Dear Cee: Celebrating the Two-Year-Old You
A much belated letter to Cee, in honor of her 2nd birthday. I swear I started this just a day or two after her birthday, but that was several weeks back. I’m just beginning to catch up on things as I’m winding down the college teaching term.
You are two. Can you believe it?
Of course you can. You are two, and you just are. You may not remember, as I do, what it was like when we met for the first time. (What’s funny to me, thinking back to that day, is that it seemed you already know me. It took me some time to get to know you.) You may not remember those early days of infancy, two years ago, when you and I both had to work hard just to communicate with each other, just to begin to speak the same language. You may not remember those days, but they are at the foundation of who you are and who we are together: mother and daughter.
I remember those days well. Thinking of them, I can’t help but be amazed at how much we’ve both grown. Your growth is obvious, mine subtler.
But I’m struggling with how to describe the changes in you, now that you are two. It is tempting to say something like, “You’re like a real person now!” or “Finally we can actually communicate.” But of course, you’ve been a real person from the start, and we’ve been communicating since then, too. That leaves me wondering: what is really significant about being two?
I think I’ve finally put my finger on how you’ve changed the most. Maybe we’ve been communicating all along, or at least trying our best. But what’s different now is that you’re able to communicate your inner self to the rest of us. This is where your imagination gives way to pretend play. It is where you store your memories, written in your own words. With language, you can share these inner worlds, and that’s what I’m enjoying most about the two-year-old you.
On Thanksgiving Day morning, crisp and clear, we walked to a park. You found a little acorn cap and handed it to me, saying matter-of-factly: “Bowl.” I agreed. Then you placed a few tiny pieces of bark mulch inside the cap. “Food!” And then you handed me a stick: “Spoon!” I love being invited to a world where getting dinner on the table is as simple as kneeling in the dirt with an observant eye.
This year, you loved receiving birthday cards in the mail. Each one was a valued gift that you opened, studied, and admired. We stashed them in a special place in the kitchen and added to your collection as they arrived. A couple of weeks later, you pulled them out and sorted through them on the kitchen table. Then, you started singing “Happy Birthday” and clapped your hands. Cooking dinner, I was privy to your happy memory.
Like most 2-year-olds, you are confident and independent. This is not so much a change as it is something that has grown over time. I saw this in you when you were an infant, learning to roll over, and a year ago, when you explored gravity by climbing up and down a hill for an hour. Those were important tasks, and you needed space to experiment and figure them out for yourself. These days, you’re working on more everyday tasks, but they are just as critical.
For example, you are determined that you will dress yourself, and no amount of nay-saying from me will discourage you. If I start to help one leg into your pants, you will declare, “NO, you!” (What you mean is, “No, me!” but you haven’t quite figured out those pronouns.) Then you will actually pull off the pants and start again. One day, I was so impatient that I had to send myself out of the room. “OK, you work on those pants, and I’ll be in the kitchen if you need help.”
Five minutes later, you waddled out to the kitchen with your two legs in one pant leg. We laughed, and you were happy to have my help getting straightened out. But of course, you’re getting better and better at dressing yourself, and the only way to learn is to keep trying, even if that means lots of mistakes. I SO admire your confidence and determination. You are grounded in who you are and so certain that you are a person who is capable of dressing yourself that you are not afraid to keep struggling. I think that in this regard, we grown-ups could learn a lot from you two-year-olds.
What about me? How have I grown? Thanks to you, I’ve slowed down. I have learned that rushing a two-year-old is a futile effort, and we are better off enjoying the process, since it will probably take a while. I try to get around this fact all the time, but you are here to remind me every single day. A walk across the park is not about reaching the slide in record time. It is about what can be found between here and there. And getting dressed is not about the being ready to leave the house. It is about working on a new skill. And what is life without learning new things? In admiration of your gumption, I’m working on cultivating my inner two-year-old, too.
Thanks for the inspiration, Cee.