I'm starting to think that the "Terrible Twos" are inadequately named. Sometimes they can seem pretty bad, but I wouldn't go as far as to say they're terrible. If you ask me, the "Terrible Twos" should be renamed to something more along the lines of 'The super frustrating, make you lose your temper, downright defeating twos." Yeah, something like that.
Don't get me wrong here. Marleigh is a really good girl. Most times, she doesn't give us too many problems and she is usually a good listener. She has one of the sweetest, most sensitive souls I've ever known. But there are times when she turns into the other Marleigh. The one that asks "Why?" when we tell her to do something. The Marleigh that argues "But I'm still playing this" when it's time to put her toys away, the one who has borderline meltdowns about the silliest things like having to wipe after she goes to the bathroom, the Marleigh who takes TWO HOURS to fall asleep at night because she was tucking in every single stuffed animal she owns (which, I admit, is way too many) and "making meatballs" out of the stuffing that she rips out of their faces.
That Marleigh tests our patience. She stretches us to our limits and then continues to stretch some more. She takes us to our breaking points.
Parenting is a lot of work from the start. For women, it's a lot of work from before the start. But parenting a toddler is quite possibly the most work of all. You have to be on your A-game all. the. time. There is no rest for the weary...even when a certain baby brother keeps you up all night. Scratch that. Especially when he keeps you up all night.
There are days that this toddler phase is my all time favorite. Every day brings something new that I want to remember about Marleigh. The way she giggles when we're driving home from work and she gives me "the look" from her carseat. The belly laughs she gets when Luke tickles her. When she tells me she loves me, or that she thinks I look pretty when I look like a mess. How she tells us we're her best friends and asks us if we're happy. She really is the sweetest little thing.
But every once in a while, usually only for little bits at a time (thank goodness), she doesn't seem quite so sweet. And that is when Luke and I learn our roles as parents, and in turn we're learning more about each other along the way.
We are yin and yang.
I have a lot of patience. Sometimes (most times) to a fault. I will give Marleigh the benefit of the doubt one too many times. I'll let her bring her Pooh Bear in the car to avoid a meltdown because I know she'll be too busy crying to go potty and wash her hands before we leave if I say no. I'll give her a few extra minutes before bed to read a book. I'll give her a second packet of fruit snacks. I'll let her watch an extra show, play an extra game. I'll tickle her back and sing "one more beautiful song" even though I said the last song was the last one for the night. I'm a pushover, and she knows it.
Then there's Luke. Where I am overly patient, he is quick to react. He is a firm believer in only having to ask one time. He is stern and strict and he thankfully keeps Marleigh in line when I can't. He is famous for his "walks" with her -- removing her from the situation when she is misbehaving and calmly talking to her until they straighten it out. He doesn't stray from how he thinks she should behave or what he thinks should happen, even if she is only two. He believes (rightfully) that now is the time to establish the good habits, rather than try to break the bad ones later on from going too easy on her.
What I'm trying to say is... we balance each other out.
When I am losing the battle, he steps in and takes control. When Marleigh is having a meltdown that he can't get her to snap out of, I am there to talk it out with her. And at the end of those really, super long days, when we both sit on the couch together -- him with a giant bowl of ice cream and me with a glass of wine about the same size -- it's almost like we can tell what the other is thinking without having to say a word. Another day in the books. We tuck Marleigh in and end the nights with "no more games...go to bed. I love you," and "Goodnight, my little Pajanimal," and she will sleep soundly and dream sweet and build up all the energy she needs to start a new day in the morning, "when it's light out."
Trying to raise good, kind-hearted, well-mannered children is a full time job in and of itself. It's hard. Really hard*. But I'm so grateful that we are a team. True, sometimes it may feel like we are taking on opponents that are much better than us -- even if they are much smaller. We definitely don't go undefeated in the games, but if we can win just a few here and there, hopefully we will come out on top with kids who love us, respect us, and like us. As parents, that's the best winning record we could ask for.
*That's what she said.