The big day arrived. Cards and presents were opened, candles blown out on the cake, but nothing happened. We had expected a transformation in the manner of Harry Enfield’s Kevin character becoming a teenager, albeit with our one year old becoming a ‘terrible two’. Of course it doesn’t work like that; we’ve been experiencing certain characteristics of those terrible twos for some time. Now, a few weeks into her third year, we’re beginning to get a taste of what two-year-old is all about and it’s a fascinating place…
Being two is a big and bold place for Tilly. In the weeks leading up to her birthday she’s visibly transformed from being a somewhat shy figure at playgroups to being the life and soul of the place. At the moment she’s rather preoccupied by new-found feelings of ownership: “no, my toys!” being one of the regularly heard phrases but there’s all the signs of a really interesting personality developing.
Being able to share jokes is a brilliant new dynamic we now have with Tilly. The range is impressive, covering slapstick, such as tripping over things (I do that a lot, sometimes for comic effect although often unintentionally), and running jokes, where she says goodnight to my wife first in a cute voice and then in a ferocious growl. There’s a touch of comic melodrama in Tilly’s style too. If a toy is lost she’ll immediately call out “where are you?!” (as if they can hear and will shout back) and “I found it!” if located. Anything falling over can now also expect theatrical accompaniment of “oopsy daisy!” for good measure. It’s all rather fun.
We’ve rapidly moved from a world of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to one where feelings and preferences are being expressed. “No like it” is now a commonly heard at mealtimes, although happily “like it” is now also making an appearance. If Mummy and Daddy’s programmes are on the television or radio we can now expect these to be quickly dismissed as “boring”! Tilly is also keen to tell us if she’s hurt herself or has had an accident: “Tilly hurt foot” and “Oh no! I’m wet” are now the sort of phrases that send us racing to action.
A toddler’s world can see completely self-absorbed, and rightly so, but we’ve seen that Tilly is a really caring little person inside. For a while, if I’ve gone ‘ouch’ while checking the temperature of her food, Tilly will readily observe “Daddy burnt finger”. Today, however, she went made another leap, asking her mummy “are you alright” while bouncing up and down on her like a loon. It seems she’s already learnt that while parents may be superheroes (one tries) we are not indestructible.
We have established a basic understand of time, comprising ‘now’ and ‘later’, although Tilly naturally demands control of both. Anything she wants must be delivered ‘now’ and anything she doesn’t is dismissed until ‘later’. Happily, she doesn’t (yet) descend into tantrums if her requests are refused.
One reason why Tilly possibly doesn’t have more tantrums are her excellent communication skills. Her vocabulary must stretch into several hundred words and she commonly comes out with sentences of a good half-dozen words. This is leading to narration; telling us small stories about what games she’s been playing with toys or what she’s doing that day. Her recollections can be rather hit and miss but when Tilly has a story to tell unprompted it can be rather special if at times wholly surreal.
Along with stories, Tilly has developed a small but growing repertoire of songs. Twinkle twinkle little star can now be recited in its entirety and we’re working on Miss Polly Had a Dolly. Of course when favourite songs come on at playgroup she’ll flatly refuse to sing a word but at home we’re winding bobbins and head-shoulders-knees-and-toesing with gusto.
Tilly has generally been content not to explore cupboards, drawers and power sockets. That was until a couple of weeks ago when she attended a birthday party of a fellow two-year-old where other children were forensically analysing everything that opened. Now Tilly seems to have picked up the same idea and I can see our toddler-proofing is going to have to be stepped up a few notches pretty quickly.
Getting 2 and 3-year-olds to focus on something for an extended period is notoriously difficult and Tilly is no exception, although we’re trying out new play ideas to add variety to her substantial but largely ignored collection of toys. A firm favourite is her shop, where she gets each of her toys to take turns to buy something – impressive for someone so otherwise opposed to the idea of sharing anything with anyone!
All in all it’s a brilliant time. Yes, some days you can feel as if you’ve been hit by a toddler whirlwind, but every day there are new words in use and concepts being understood with a plentiful dollop of two-year-old surrealism. The world is quite a place from down there and it’s a lot of fun being along for the ride.