I'm not sure why, in popular culture, the terrible twos so overshadow the turbulent threes. Maybe if people started telling parents whose sweet baby turned into a howling monster, "Oh, by the way, it's going to get worse next year," we might be able to get overpopulation under control.
(I kid. Mostly.)
But Two and Three are rough for different reasons entirely. All the baby books say an infant's needs and wants are equivalent; babies cry about being hungry, or wet, or lonely, or uncomfortable - and yes, sometimes they just keep on crying, absent any obvious cause - but they generally do not have much in the way of separation between things that they want and things that they physically or emotionally need. They want things because they need them. Then they get a little older, a little more independent, start communicating their desires more, start exploring the world and all the wondrous things in it. They learn by touching, tasting, testing. And when their pursuit of knowledge and happiness is at all thwarted in any way, they rapidly become acquainted with the brand new emotion of crushing, unbearable disappointment. Welcome to Two(ish...your exact mileage may vary). You won't let me chase that super interesting leaf that's being blown out into the street? HOW COULD YOU? WHY WOULD YOU DO SUCH A THING? YOU HAVE DESTROYED EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN THE WORLD.
(Come to think of it, two year-olds are kind of like angsty teenagers, except smaller and slightly more prone to unintelligible howling.)
Then along comes Three, when their curiosity manifests in endless chains of "Why?" They progress from just being vociferously disappointed about the denial of their wishes to being whiny and willful and determined to circumvent these perceived threats to their happiness. They push, and push, and push, and push. And then they push some more. One of Soren's frequent refrains, after he's been told no, and continued to whine and beg, and been reminded that the answer is no, is a sobbed, "But I need it to turn into yes!" Then there's the blatant ignoring of directions or instructions, the dawdling and (inappropriately timed) goofing around, the repeated doing of things they know full well are not allowed. It can be extremely trying, in a completely different way from how Two was difficult. At two, they're learning (much to their chagrin) that boundaries exist and where they are. At three they test and push, over and over, to determine if indeed those boundaries are immovable or if maybe there are weaknesses in the perimeter that can be exploited.
Which is to say, it's sometimes very frustrating to be parenting a 2 year-old and a 3.5 year-old simultaneously.
But, despite all appearances, I honestly didn't set out to write a post about Twos and Threes or to complain about the frustrations. The difficulties are caused by (mostly) developmentally-appropriate behaviors, vexing though they may be. I remarked to Tom the other day that I sometimes have to remind myself that the kids are, in fact, just little kids, and that they behave the way they do - ignoring me or doing the exact opposite of what I ask - because they're kids, and not because they're jerks.
There are starting to be times when Soren and I are not constantly at odds. When, like last Thursday, he listens and does what's asked of him without an argument. When he plays so patiently and sweetly, yet enthusiastically, with Eleri that I can't stop grinning. I can't help but hope that maybe, possibly, these are signs of smoother sailing ahead. Because that would be really great.
I truly did intend this to be a post about Soren's most endearing qualities. (Kinda went the other way on that one. Whoops.) So here goes.
I've written before about how the lad gives his stuffed animals very unusual names (such as Zebra Ear and Pointy Tail), but now we've got another in the pack now - a stuffed lion my cousin Caryn gave him for Christmas. He named it Jaws of Life. This is perhaps the most amusing manifestation of his Fireman Sam obsession, with the possible exception of his tendency to sport a Welsh accent when he plays Fireman Sam games. Which he does. Often. He told me a few weeks ago that he was "playing house" with a friend at preschool. He went on to describe their game as, "sleeping in the house, and then the smoke alarm went off, and we had to run outside and wait for firefighters to rescue us!" He insists that he only plays with boys at school, but his teacher told me that he plays with the girls almost as much. A new boy joined their class this morning, and Soren introduced himself by spelling his name first, then saying it. He's actually been doing that a fair bit, lately. His preschool teacher apparently just discovered (about a week and a half ago) that Soren can read. She made a point of stopping me after school to tell me that he had read "a whole list of about ten words!" I wasn't quite sure what to tell her except, "Well. Yes. He's been reading for quite a while now."
He's been a lot more huggy again lately, too, which of course I can't possibly complain about. I am pretty sure that sometimes he uses it as a stalling tactic ("Soren, please put your shoes away like I asked you." "But I need to get a hug first!"), but it's not a very effective one, since the hugs only last a few moments. Best are the sibling hugs, because holy crap, it doesn't get much more adorable than that. As I mentioned, he's been playing really nicely with Eleri, more and more. Sure, there are still fights over toys and grabbing things back and forth, but those sorts of things are happening less often. It is really, really, super awesome to be able to take a little break while they entertain each other, and to not have to constantly be stepping in to break up arguments.
Not so much one of his endearing qualities, but something I should mention, is Soren's somewhat recent fear of "dark night clouds." He's very specific in his worries that they're going to break into the house with an axe and take him away. This fear extended, at least temporarily (he mentioned it a couple of times but hasn't since), to the moon. The moon was going to come in and get him. I have no idea where this fear came from, except to guess that it's just a fear of the dark to which his ample imagination has added some specificity. Poor kid. Some nights it's worse than others, and sometimes he goes to bed without seeming worried at all. Why clouds, though? They're about as insubstantial a thing as you could come up with. Go figure.
One last anecdote and then I'll sign off for the night. One day last month, I was driving us to the school, listening to non-kid music for once. Eleri was begging for me to play her beloved "Bah-bah Pass It On" yet another time, and I told her I'd switch to that CD once the song I was listening to was over. That song, which happened to be "Lazy Eye" by the Silversun Pickups, was actually just starting. Within the first 30 seconds or so of the song, Soren piped up from the back seat, "This is the song that me and Mommy like." And later that day he asked if I would, "play the song you and me like, again." Now he asks for "The Lazy Eye" frequently, and even Eleri has started to request it. Hehehe. I am terribly amused by this.
Anyway, he's quite the kid. And as much as he drives me up the everloving wall some days, I adore the heck out of him.