It is in this spirit that I have decided to pass on the great wisdom I have acquired in the past four months, during which time I have been the parent of a two-year-old boy. Obviously, I plan to continue being the parent of a two-year-old boy for another eight months, but this seemed a good time to get a few things off my chest.
These passed-on insights are intended to fill the void that exists between what veteran parents already know, and what parenting books (the ones that focus mostly on tips for dealing with a dry cough or with potty training) don't tell you.
So, if you are a parent of a boy, standing peering into the abyss of his third year, here's what you need to know about what lies ahead:
- Two-year-old boys are better negotiators than the US State Department. It took two US Presidents and countless diplomats 444 days to free the Iranian hostages. I think a two-year-old could have beaten them into submission in a weekend. "I just want ONE" is William's latest plea bargain. One? How could I refuse? Of course, if I do refuse (a cookie, a TV show, whatever) William will instantaneusly burst into tears and roll around on the floor in utter despondency. You thought Meryl Streep was good? You ain't seen nothing yet. Yes, parents, you can stand firm, but if you don't give a little, you too will feel like a hostage, trapped in your own home.
- Two-year-old boys are better escape artists than Harry Houdini. I was in the back garden one Sunday when I heard William's voice shouting: "Daddy? Where are you?" It sounded like he was outside, but that was impossible as he was firmly contained in the house, or so I thought. Actually, he had climbed up onto my La-Z-Boy, unlocked the window and was about to throw himself headfirst out onto the veranda. That was when I decided to fit locks to the windows. Shortly after that, I did the same to the back doors. A little while later, Emma took to taping William into his diapers during nap time, in a vain attempt to contain his bodily fluids during nap times, even if the boy himself could no longer be sure to be contained. Failed, failed and failed again. Two-year-old boys are like blue whales: they are not meant to be contained. William can now escape any diaper (no matter how much tape) and any crib, room or abode in about the time it takes for you to make a sandwich. Some people say a leash is a step too far. Wait until it's your turn.
- Two-year-old boys are more curious than Albert Einstein."What is THAT noise?" I asked myself, as a deep rumbling echoed throughout the house one morning before I set off for work. William had discovered the dials on the back of the sub-woofer. A few more seconds, and I suspect cracks would have appeared in the walls. "What is he doing NOW?" I asked as a strange electrical whir came from the utility room on another day. "He's discovered the dog door" came the reply from Emma. We don't have a dog, nor had we used the magnetically-triggered dog door in the two years we'd been living in the house, until William somehow manage to combine a magnet from one of his toy trains with the sensor, and "Whurrrrrrrr...." off it went. I have since nailed a board over the exit part of that contraption (See 2) but I know it's only a matter of time before some other escape plot is hatched.
- Two-year-old boys grow faster than bamboo. You know when you see those British tourists in San Francisco wearing trousers that are curiously not quite long enough to connect with their socks at the ankles? That's what your two-year-old will look like before you know it. I swear if you could get them to stand still for long enough against one of those height charts, you could actually watch them grow. William seems to need new shoes every month, and overnight his t-shirts get dangerously close to mimicking that other awful 80s British fashion statement: the t-shirt cropped above the navel.
- Two-year-old boys have a greater propensity for destruction than any bull in any china shop. On the eve of my becoming a father, my good friend Ian advised that I should set my alarm clock to go off at three-hour intervals during the night and burn all my money, to prepare myself for being a parent. He might also have added that I should walk around the house with a hammer smashing it ruthlessly against anything of value. William has carved deep gouges into our wooden floors, dragged elegant lamps to their doom with a casual tug, gnawed away at furniture with his teeth and simply hurled various other items against walls until they cease to function. I should add that much of this destruction occurs not in fits of rage, but during the normal course of being curious, as described in (3). Two-year-old boys toss die cast metal trains against large windows in much the same way as we adults might playfully lob a ball of paper into a trash can. You have been warned.
There is more to tell of course. For example, I could tell you about Friday evening, when William located and turned on a faucet in a pub beer garden sending a cascade of water flooding across the feet of numerous patrons and their childen (and very nearly the backside of an acquaintance) but I sense that you, dear reader, already have the general idea.