**SLAP** “Toughen up!”

“Leave me alone! I’m crying!”

“My hair’s so pretty!”

These are not the direct quotes of a grown woman, no. I’m not that self-deprecating. These are the quotes of a brand new two year old. (Honest to goodness, she slapped my six year old across the face when he was crying about getting sunscreen on an old scrape and demanded he “toughen up.” Where does she get this stuff? I’ve never slapped or hit anyone in the face in my entire life!)

If she were an adult doing and spouting off the hilarious/socially inappropriate things she does, I’d be tempted to quickly diagnose her as an extreme bipolar: Very high highs sprinkled with tantrum kicking lows, followed by long don’t-poke-the-bear-or-you’ll-be-sorry naps: A loose cannon in desperate need of psychiatric attention.

But this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve wrangled and wrestled with enough two year olds in my time to know a phase when I see one. For example, I’m pretty confident she’ll learn to buckle a seat belt without screaming and arching her back in defiant consternation by the time she goes to Kindergarten Round-up. She’ll stop flopping and writhing on the floors of public places by the time she notices boys. And I’m pretty sure she’ll stop telling everyone how pretty her hair is by the time she learns that she has to tame and style it herself or she’ll look like the poster girl for Les Miserables on a bad day.

But the greatest part about a two year old’s psyche is that with all this lack of inhibition and blatant disregard for social norms, comes a wonderland of strengths that tend to dull with age. A two year old has an ability to exhibit heart melting demonstrations of affection. She doesn’t care where you are or who is watching when she smashes her mother’s cheeks together between her pudgy palms and exclaims, “Come here, baby. I love you!”

The two year ego can allow for mind blowing acts of confidence against insurmountable odds. I know it seems as if my daughter’s long, swishy pig tails imbue her 30 pound frame with Samson-like courage–enough to slap a big brother right in the kisser or storm out of the room and then tell her would-be rescuer, “Leave me alone! I’m crying!” She can be relentless with her demands and show admirable resolution especially in the face of a possible after dinner popsicle.

The two year old mind is in constant self-discovery mode too. They are just starting to realize how charming, funny and cute they really are. Even better is when they realize that you realize the same things about them. I relish in my two year old’s coquettish glances, her silly faces, and her impressions of puppies, frogs and pirates pulled out for company. I adore her somersaults, her lavish “ta-dah’s!” and her twirling around in her Sunday frocks whilst giggling “Look at my pretty dress!”

I can’t even remember the last time I twirled like that. Let me think now….Jimmy Carter, I remember pink pleats and polka dots …Anyways, the point is, it’s an absolute blast having a two year old in the house who throws caution to the wind and twirls with reckless abandon and thinks her hair is pretty, who brims with self assurance and can hold her ground, popsicle or no. It reminds me of all the sugar and spice still left in these old bones. (I know I’m not that old, but pregnancy adds 40 years. Give or take).

I can not only handle this two year old in my life, I can enjoy her. Really enjoy her. I can enjoy her because she still can’t climb out of her crib. But once she figures that out…she’d better be really, really, really close to turning three.

Read more by Margaret Anderson at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com