Tuesday 7 January 2014

Dancing Up Close: On twos being both terrible and terrific

It wasn't a good day. Two O'clock in the afternoon and the 1.5 hours between that moment and my wife's triumphant return from work felt like an eternity spreading out before me.

Before parenthood I imagined that I'd never bemoan the "terrible twos." After all, I had wanted this baby with every molecule of my being. I had hoped, and prayed, and dreamed, and by some miracle beyond my comprehension grew him into flesh and bones reality. I would never be one of those parents who complained. That would be like grumbling over the weight of my wallet when stuffed with too much money. No, I would experience the "terrific twos" and treasure each moment of perfection.

But that November day was not terrific. Stuck inside for days on end in the middle of a cold snap, we made a brief attempt at an outdoor adventure but our breath seemed to freeze in the air before us. The snow stayed frozen in the clouds. And we returned indoors. Forts made from fitted sheets over kitchen chairs were boring. Baking was so last week. My living room was scattered with crafts that somewhat (not really) resembled their beautiful Pinterested inspirations. And his cheeks were the perfect shade of crimson. That colour that experienced parents could pick out from a mile away.

"Two year molars?" My neighbour had asked. My son's eyes and red cheeks the only thing visible under his winter layers.
Sigh. "Yes." She gave me a knowing half-smile and an affirmative shake of her head. No more words needed.

The ratio of whine to wine in my day was entirely off-balance and I was just.plain.done. I turned on Barney and closed my eyes. I was hoping I could play dead long enough for him to sit still and let the digital babysitter take a turn at parenting.

Restless, he continued to move around the room. Grabbing, climbing, whining. Oh the whining. And then his little hands rested on the Apple TV remote. In a moment of perfect chance he managed to turn off the purple dinosaur and turn on my iTunes library on the laptop across the room.

My friend Preetam Sengupta's words filled the air. Let's go dancing. And my whinny, red-cheeked, son turned to me and said "dance up close Ma?"

[Press play. Music begins at 1:53]

And so I picked him up. He was no longer my little baby who once spent hours upon hours in my arms as I danced around the room to ease the crying. But the additional weight of his toddler-sized body felt like air in that moment. And we danced. We swayed. His two year old hands fumbled with my hair. And unable to bite back the tears I let them fall on his shoulders.

"No cry Ma." His eyebrows registered some mix of confusion and concern. The concept of happy tears was beyond his grasp. So I smiled and reassured him that I was happy. And he wiped my tears away with the sleeve of his shirt.

His attention span fell short of the three and a half minute song and he was wiggling to get down with a minute to spare. But it was enough. It was enough time for me to be reminded of the full force of my love for this tiny, sometimes incredibly annoying, human. And it was more than enough to get me through the final hour and a half of solo parenting before my wife returned home.

And with that short not-quite-three-minutes of terrific the previous nine hours of terrible had been completely balanced.

And that's what two is, terrific and terrible, in harmony.

[You can purchase Preetam Sengupta's album Hopefull on iTunes or visit him online.]

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