I have become that mother who screams, “GO OUTSIDE!” about ten times a day.

It is a crying shame North Carolina isn’t big on basements.  Another mental note for the house we build one day.  I will make sure it has a big basement, which is padded, and filled with things I do not care about.  I will turn a blind eye when “fight club” develops down there, making sure not to burn the muffins I have baking in the civilization I have created for myself above.

I have come to the conclusion that my children were too intelligent for the “Terrible Two’s.”  Instead of spending nine months to a year of their lives in emotion-driven tantrum frenzy, they feigned innocence while silently observing and storing up all aggression to be distributed in a much more calculated and passive way.

In Eliott, a mostly only child at the time, this manifested itself in the form of waking up to blue crayon all over the carpet.  And the television screen.  And hidden in several books and the inside doors of cabinets.  It continued as she learned to write her name, using her fingernails, on the screens of her windows.  On the side of my car.  In crayon, on all four legs of all four of her child-sized chairs and her child-sized table.

Carter will be three tomorrow (a fact I’ve been lying about to the gym for the last few months so she wasn’t subjected to the toddler room in all it’s poopy-diaper-squishy-blocks-glory).  Over the course of the summer, the girls have devised a new use for sidewalk chalk, one in which they grind the chalk down to a substance Eliott has termed “chalk grease.”  They then sweep it into piles (using a little duster broom) and presumably roll in the stuff until they are covered in chalk dust from head to toe.

As you can imagine, I have not been doling out new sidewalk chalk.

But yesterday, after a mid-afternoon thunderstorm, it cooled off enough to sit on the porch and enjoy my leftover morning coffee over ice. Weighing the consequences of ten minutes with my book and my coffee over a chalk fiasco, I dug out five fresh new pieces and distributed them with this warning: “If you grind this up into piles, you are done with the chalk.  You may draw.  You may color.  Do not make piles of chalk grease to play in.”

The warning went as far as three pages paragraphs into my book.  When Eliott walked by in pursuit of some water, legs already pink, I immediately told her to go collect the chalk and put it away.  I rounded the corner into the garage about three minutes after her, to find her almost-three-year-old sister silently digging her fingers into Eliott’s sides with a look in her eyes that communicated, “I want you to die right now.”  She was like a little black widow, unsuspectingly eating her mate in contented but malicious silence.

Even as I type this post, the girls are outside on the swing set.  If I wasn’t looking directly at them, all I would hear is the excited and completely fake squeals of almost-three-year-old giggling.  Carter is hanging from the beam above the slide, bicycle kicking her sister in the head.  And laughing.  Garrulously.

I think it is time to teach Carter how to thank God for pre-school.  Without it, I can promise she would not live to see her 4th birthday.

Thoughts on the Terrible Two’s

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