A few weeks ago, I took William over to "play choo-choos" at Davis-Kidd, a local bookstore with a really terrific children's area. As he studiously pushed a set of worn Thomas the Tank Engines along a wooden drawbridge, I eavesdropped on a couple of young mothers sitting in rocking chairs a few feet away.
One was watching her son, who was probably about William's age, play across the train table from William. She also held an infant girl who I supposed was eight or nine months old. The other woman had a son who was probably about a year old, toddling uncertainly around the play area.
The first woman said that her daughter was giving her fits. "My pediatrician said, 'oh, she may only be eight months old, but she's just got the terrible twos really early,'" the woman told her companion, who clucked sympathetically. (Really, I always thought that was just a figure of speech but something about the way this woman clicked her tongue really sounded like a cluck.)
Dubiously, I glanced over at the baby girl. She seemed to be a total angel. She was sitting in her mother's lap, bouncing gently, and smiling around a handful of drool-covered fingers. I didn't see any evidence of terribleness at all. But I know that looks can be oh-so-deceiving. One minute a child can be beautiful, clean and smiling beatifically. The next minute he or she can be a raging red-faced maniac. One minute, you're proud of your angelic child, and the next minute, you want to drop through the floor when all eyes are suddenly on your child, melting down in an ear-splitting puddle because you are out of graham crackers. Oh yes, looks can be deceiving.
William may not be terrible, but he'll be two in exactly two weeks. In the past 24 hours, he's managed to pull down and spill the following all over the floor: an open box of uncooked spaghetti, a half-full bag of taco chips and crumbs and a neatly packed diaper bag full of stuff like tubes of ointment and cups of Goldfish. He's stood up in his high chair countless times, despite my countless admonitions to stop, STOP doing that. He's pried open the pantry doors and plunged his fist into a box of graham crackers even though I had just told him that we were about to eat dinner. He's punched all the buttons on the television and DVD player in the family room. He's rubbed spaghetti, yogurt, applesauce, and apple-cinnamon cereal in his hair. He managed to get blueberry muffin stains on the back of his t-shirt. He wiggled out of my lap and ran out of the storytime room today in about a quarter of a nanosecond, and I had to chase him down, not once but three times. And he's cried indignantly because we put him in pajamas with feet one night and then pajamas without feet the next.
In short, I'm tired. Man, I'm tired. If this is what two is like, I am going to need some vitamins.
Of course, I should say that two also seems to be bringing me a glimpse of the divine, a reminder of the angel who's still there, under the yogurt-covered hair and crumb-covered t-shirt.
William came over to me while I was getting dressed and gently reached out to touch two large freckles on my back. "Boo-boo," he said, softly, with sympathy. "Boo-boo." Then he leaned over and carefully smacked a kiss on each freckle. Then he pulled back and looked around at me and smiled the sweetest smile.
And that, I think, is why I love him so much.