We have a 2 year old in the house that is very normal. As you can see, she is very proud of her own fashion design, even if the rest of the world does not agree with her sense of style. The 2 year old in my house makes me take a deep breath and realize that life and development are pretty normal—even when it goes against my sensibilities. When I am very honest with myself, I admit that my life and sensibilities are are more like a 2 year old than I care to realize.
I want to “Do it myself!!!!” and not ask for help—even when I don't know what I am doing. My 2 year old loves dressing herself—at least the idea of it. Somehow feet don't make it into the right holes of the pants, zippers don't work right, arms and shirts have small wrestling matches and (still my favorite) shoes go on the wrong feet. She just does not have the physical skills to match her mental understanding and image of the world.
The art of “knowing what you don't know” has been slow in areas of my life. Most of my life I have been driven to show my competency through understanding. I have listened and thought I understood what people were telling me, but, well, now I understand that I didn't really know what I thought I knew. I guess we continue to grow and mature—I hope I never quit!
When I learn something new, I assume it is a new discovery for everyone else too. My 2 year old is discovering how to jump with both feet in the air at once, twirl while doing Just Dance on the Wii, gallop like her older brother, put on her own socks and use the toilet herself. Each discovery is new and is a genuine “Watch me daddy!!!” moment.
I still get excited about learning! I love to read, research and figure out new things about myself, people and the world around us. A real pick me up is gaining an cultural insight, or putting 2 + 2 together in a new work context. It has taken a few years for me to understand the blank looks on people's faces when I announce my new discovery is not amazement from this newly revealed jewel of knowledge.
Being cute, loud and/or persistent makes me right...or at least everybody else will give in to me. This tactic works for my 2 year old—sometimes. However, as a parent I build resistance to the noise, devise new ways to change the subject before she gets fixated and come up with new strategies for deescalating such behavior. People do the same for me and I'm still learning the value of “adult” communication.
I have noticed that being the most vocal, continuous voice in the room does wear people down. My adult version of the temper tantrum has been droning on and on about the “truth,” “reason,” “effectiveness” and other such names I give my point of view—and sometimes I am right. Verbal bullying just does not win people's hearts, passion and empathy in the long term.
Sometimes, I just need recognition and validation for things to be okay. Wailing, stiff backs and limp limbs, wide-tear filled eyes and other forms of hysteria accompany our 2 year old's bumps and bruises. Usually, the wounds are not too bad and the loud sounds are more about being scared, shocked or embarrassed by a fall or accident. Sometimes the “kiss it” request can be funny—like after falling down on the hard floor and having a hurt bottom.
I have my bumps and bruises, and sometimes I just need to get it off my chest and let it go. The key for me has been to learn to let it go like a toddler—just get the boo-boo kissed, acknowledged and then let's get back to playing the game of life.
Getting up and going on is easier, even fun, when I am in a good mood. A cranky 2 year old after a short nap is prone to many melt downs. Normal things like funny looks from a brother, not having the right blue cup, not being able to talk to Nana on the phone and changing shoes can all trigger violent emotional reactions. Falling down and getting the normally necessary kiss to make it better is not enough. Sometimes it takes a long emotional cry sitting with mom or dad to make things okay enough to not cry. When this same 2 year old is in a good mood, falling down and laughing for attention, or just the pure fun of falling down is hysterical. The mood makes the difference.
Emotional and mental health has become much more important to me as I have gotten older. Making good decisions are easier when I maintain good relationships, a healthy mental state and have proper rest. Failure is not so dark, wounds not so deep and mistakes don't cost as much when I maintain good health. When I am in a right state of mind, playing the game of life with all it's pitfalls and challenges is even fun!!!
I am hoping my 20 times over 2 year old self will keep growing in passion for learning, trying and loving and some wisdom and how to love others more than myself. I just may be ready for learning, loving and living in West Africa!