I was greeted at the door this evening by an unhappy toddler, who I’m told had been fussing, without break for a full half-hour before my arrival. The Attitude is nearly 21 months-old and recently committed himself to a full-time program of Terrible Twoness. Sure, it’s a bit premature, but I’m choosing to believe that means he’s a self-starter who’s ahead of the curve. I’d have rather he demonstrate accelerated development by being one of those kids you see on YouTube that can file a complete United States Federal Income Tax 1040 Form (the long version) with nothing but a midnight blue Crayola and a set of numbered blocks (you know, for doing calculations). Unfortunately, I just get General Grumpiness (which is NOT a Star Wars character) and the occasional Drop-To-The-Floor-And-Roll-Around Fit of Extreme Displeasure.
I suppose there’s probably a good explanation for the generally poor attitude at this stage in his life. For one thing, the kid spends half his day drooling uncontrollably and chewing on his fingers. Since he’s not a frat boy trying to get through post-kegger Sunday morning or an institutional resident with a nice white jacket that ties in the back, I’m going to assume that the little fella is getting some new teeth at all once. I can see how that might lead to unhappiness. How would you like it if people kept trying to feed you a bunch of increasingly solid and unfamiliar types of foods just as you got three root canals? I suspect my response would not be overly cordial.
On top of mouth pain, there’s also a bit of a communication gap at this stage. By the time a kid reaches 18 months or so, he or she kinda realize what’s going on around them. They recognize things, probably have words or sounds to describe the most common, and definitely have developed enough sense of self to want what they want, when they want it. The biggest problem is trying to communicate what that is. I’m lucky, The Attitude will often say things pretty clearly, like “Choo-Choo Chucks” (it’s time for some Thomas the Tank Engine action), “Melmo” (Elmo, obviously), or “Cooky” (one of several stuffed ducks we have). Sometimes, though, he wants something but has no idea what it is, or how to express it. When you’re not quite two, what do you say when you want the Xbox Controller even though you have no idea what that cool-looking white thing is even supposed to accomplish? Then again, I suppose my parents might not know what to call it either, and they’ve been speaking English for a few years.
It’s not all screaming and complaints, though. Tonight, after dinner and the 6:45 pm showing of Thomas, The Attitude brought me his empty drink cup and said, “mik tcheese”. Because he’d been so polite and said please, I obliged him with a half cup of milk. As he toddled away, I said his name to get his attention. When he turned back, I asked him, “What do you say?” Without hesitation, he proclaimed emphatically, “Da-doo Ba-baa”. We may never fully know why that means thank you in his 20-month old vocabulary, but it warmed my heart to hear him say it because he was so genuinely pleased with his drink.
Now, if I just get him to start working on those taxes.