Everyone will tell you that 3 is worse, but you still have to navigate the terrible (or is it terrific?) twos before you get there. If you ask someone to picture a 2-year-old toddler, they'll likely describe a charming cherub gleefully engaged in play or, you know, a sociopath. Trust me when I say both descriptions are accurate. Our little ones are complicated humans, but at this age they have a lot in common. Whether good, bad, or in between, there are more than a few stereotypes about 2-year-olds that are totally true.
My daughter turns 3 this week, and let me just say that it's been a long year. She was an objectively easy baby, but she's been an incredibly challenging toddler. From what I can gather, though, she's pretty typical. She loves to play make believe, watch Sesame Street, and eat goldfish and graham crackers. She can go from laughter to fury in the blink of an eye. She's fiercely independent but still wants to know that I'm right there. I love her more than I ever thought I was capable and, at the same time, she makes me want to bang my head against the wall. You know, the usual.
Obviously, there are variations from kid to kid, but overall, these generalizations about your 2-year-old tyke are totes legit:
They Can Be Real Jerks
Yeah, I said it. Whether they're pouring out their cereal in your recently vacuumed car (while looking you in the eye in the rear view mirror as you specifically tell them not to), ruining your trip to Target with a Dollar Section tantrum, or telling you "Mommy, go away" the hard truth is, they're buttheads. Adorable, sure, but buttheads nonetheless.
They Will Poop On Everything You Love
For many families, between ages 2 and 3 is the ideal window for toilet training. I've heard everything from when they start lining up their toys to when they can sing "The ABCs" is prime time for the potty, tasks most kids accomplish during their third year of life.
I use words like "optimal," but the fact is, if you potty train a 2-year-old they still won't be reliable until they're 3. And in the meantime, they will defecate on all you hold dear, from your fancy rug to their adorable sun hat.
Their Mood Swings Will Give You Whiplash
To say 2-year-olds are volatile is an understatement. They're highly emotional with little ability to regulate it. I can't tell you how many times my daughter has woken up smiling and in a great mood only to completely fall apart within minutes because I took off her Pull-up (never mind that I do that every single day) or the dog touched her lovey.
They Behave The Worst For Mom
"I don't know what you mean. She was a perfect angel for me." If you're the parent to a 2-year-old, you've likely heard this from your darling dear's grandparent, babysitter, or teacher.
It's not uncommon for children this age to save their truly dreadful behavior for their mothers. This is actually because they have a trust in you that they don't have with other caregivers (read: mom will still love me, so I can test her). But the fact that you're their safe person is little consolation when they're screaming and refusing to be buckled into the car seat.
It's not all bad, though, because in my experience 2-year-old toddlers are affectionate little stinkers, and those fervent hugs and kisses are perfectly normal to their development. Snuggling a newborn is wonderful, but they're inert little bundles. Toddlers, on the other hand, dole out affection on their own terms. When your 2-year-old kid climbs into your lap, you know it's because that's where they want to be, and that's a great feeling.
They Are Creatures Of Habit
If you've ever tried to transition a 2-year-old child out of an activity in which they're engaged, you know it's not so easy to get them to stop coloring or playing in the water table. Planning with Kids calls this characteristic "preservation."
Most kids prefer routine, but 2-year-olds are especially rigid. Unless you want a bedtime battle, I don't suggest you alter the ritual in any way. You don't suddenly watch Clifford instead of Sesame Street... unless you're a monster (and not the cute Elmo kind).
In my opinion, 2-year-olds are crack-ups, plain and simple. Oftentimes it's unintentional, and we have to stifle our laughter so as not to encourage bad behavior, like that time they were alone with a Sharpie or when they let out a fart on the lap of your in-laws.
My niece, who is the same age as my daughter, runs around jumping on furniture and yelling "Parkour!" and "YOLO!" My little one cracks me up with her imaginary play (she's been known to make one hand cry while the other offers comfort), but calling my La Croix "Mommy's beer" takes the cake.
They Like Things "Just So"
Toddlers are, shall we say, particular. You know this if you've ever tried to pass off the Mickey cup for the Batman one. (What? You thought they wouldn't notice?) The 2-year-old who doesn't like their food to touch or who freaks out if their sock isn't exactly "right" isn't a unicorn. They're all like that.
They're Messy AF
Oh, hello there, developing fine motor skills! Meet my 2-year-old's burgeoning sense of self. Unfortunately, your toddler's increasing need to do things themselves doesn't develop in tandem with the skills required to do them (or do them well, at least). So spaghetti-covered toddler? Par for the course.
They don't care about messes, either, so your toddler is going to need you to get real comfortable with petrified French fries in your SUV.
They Are Copycats
Life with a 2-year-old means you have a little mimic on your hands. They love to imitate adult behavior and language in particular. Don't be surprised if your little one starts calling your partner by their first name, and get ready to hear your voice coming from your child's mouth as they talk on the pretend phone.
The 2-year-old who says something like, "But, Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa now" is far from rare. It makes sense when you consider that they both have no concept of time nor can they distinguish between a want and a need. They have demands and they're willing to take hostages (your sanity, for starters).
At almost 3, my daughter has finally learned the concept of "later," and it's been a game-changer.
They Will Make You Question Everything You Think You Know
Young children help you appreciate the simple things (the birds outside the dining room window), are honest to a fault (oh, my wrinkle cream isn't working?), and find joy everywhere (OMG! Bubbles!). If you listen, 2-year-olds can be quite profound. My daughter recently described dusk as the sun going night-night. That's right, baby girl.