Reflections on TWO

The first of all my boys to bear an obvious resemblance to your mommy. A fact I can't help but feel fond of. My boy who wakes every day two years old and counting, with winded curls tinted by our days in the sun, and determined hands that arm a temper that blooms sometimes quicker than his heart. A car flung in the jolt of fury, at a brother who seems to taunt trap or betray you. A hand smack to the dog who steals your treat. A tug of hair jerked in anger when they take away what is yours. Because from what you can tell, everything is yours.

The second year is tough. "The Terrible Twos" they call it. And sometimes on low days our frustrations rise to match yours. When we are too tired to remember all the things you still don't know. We scold you when you scream at us, and speak slowly when you are content. Careful to stretch out the words that fall out our mouths as we pour your cereal or point at cows in passing fields. Hoping you catch the rhythm it takes to train your own tongue and repeat the things we all pause to show you daily. Like your brothers did, at 18, 14, 12 months old and less. But language is still your own. A silly, mangled variation we've all come to translate and accept. Jack is Jack but you call him "Ho Ho." A skate board is a skateboard but you call it something else too. There are fits when we get things wrong. That keep you red faced and pouty when you feel defeated by the weight of your own limitations.

Out in the garage though words exist in less important ways. You become the silent shadow that trails behind the boys who scour corners of the garage looking for screws and tools to adjust their wheels. Singing songs and tying shoes. A wrench is a wrench and you know where it is when he asks. A cup of water you bring when you sense he might need that too. Your favorite hours are spent out there barefoot and filthy, watching them build and break and test and mend things. Car parts, teepees, surf and skateboards. Watching the edge of a knife carve tiny canyons in the wood plank your brother works on every day after school. The engine that comes apart and then back together to power the rusted bus he will let you stear on his lap once he is done, where you will sit enchanted by such refined skills and ingenuity inherit in the men that crowd these spaces. They show you how things work and you keep a steady eye on the lessons they hand over. It's a different world out there, away from the low hum of the cartoons in the living room in the afternoon while I clean the counter, or the hypnotic drum of clothes in the wash as you rake through a basket of blocks. You cry for them from inside, when you are clean and ready for bed. Little hands pressed in desperation at the side door. Hand prints I wipe away every day only to see replaced every time I leave the room.

You are smaller than them but counted the same. Refusing to head caution. Or try new foods. To willingly rest your head on my chest like you use to when you were new because you are too eager now. Growing in front of me limb for limb, like a reckless cub who only grows braver and wilder every day.

You are two. You tell us so with two fingers stacked side by side. You reach for a hand to hold on busy streets, and a stuffed dog to hug on the long car ride home. You adore the boys in the backseat who come spilling out of the car and racing around skateparks after school while I unbuckle your carseat, knowing the time isn't yours yet. So you roll slow with rounded knees on that little board handed down by one of them, around safer sidewalks at home. And you keep your cars in a metal lunch pail and clap your hands when your favorite movie is on TV. You look to their faces to see how your actions are being digested and favor your father when he is home because he bleeds magic into those big ugly machines and because the grease on his hands matches yours some days too.

Two and determined, two and unwilling, two and full of equal parts love and rage - depending on the hour of each new day. Two, and still learning how to love and fight and be.