Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

I don’t remember what I was like as a 2-year-old, and I only vaguely remember what my children were like as 2-year-olds, but my 2-year-old granddaughter brought it all rushing back over the weekend.

First, on Saturday, Maddie Rose, along with 4-year-old brother Thomas, 13-year-old big sister Ariah and her mom, Joy, joined us at our neighborhood pool for an afternoon of sun, swimming and sustenance.

And the 2-year-old was mostly delightful. She has enough command of the language now to make herself understood, in no uncertain terms – “Can I have your phone? ... I want the monkey game, not this one ... I want chips on my sandwich ... I want the pink noodle, not the blue one ...” You get the idea.

She is still using “swimmies,” but like many 2-years-old, she has little fear. She jumps off the side of the pool with reckless abandon, though she’s not quite ready for the diving board. I was impressed that she has watched people float on their backs and has decided she can do that – and she does it well, at least to the extent the swimmies will allow. She spent much of the afternoon paddling around on her back, kicking like a champ.

This impressed me largely because I do remember that 2-year-olds are usually extremely uncomfortable on their backs. Just last week we had our Greenville girls, Pearce and Clarke, here for a few days, so I took the opportunity to get them into a swim lesson while they were visiting. Clarke, who just turned 3, (so she still has some residual “terrible 2s” in her system) fought any attempt to get her to follow instructions. She whimpered through much of the lesson, and I’m convinced that she wasn’t afraid as much as her slightly-over-2 independent brain simply doesn’t want anyone telling her what to do. (I can remember when Mac was 2 and 1/2, he had a swim instructor tell me, “He doesn’t like authority much, does he?” Of course, she was trying to move his arms for him, when he already knew how to swim and wanted to “do it me-n-own self.” As I said, 2 is a tough age for adults.)

At the same time, Pearce, who is 6, took instruction last week just fine. She’s on the verge of truly swimming, if she could just figure out how to breathe without stopping in mid-stroke, getting vertical in the water, taking a breath, then proceeding to stroke beautifully until she needs another breath. But floating on her back is another story. Unlike her younger cousin, Pearce retains that fear of losing control while on her back. She never did try to float – but it will come, I’m sure.

But I digress.

Throughout her afternoon swimming, Maddie was a delight – a fact that lulled me into a false sense of security for what was to come.

Sunday, we were babysitting Thomas and Maddie. Again, everything was wonderful – until it wasn’t.

What I did not clearly remember about 2-year-olds is that they want to hang with the big kids, which means they will fight nap time with every ounce of their considerable will.

Cade, 11, and Payton, 9, came along to help entertain their younger cousins. After time outside swinging, running through the sprinkler and riding the motorized Jeep, they all came inside. It was nap time for the 2-year-old, but Maddie tried to convince everyone otherwise. Payton sat on the couch with Maddie and asked, “Do you want your shoes off?” To which Maddie nodded her head. Payton took one shoe off, and Maddie dissolved into loud crocodile tears. It was an epic temper tantrum. So Payton put her shoe back on – even she realized there was no arguing with a tired 2-year-old. After more time outside – in the sweltering heat I might add – they all came in to vegetate in front of the TV.

Payton tried to get Maddie to sit in an oversized rocking chair with her, but I think the 2-year-old realized if she got comfortable that she’d likely fall asleep – and she was having none of it. She finally climbed up into the chair, and something set her off – again, maybe it was the only way to stay awake. I really don’t even know what precipitated the severe turn in her mood – maybe just being a 2-year-old is enough. But she began to wail – loudly.

No amount of consoling helped.

Now, something you need to know about me at this point: Even though I’m no longer the parent, but instead have the role of doting grandmother, there’s still one thing that I would not tolerate as a parent and that I discovered I still won’t tolerate, even as YaYa. I have been known to say, “I don’t hold screaming babies – if you’re crying and it’s obvious that it’s for no good reason, holding you will just get me upset, too, so I will not do it.”

That position has not changed. My youngest grandchild began to cry even louder. I believe she thought that if she cried loud and long that someone – me, I suppose – would do something wonderful to cater to her whim, whatever that may be.

Yes, I realize there’s no reasoning with a 2-year-old. So I finally did what I have done with my own children. I calmly told her if she continued to cry like that, she would have to go to her room until she could calm down. She began wailing with renewed vigor.

I don’t know if it was a test. I don’t know if she thought I wouldn’t follow through. But she found out. I picked her up, carried her upstairs to her room, unceremoniously put her in her bed and said, “If you can stop crying, you can come back downstairs. Until that time, you need to stay in your bed.”

She immediately stopped wailing. (She’s stubborn but not stupid.) She then whimpered a couple of times and, I’m sure you’ve guessed it, promptly fell asleep.

As someone has said, “Strong-willed children become adults who can change the world as long as we can hang on for the ride and resist the temptation to tame the spirit out of them.”

Then again, sometimes I like this: “There are those moments when you hope your child’s sass will help them lead a company and not a gang in prison.”