The terrible twos.
Do those words send shivers down your spine like they do mine? Those two little words evoke many awful and amusing scenarios but the most dramatic usually involved my fourth child, David.
As a baby he was a delight, with sparkling blue eyes and a warm, loving personality. Physically he was plump and passive. He’d sit quietly, his head whipping from side to side, completely entertained by the activities of his older siblings. Who needs to bother learning to walk when you have three adoring servants to fetch toys for you? In fact, David was fifteen months before he bothered to walk but when he actually started to move, he didn’t stop.
Suddenly this good baby mutated into a travelling disaster. There was no malicious intent behind David’s activities, just sheer joy in discovery. However, this toddler’s discoveries were most often messy. In fact, this run-about-baby’s exploits are simply legendary.
One morning, while nursing David’s younger sister in the living room, I realised that David was no longer in the room with me. I strained my ears to hear what he was up to but the house was oddly quiet, too quiet. The older kids were right outside, near the house but surely David hadn’t opened the door to join them all by himself? Since David was rarely quiet, I quickly put Emily up on my shoulder to burp her and started to try to discover where he was and what he was up to.
I found him in the kitchen and I stopped in shock. My fridge was now covered in a thick layer of peanut butter. David had covered every inch within his reach including the door handle, hinges, rubber seal… simply everything.
He heard my loud gasp of shock, turned around, peanut butter jar in one hand, with the other hand dipping in the jar for another large scoop and he cheerfully greeted me,
Try to picture me scooping, scrapping, wiping and the same time smearing peanut butter with paper towels. I then attacked it with very hot, very sudsy water. Of course, I needed an old toothbrush to reach all those joints and creases. The next week the entire artistic attempt was executed with margarine! Soon after, I discovered the kitchen wall decorated with a crayon mural of scribbles. David was quick and very thorough when he was artistically inspired. That particular art job took a week of scrubbing when ever I passed by!
One of Michael’s sisters once said to me,
“I am surprised that David turned out so well. I think it was because you didn’t come down on him too hard.”
Somehow, I think I was too exhausted to react. I walked around in a daze some days and just let disasters roll off me. My dog-eared child development book also helped me to stay calm in the face of calamity. I realised that I couldn’t demand behaviour that my child was not equipped yet to mentally or emotionally produce unless it was out of sheer fear.
I guess I knew David wasn’t bad, just a very messy run-about baby.