It didn't long for people to warn me about the "terrible twos" and all that I had to worry about the day my son became a full-fledged toddler. Naively, of course, I ignored them. My son was a pretty "easy" baby to care for, so I just assumed the trend would continue and we'd ease through the "terrible twos" like a well oiled, tantrum-free machine. I was wrong. Well, sort of. While this moment in my son's life can be challenging, the terrible twos are also the best years ever. No, really. I promise. This isn't a clever ruse or an outright lie. I am having the most fun, even though a few too many tantrums are involved.
If I'm being honest and fair, I have to admit that I didn't necessarily "love" the newborn stage. While I loved the cuddles and I loved having my son, finally, in my arms, I was also exhausted, scared, and unsure of what I was doing. He seemed so small and fragile, and battling postpartum anxiety and depression thanks to a traumatic pregnancy, labor and delivery didn't help. So, when my son reached his first birthday, and then his second, I wasn't just excited, I was somewhat relieved. Eventually, relief gave way to joy, and I was able to truly enjoy having my son around and being responsible for his wellbeing.
Can he be challenging, now that his favorite word is, "No!" and he loves to push boundaries and test authority figures? Sure. However, he is also so much fun and learning more about him each and every day easily make having a two-year-old toddler worth it. So, with that in mind, here are just a few more reasons why these so-called terrible years, aren't terrible at all.
Your Kid Starts Talking...
Yes, sometimes "start talking" usually means "keep talking forever and ever until they eventually pass out from exhaustion." However, I will take my son talking in his adorable toddler voice — and in that fantastic mix of real words he has just learned and gibberish I have somehow learned how to decipher — over baby speak any day.
...Which Means They Can Tell You What They Need...
Usually, you can learn what your baby's specific cries mean and react accordingly, but I won't lie and say you just automatically know what your baby needs when they need it. It takes time to decipher which cries mean what, and why.
When you have a toddler, however, they can actually tell you what they need or want. They get to say, "I'm hungry," or, "I'm tired," or, "I'm hurting," and you can react without simultaneously wondering if you're reacting the right way. I can't say enough about the ease and peace of mind a mother feels when she realizes her baby can actually tell her what he or she needs and wants and feels.
...And, Of Course, That They Love You
I will forever remember the moment my son told me he loved me for the first time. I was sitting on our living room couch after a particularly hard day, relaxing and attempting to de-stress. My son came up to me, put his tiny little hands on my cheeks, and said, "Mama, I love you." I thought I was going to die.
It was by far, hands down, one of the most amazing moments I have experienced as a mother. It's a moment I wouldn't have been able to experience with a newborn, because a newborn can't articulate their feelings verbally. A toddler, however, can, and it's the best.
They're Learning New Things Every Single Day
Yes, newborns are learning new things every day, too. I'll be fair. However, it's not all that noticeable or obvious. Sure, you have the first time they roll over and the first time they smile or walk and whatnot, but they're few and far between; monumental, but not frequent.
When you have a toddler, these amazing and monumental milestones happen on a seemingly daily basis. Every day, I get to watch my son learn a new word, count to a higher letter, fall in love with something new or find a new physical capability that he's all too happy to test out. He changes on a daily basis, and it's astounding to sit back and watch.
They're Starting To Develop A Unique Personality
My kid has got personality, my friends, and on the days when his "personality" doesn't drive me absolutely crazy, it's something I so very much enjoy and value. I get to see him not only learn new things and experience new things, but evolve into a person with individual thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes.
There's honestly nothing more amazing than watching a person become their own unique and slightly odd self. It's awesome to see my son, for example, love the color red one day, then be absolutely obsessed with the color blue two weeks later. I love that he learns what he likes to eat (macaroni and cheese and a family favorite Puerto Rican meal, asopao de pollo) and what he doesn't like to eat (which is nothing, because the kid will eat anything you put in front of him, thank the heavens).
They're More Independent
It's not that I dislike doing things for my son. Obviously I do and, you know, it's my job. I want to make sure he's fed and clothed and well taken care of, and that he is happy and healthy and so on and so forth.
However, I don't miss the newborn days when I had to do absolutely everything for my son. I don't miss the days that I had to feed him manually or via my boob; I don't miss having to change his diaper every single time he pees or poops; I don't miss having to carry him everywhere, because he's unable to move. There's honestly something to be said for having a toddler that can walk around and carry their own bodies to where they need to be, can eat by themselves, can dress themselves and can use a toilet. Independence is pretty awesome, you guys.
They're (Maybe) Potty Trained
The average age a toddler ends up fully potty trained is 30 months, so your little one may or may not have mastered the porcelain palace. If they have, however, to the pee gods be the glory, right?! It's the absolute best.
I can't tell you how happy I am to ditch the diapers (for the most part) and not buy packs on packs on packs of expensive poop catchers every single time I go the grocery store. To have a mini-human come up to me and say, "Mom, I got poop," and then to walk that mini-human to the bathroom so he can actually poop, is gold.
They Can Do More Than Just Poop And Sleep And Eat...
Newborn snuggles are the best, but that's pretty much the extent of what you can actively do with a newborn. For the most part, they sleep and poop and eat and sleep again. Rinse, repeat. Day in and day out.
A toddler, however, is much more active. Yes, this can be both a good thing and a bad thing, but I tend to think that, generally, this is pretty awesome. Toddlers are much more fun, and love to do things that get you active and engaged and off your damn couch. My favorite days are the days I get to spend running and playing and reading with my son. Going to the park; going to the zoo and watching him point out his favorite animals; walking with him down the street and watching him wave to strangers; playing imaginary games with his toys. It's the best.
Their Dietary Options Have Expanded (Usually)
Even though breastfeeding was relatively difficult for me, I will forever treasure those moments when it was just my son and I, and I was feeding him and sustaining him and nurturing him with a part of my body. I mean, that's incredible, and that bonding time was nothing short of euphoric.
Still, I also like being able to make my son something to eat, sit him down, and have him eat it without me. I don't have to worry about pumping to pack a bottle when we go to a restaurant, because he can have things that are provided on the menu now, too. Options, my dear readers. Toddlers are all about more options, and that makes life so much easier.
For (Arguably) The First Time, You're Truly Getting A Sense Of Who Your Baby Will Eventually Be
I remember the moment my brand new baby boy was laid on my chest, directly after I had pushed him into the world. I looked at him, and while I felt like I had known him forever, I also didn't know him. He didn't do much, so I was acutely aware — even in that exhausted, overwhelming moment — that it would be a while before I felt like I truly knew this person that I had created.
Now? Now I know him. I can safely and confidently say that I know my son, because he is starting to define and express and know himself. Of course, he is going to evolve and continue to grow and make up his mind and change his mind and he will end up lost, unsure of who he is, only to find himself again. But I will know him and re-know him and remind him that I know him, and it's because I see him now, as an unabashed, unafraid, free little toddler.
This is motherhood, and it's beautiful and glorious and crazy and exhausting and everything I hoped it would be, when my son was finally laid on my chest and safely in my arms.