Terrible twos, er, zeros

When I was pregnant, if I’d been asked to imagine my baby at 10 months, I might have foreseen her saying a few words. I might even have envisioned her cruising around on furniture. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a baby who was not only talking and climbing, but whose favorite words were rapidly becoming an angry “Nah nah nuh!” and whose latest physical skills included hitting and deliberately yanking hair. Those are things most moms imagine encountering when their babies are two, or maybe 18 months.

Alas, babyhood has come and gone for Maddi. Oh, she is still a sweet little thing most of the time, but mobility has given her some grand ideas regarding her autonomy and, apparently, her place in the family hierarchy. And woe is me, for I discovered all too late that the idea of “terrible twos” is a BIG FAT LIE! Apparently, toddlerhood begins a bit earlier in some respects.

In addition to her many words, Maddi has a choice form of nonverbal communication to indicate that she would like more food. Is it, you ask, the ASL sign for “more” which her mommy has been using faithfully for months? Why no, dear reader, it is not. How funny you should ask. Apparently our dear daughter has decided to improve upon centuries of sign language by introducing a new sign, which is made by banging angrily on one’s high chair and (on the off chance that the sign’s recipient is a hearing person) screeching like an enraged little monkey.

In fairness, I haven’t taught our little princess any signs for “I would like to get out of this backpack now if you aren’t going to be moving around, O Mother most beloved.” However, I am not particularly fond of her way of communicating this sentiment either, as it usually consists of her grabbing handsful of hair and pulling hard on the “reins” while kicking my back. All I need to hear is a “giddyap” to know that our wee one considers me nothing more than a dumb beast of burden which must be beaten to perform tasks satisfactorily. Oddly, none of the words in the sentence, “We don’t pull hair; pulling hair is not nice,” seem to be in her vocabulary. Even “No hair, Maddi,” fails in its efficacy if our little charioteer has, say, missed a nap.

Then there is the hitting. In previous months, Maddi expressed her displeasure by crying, but she has recently discovered that hitting is a “no-no.” Perhaps she has also noticed (after months of injuring herself with them) that hands make nifty weapons. Whatever the reason, Maddi has begun smacking me when I try to change her diaper, put her in the crib, detach the beloved bright-purple nasal aspirator from her iron grip, or do anything else to annoy or irk the little princess. Half the time, when I tell her that hitting is a no-no, she hits me some more or yanks the nearest clump of hair.

Having realized at some point recently that “no” might be negotiable — and apparently hoping desperately to make it so — Maddi now will crawl up to forbidden electrical cords and then look at me while slowly putting out a hand as if to touch them. Only, of course, to quickly retract the hand when confronted by a firm “No” and find something else to do, as if she’d never planned on playing with wires in the first place. She’s a crafty one!

And we haven’t even gotten to the biting. Ah, the biting! Last week, when her top teeth came in, she clamped down on my hand while I was washing her little pearly whites. I told her, “No biting,” but instead of filing it away under “Things not to do to Mommy, for any reason,” our silly girl mistakenly filed it under “Tricks to remember when playing with Mommy.” Thus, three times this week, Maddi has found my bare wrist while climbing the Mommy Gym and chomped down. Three times she has been told, “No biting.” We shall see if this trick makes it into her repertoire of diaper-change aversion tactics.

With Maddi’s magnetic attraction to anything forbidden, and with all the things she’s told not to do, it’s no surprise that she loves to yell, “No!” She hasn’t quite figured it out yet, though. She says it at the right times, such as during diaper changes and when I’m removing naughty objects from her grasping hands or pulling her out of the bath, but she also says it after I’ve put her down for a nap and left the room or when I’m stirring up food for her instead of paying her the kind of constant, direct attention she’d prefer. Even though she uses it for broader protests than its intended meaning, she’s got the general idea of “No” as an objection to having someone’s will imposed on her.

Of course, Maddi’s transition from babyhood to near-toddlerhood isn’t without its benefits. When she sees me lying on the floor of her bedroom, she crawls over and gives me sweet, sloppy baby kisses. She stands at the top of the stairs calling for Dada, and she brings me books to read to her and occasionally includes the word “Mama” in her soliloquies about kittycats. She gives sweet snuggles at bedtime, and often just for the asking. And most of the time when I tell her, “No,” she crawls into my lap for a hug (just to make sure we’re cool) before scrambling off to climb the walls.

Even if someone had told me when I was pregnant that my little one’s babyhood would be all too short — and her toddlerhood, more likely than not, all too long — I still would have been overjoyed to be having such a sweet wee bundle. At the end of the day, fiery temper and all, Maddi is a very well-behaved and loving little girl who I’m sure will quit hitting and biting. Preferably sometime very soon.

And here’s our little toddler-in-training at 43 weeks:

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