Between the tantrums and the defiance and the out-of-nowhere OCD, toddlers can definitely be challenging. Despite all of the meltdowns, though -- both theirs and ours -- kids this age are also particularly adorable. It's probably what keeps us from leaving them with Grandma... permanently. If you haven't noticed, time flies, and I have a feeling that in a few years, I'm going to miss these giggly, squealing, snuggly days. While it's easy to gripe about the annoyances, I think it's also important to embrace the sweetness of this stage. So, with that in mind, here are all of the things I actually love about toddlers:
1. The adorable way they butcher the English language. I mean, is there anything cuter than a toddler mispronouncing words? Some day, someone is going to correct them, but right now, they can still get away with saying, "Look, a hiccup truck!" and "It's so cold, I'm brrr-ing, I'm brr-ing," and "My want a cookie with sprinklers."
2. The joy they get from the smallest things. Maybe it's the wide-eyed way that we parents talk up the most mundane tasks, but you can get a toddler psyched about pretty much anything. "Want to help Mommy Swiffer the kitchen?" you ask. "Yes, yes, hooray!" they shout with joy. They're thrilled to get stickers at Trader Joe's. They think juice at a restaurant is a super special treat. And going to Costco, with its free samples and double-wide carts and giant frozen yogurt cups? It's like they won the Mega Millions.
3. They're perfectly cuddly. Kids in their 2s and 3s have lots of big emotions, which also include full-bodied, wholehearted love and affection. They will wrap their arms around your neck and squeeze tight, nestle their head on your shoulder, and throw their body around your legs with enough force to knock you off of your feet. Their faces light up when they haven't seen you in a couple of hours, with big smiles and gleaming eyes that make you wonder what you possibly did to deserve this kind of greeting. And in those chill moments when they snuggle in close to read books or watch a show or just to rest, they fit so perfectly against your body, you think this must be exactly what this age was meant for.
4. The drama, oh, the drama. While little ones this age might not hold a grudge, they certainly know how to milk it. When they're truly upset, sure, that can be rough, but when it's simply whining, with fake cries and crocodile tears, it's hilarious. If I dare refuse to give my son some cake for breakfast, he furrows his brow, wraps his arms around himself and gives an audible "harumph." If he's going for a full-on, Oscar-worthy performance, he might even fall back onto the couch, a forearm over his eyes for "Oh, the humanity" effect.
5. They still take naps. Sure, there are days when they fight it or spend a good hour making a slide out of the couch cushion in their room. For the most part, though, toddlers take a nap almost every day. They give their parents an hour or two of peaceful silence to read a book or watch Bravo or take a snooze themselves. Naps, sweet naps. Please, never ever ever end.
6. They have no filter. At this age, they have pretty vivid imaginations, and maybe even make stuff up sometimes. Still, they have no understanding of what's polite, they're not always clear on what may or may not be rude, and they aren't really capable of lying. That's why he might tell daddy that he has hair in his nose. Or she'll loudly, and proudly, tell a stranger, "That's my brother. He has a penis." The best, though, is that they are blatant tattletales, and will confess to anything, which is especially helpful when you have twins. If one boy is crying, and I run in to see what happened, the other will usually tell me, "He took my lovey so my hit him in his face with my hand." See? Mystery solved.
7. Their style is unique. Many toddlers insist on dressing themselves, and unless you're going to, say, a wedding, it's usually not worth fighting them on it. I've got to say that as much as I'm embarrassed by the ensembles my boys put together, they're also good for a laugh. The other day, they both insisted on wearing brightly-colored, tie-dyed socks, which nicely complemented one's florescent green sleeveless tee, and the other's orange and green plaid button-down. I like to joke that they're auditioning for clown college, but hey, as long as they're wearing pants, I'm happy.
8. They still need us. Every now and then, one of my boys will have a nightmare, or just a rough sleep. When they were newborns, I dreaded those middle-of-the-night cries, but now, I actually don't mind so much. I stumble in to their room to see one boy sitting up in bed, reaching for me. I silently scoop him up and sit in a chair, with his teary face against my chest, his little hand on my arm. I stroke his soft curls and wet cheek, listening for the steady breath of calm as he falls backs to sleep. My little babies are growing up so fast, but for right now, they still need their mommy, and I love that. I think I probably need it too. And I know that this toddler stage, this moment in time, won't last forever.
Toddlers who constantly demand ""look at me!" are most likely to become better collaborators and learners when they're older, a study published in the journal Child Development found. Author Marie-Pierre Gosselin said that, "Toddlers whose parents have consistently responded positively to their attention-seeking expect interactions to be fulfilling. As a result, they're eager to collaborate with their parents' attempts to socialize them."
Researchers studied the behavior and brain scan images of kids while they played with others, were given rewards and prompted to share with their playmates. The findings revealed that, "even though young children understood how sharing benefited the other child, they were unable to resist the temptation to make the 'selfish' decision to keep much of the reward for themselves." But thankfully, as a child's brain matures, so will the child. "Brain scans revealed a region that matures along with children's greater ability to make less selfish decisions," the study found.
Children who snore or have sleep apnoea are more likely to be hyperactive by the age of 7. Researcher, Dr. Karen Bonuck said a toddler's "sleep problems could be harming the developing brain."
According to Ewen MacDonald of the Technical University of Denmark, adults monitor their voices so that the sound reflects what is intended. But, "2-year-olds do not monitor their auditory feedback like adults do, suggesting they are using a different strategy to control speech production," he said.
Researchers found that depriving toddlers of a daily nap led to "more anxiety, lower levels of joy and interest, and reduced problem-solving abilities." Kids in the focus group who missed naps were not able to "take full advantage of exciting and interesting experiences and to adapt to new frustrations."
Two-year-olds in a focus group "were more likely to copy an action when they saw it repeated by three other toddlers than if they saw an action repeated by just one other toddler," a study published in the journal Current Biology found.
In a recent Slate article, Nicholas Day illustrated a timeline of what scientists have learned about toddlers' memories over the last few decades. Before the 80s, it was believed that babies and young toddlers lived in the present with no memory of the past. Twenty years ago, however, a study found that 3-year-olds could recount memories of Disney World 18 months after they visited. And recently, research noted a "27-month-old child who'd seen a 'magic shrinking machine' remembered the experience some six years later."
Follow Jennifer Benjamin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JennyBenjamin