toddlers insist on dressing themselves, and unless you’re going to, say, a wedding, it’s usually not worth fighting them on it. I’ve got to say that as much as I’m embarrassed by the ensembles my boys put together, they’re also good for a laugh. The other day, they both insisted on wearing brightly-colored, tie-dyed socks, which nicely complemented one’s flourescent green sleeveless tee, and the other’s orange and green plaid button-down. I like to joke that they’re auditioning for clown college, but hey, as long as they’re wearing pants, I’m happy.
10. They still need us. Every now and then, one of my boys will have a nightmare, or just a rough sleep. When they were newborns, I dreaded those middle-of-the-night cries, but now, I actually don’t mind so much. I stumble in to their room to see one boy sitting up in bed, reaching for me with his arms. I silently scoop him up and sit in a chair, with his teary face against my chest, his little hand on my arm. I stroke his soft curls and wet cheek, listening for the steady breath of calm as he falls backs to sleep. My little babies are growing up so fast, but for right now, they still need their mommy, and I love that. I think I probably need it too. And I know that they won’t need me like this forever.