By Nike Bentley
Cartwheels. “Gotcha!” Twirling. Jumping. Constant motion. Her giggles lilt across the yard and the sun plays off her auburn hair casting a halo effect. Tantrum. Screeching. “No!” A brief pause to watch a butterfly hover over daisies and a failed attempt to feed it popcorn. Running. Jumping. Scraped knees. Bruised chin. Dirt covered limbs and pigtails askew. It’s a sight that both exhausts and fills me with joy.
Sometime in the last few months my firstborn morphed into a little girl. It was so gradual we missed it until one day she began verbalizing her opinions, showcasing her determination, and exhibited a stubbornness we knew to expect but are struggling to handle gracefully. I feel so unequipped for this season dubbed The Terrible Twos.
Two is unpredictable. A week ago the girl began answering “No!” to every question. Should a “yes” accidentally slip out it is promptly replaced with four nos. Sometimes it makes me angry and other times I stare at her in disbelief. The girl loves strawberries, why would she say, “No!” when asked if she wants more? (These are also the moments when her face says, “I have made a terrible mistake, but I’m sticking to it.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as they say.) At the same time she’s being disagreeable, she is quick to pick up trash she finds on the ground or mop up spills. Her manners have remained intact for the most part. The fight for independence is strong in her and it’s a constant balance trying to encourage that trait while keeping her safe and setting boundaries.
I love watching her mind work. Everything is a science experiment at the moment, which often has me wanting to pull my hair out as she so often does her own, but when I step out of myself and watch her from her learning-the-world-around-her perspective I get glimpses of what true innocence and purity look like. Unfortunately, more often my reaction is, “Why would you do that?” than, “What did we learn from this?” This girl stretches and grows me in ways I didn’t know I needed to grow.
In an effort to maintain my sanity and implant the good of the day into my memory, part of our bedtime routine includes going over the day’s events. After hot milk, teeth brushing, pajamas, story time, and prayers I rock her and talked to her about the day we had. It is something that is really more for my good than hers though she does seem to enjoy listening to the retelling. I began this routine after an evening when my husband said, “Today was a good day” as I was about to cry from sheer exhaustion and frustration over the day’s events and “how two” the girl had been. We had borne witness to the same day and he is more active in her day, which made it obvious that my perspective needed readjusting maybe more than the girl’s attitude did.
This season, like all the ones before it, will be short. I know we will all survive it and I pray we do more than survive but grow in it. We have been gifted an incredible little person and some days it terrifies me that I’m going to screw it all up, but I am learning grace, patience, understanding. I’m also learning the healing powers of ice cream.
Nike Bentley is a wife of almost eight years and mama to two girls. She works full-time as the NW Region Database Manager for Adventist Health Foundation, though is currently taking a four-month leave to enjoy her newborn, toddler and husband. An Oregon native and homesteading junkie, she looks forward to the day she owns a plot of land and can be mostly self-sufficient.
Editor’s note: Fond memories always come flooding back when I think of Nike, a student in the first Portland State University class I taught on the blogosphere (as people called it way back in the spring of 2009). She was a delight to have in class and it’s become a pleasure to see her become a mother to two girls.
Tomorrow: “Cracking me open” by John Knapp