The other night he had a dream and called out in his sleep: “I want my spider back! I WANT my spider back! I want my SPIDER BACK!”
I waited a minute to see if he'd settle back to sleep on his own, but the demands became pretty clear: dude needed his spider back.
“What spider, sweetheart?” I asked him as I reached down into the crib to let him know I was there.
“I want my OWN spider,” he sighed, even in his half-sleep grateful that someone was finally paying attention.
“I think you were having a dream, buddy. Want me to hold you in the rocking chair for a minute?”
“Yeah, I want you to hold me in the chair.”
So I did. And like every other time I've ever rocked him in the night, I thought about him. Middle-of-the-night parenting offers few perks and so many sacrifices. Ever lain on the floor outside the door to your child's bedroom to thwart an escapee? Or sat on a cold toilet in a steamed-up bathroom playing on an iPad with a toddler who hasn't stopped coughing in hours? One of the blessed upsides is the vacuum of time and space where there is nothing else to do but wrap your thoughts around the one in your arms.
I have such a sympathetic heart for two-year-olds. All the time? No. At the appropriate times where that sympathy and empathy and patience and an extra pair of arms and a shot of whiskey could really come in handy? I wish.
But in the soft place where 2 a.m. snuggles and quiet breathing come to rest, I feel for him.
The world of two is a world where you just want your own damn spider. You ask, and no one listens. They don't understand your words, or they do but you've repeated your request so many times that it falls on deaf ears. Or they listen, but they have no idea what you're talking about, and your ability to explain hits a dead-end somewhere between I want THAT spider! and MommyNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! So you give up, and they give up gratefully, and you add one more defeat to a collection filed under Being Two.
You look around and all you see are giants—a forest of pant legs and people who move faster, more purposefully than you do. You want up, so you start tugging, whining, until somebody sighs and lifts you up where you can at least see what they see. And then you want down, because you aren't a baby anymore and you need to RUN. And then you fall, because even your sister is bigger, faster, abler than you are. And when you get up your hands are dirty and your pants are dirty and someone is there wiping you off—always with the wiping you off! You're off again, chasing your future as a more capable kid and landing, again and again, in a heap of Two.
The world of two is a struggle between needing and not needing. Figuring out and failing. Making yourself understood and living in a world where no one understands.
In the rocking chair the other night, I understood. He understood that I understood. Being two isn't that much different from being any other age; it's all just right on the surface, out in the open, the live-streaming emotion and the real-time drama of being a human being.
As far as I know, you can't opt out of two—as a parent or a kid. You can only get through it, together.