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Testing Limits

It has happened. I thought we were going to skate through the terrible twos without so much as a blink of an eye, even with a new baby in the house, but Lucas has proven me wrong.

Once upon a time I had an obedient, calm, sweet 2-year-old who played quietly and had only the occasional tantrum. Now I have a stubborn, rambunctious, (still) sweet 2 ½-year-old who boldly tests every limit he can, not to mention he's in a state of perpetual motion and constant, high-pitched vocalization. Oh, what a difference six months can make!

Here's a look at life with Lucas — before and after:

Once upon a time:
Me: Lucas, it's time to go upstairs for the night, let's clean up your toys, please. Mommy will help.
Lucas: Okay. (singing as he puts his toys away)

Now:
Me: Lucas, it's time to go upstairs for the night, let's clean up your toys, please. Mommy will help.
Lucas: No. (staring me down in defiance, waiting for my next move)

Once upon a time:
Me: Lucas, we have to get going. Please say good-bye to [blank].
Lucas: Okay. (waving good-bye to [blank] while walking to the door)

Now:
Me: Lucas, we have to get going. Please say good-bye to [blank].
Lucas: No. (running away from the door, shrieking, "Come catch me!")

Once upon a time:
Me: (sitting quietly, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to catch up on some reading)
Lucas: (playing quietly with his cars beside me, occasionally telling me to watch out for the traffic)

Now:
Me: (sitting quietly, trying to catch up on some reading despite my pounding headache)
Lucas: (playing cars, singing at the top of his lungs, yelling repeatedly for me to watch out for the traffic and occasionally getting up to run around and tackle the imaginary football player)

It's moments like the ones above that, "normal" as they may be, I find utterly exhausting. They drain that wonderful, warm feeling I usually have about my firstborn right out through my toes. Sometimes I swear I can actually feel the warmth leaving my body and the frustration rising in its place.

The standard repertoire (i.e., trying to stay calm while controlling expectations, disciplining and/or sticking to my resolve) is no match against an extremely stubborn and smart toddler — particularly one who has not yet figured out the "when Mommy is tired and says to do something, you better do it" song-and-dance routine! And when I do stick to my resolve, I often feel guilty for doing so, especially when Lucas cries (let's blame this on working-mother guilt!).

Despite Lucas's ever-increasing bold defiance and perpetual motion/vocalization, all is not lost. What has not changed in the last six months? Lucas is still the most polite, considerate toddler I know. He still has the occasional tantrum, but at this point I know how to handle them with ease. And he absolutely adores his little brother, who is quickly catching up to him in size.

So now when I get frustrated at Lucas for not doing what I want and when I want it — in other words, for being a normal toddler — I think about the exchange we have every night when he goes to bed:

Lucas: Do you know who I love?

Me: No, who?

Lucas: You!

And that wonderful, warm feeling comes rushing right back... even while I'm standing in the midst of the "traffic" my firstborn has left scattered all over the floor.

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