“Does it get better? Please tell me it gets better.” This is what a woman recently asked me when I met her at a new member social for a local mom’s group that I had joined. She had told me her name and the age of her child (this is how moms introduce themselves to other moms). I, in turn, told her my name and the age of my child. As soon as I told her that my daughter was 3 (hers was 16 months old) she looked at me with desperation in her eyes and said, “your daughter is 3? Does it get better? Please tell me it gets better.”
I looked at my momrade with the sincerest of sympathies and told her, “yes. It gets better.” Another mom who was standing nearby turned and said, “I’m sorry to eavesdrop, but my daughter is 22 months. Your daughter is 3? I want to hear how it gets better.”
I paused to revel at the fact that I was an “old pro” in the eyes of these two nice ladies and then I told them the following story:
One time when my daughter was about two and a half, I was fixing breakfast and I pulled out a box of Cheerios. Kiki very calmly said to me, “Mommy, I don’t want Cheerios today. I would like Honey Nut Chex please.” No tantrum. No crying. No unhappy grunting and pointing. I didn’t even have to ask her to repeat what she was trying to say over and over until I figured it out. I understood exactly what she was saying and exactly what she wanted. It was magical. I knew in that moment that my stay-at-home-mom quality of life had turned a corner.
The looks of desperation in my new friends’ eyes turned into looks of hope and they both replied, “that sounds amazing.”
Having your child be able to communicate his/her needs and wants easily to you makes life SO much easier. It also helps your sanity because you can actually have real conversations during your day again. Granted they are conversations about the merits of graham crackers versus animal crackers but that’s much better than unintelligible baby talk. And the improvements don’t stop at superior communication skills.
My daughter plays by herself. Take a second to understand the magnitude of this statement. She will happily play with her princess figurines and her pirate ship, making them talk to each other and sending them on adventures around the house. And she does this without me even being in the room. I’m in the next room straightening up or sneakily checking my email. Now if I actually ask her to go play by herself she all of the sudden “can’t do it”. The trick is to sneak off when she gets into the zone and enjoy the break (as if doing dishes is a break) until she notices I’m not playing with her.
Playdates have become a relaxing time to catch up with my friends. Just yesterday Kiki’s friend Grace came over for two hours. Kiki and Grace ran around the kitchen giggling, made feasts in the play kitchen, and raced trains. Grace’s mom and I sat on my couch talking about our summer plans. We were only interrupted a few times to resolve tug-of-wars over toys or to “eat” the feast that our little chefs had prepared.
Of course there are days and even whole weeks when none of these things happen. Kiki pouts and cries and won’t tell me why. She demands that I play with her every single second. She can’t share with her friends to save her life. And I want to pull out my hair. But thankfully, I would say that those times are the exception.
At times I feel a bit guilty when things feel too easy – particularly when my husband calls me from work during the summer and I tell him that I’m sitting at the lake in my bathing suit talking to my friends while Kiki digs in the sand next to me. But then that guilt fades when I remember the fact that it just took me 25 minutes to convince Kiki to get up off of the bathroom floor and come back down to the lake. And the guilt completely disappears when I recall the countless days I spent in the baby and toddler trenches. I’ve EARNED some easy.
So moms of the 2 and under crowd: soldier on! You will make your way out of the trenches. Take it from this “old pro”. It gets better. It gets much better.