7 Ways the Terrible Twos Are Kind of Awesome

terrible twos terrible twos

My son was around one and a half when I understood that the Terrible Twos are a real thing (and, in the same way that morning sickness is not limited to morning, realized this gnarly stage of life is not exclusive to the second year). He went from cuddly snugglebug to textbook toddler seemingly overnight, and it was a jolt.

And by jolt, I kinda mean a punch to the proverbial — and sometimes actual — face.

But with #toddlering as our new reality, I eventually got tired of focusing on the negative (probably because as the mother of a toddler I’m just tired in general.) And when I stopped taking every upended plate of pasta personally, I realized something: Not only are the Terrible Twos actually kind of awesome, but we grown-ups could learn a thing of two from these tiny people. They may not understand how to use the potty, but when it comes to doing life, toddlers are full of some pretty big wisdom.

  • You Do You
    My son, R, does not suffer from People Pleaser Syndrome. (Exhibit A: he said “no” upwards of fifty times before breakfast this morning.) Two year-olds know who they are and what they want, and they are profoundly unapologetic about it. This is annoying when they can’t articulate what is so wrong about the way you’ve prepared their sandwich, but it’s actually a pretty solid quality in a human.
  • Right Here Right Now
    Toddlers are emotionally Zen. True, the fit R pitched when I dressed him this morning did not conjure softly ringing bells and chants of ommmm. But, minutes later, by the time we got outside, he was happily holding my hand. The beauty of a two-year-old’s tantrum is that when it’s over, it’s over. They’re in touch with their emotions, and they are so in the moment. This ability to live in the now, free of grudges and emotional hangovers, is the mark of an enlightened soul.
  • Everything is a Playground
    One morning during my experiment, R and I went out after a rainstorm. “Puddle!” he exclaimed, and proceeded to soak himself up to the knees. Instead of worrying for future laundry or hypothetical chill, I joined him. And lo! It was fun. Two-year-olds see the world with fresh eyes, taking in all the wonder that us older folks can forget to notice — or even avoid in the service of efficiency, cleanliness, punctuality, or some other boring mark of adultiness. So, really, who has their priorities straight?
  • The World Is A Friendly Place
    R said hi to every single person we passed on the way to the coffee shop this morning, gave high-fives to the guy in front of us in line, and played some sort of improvised Monkey-See-Monkey-Do game with the barista. When we left, he yelled an enthusiastic series of bye-bye!s, leaving no patron un-addressed. And then he walked up to the olive tree out front and hugged it.
  • Helping Is Fun
    Yes, it’s tedious when I’m in a hurry, but when R comes charging through the house yelling “Helping! Helping!” and tries to pitch in as I do the laundry or make breakfast, I just can’t say no – despite the fact that I know this will turn the washer-to-dryer transfer into a morning-long affair, and may well splatter the walls of my kitchen with scrambled eggs. A burden shared is a burden… well, not halved exactly. But maybe that’s not the point. After all, working together is definitely more fun than working alone, even if it takes a little (or a lot) longer.
  • Imagination Reigns
    I watched as R took a block, put it into a nook in the bookcase, pushed some imaginary “buttons,” and then took it out again, pretending to drink from it. Finally, I realized his game: he was microwaving his coffee. He talks to his stuffed animals, kisses his blankie “night-night,” and puts silverware on his head, announcing, “Hat!” Forget Netflix, this muscle is all he needs for entertainment.
  • Joy Can Be Found In The Littlest Things
    A stamp on his hand at the end of music class. A sample from the demo table at Trader Joe’s. Collecting pine cones on a walk around the block. Sitting on a big-person chair sans booster seat. Toast. We should all be so easy to please.

Turns out, it’s not a terrible way to live.

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Shannon Kelley lives in Santa Barbara with her son and husband. Her work has appeared in Elle, The Washington Post, and The New Republic, among others; her book Undecided was an Amazon bestseller (Women, Business). Tweet her @Shannon_BKelley.