Today is Daughter Number Two's birthday. I know it's hard to believe she wasn't always the poised and personable young grad student you all know and love (well, some of you), but there was a time when she personified the cliché Terrible Two.
At the time, I was the editor of a magazine for military spouses in Ohio, a job that allowed me to vent my feelings monthly in my editor's column. One month, I wrote about my terrible two-year-old and our perfect end to a day that started out typically terrible:
Play Dough Days
Today was one of those days. Now I know what they mean by "Terrible Twos." (My first-born was born a six-year-old.) It's like living on eggshells. I just couldn't seem to do anything right. "NO!! I don't want THAT green cup, I want THIS green cup!" And "NO, I don't WANT a jacket, I want my YELLOW SWEATER!" (She speaks in capital letters a lot these days.)
I had reached the end of my rope. In desperation, I called a friend (the mother of a three-year-old) for advice. She told me to join the group Moms & Tots. Then I called to warn my husband he might not find his children intact when he got home, and was just about to call the gypsies and arrange a pick-up when I got an idea.
"Do you want to make play dough?" I asked, half expecting a "NO! I DON'T want to make play dough!!" But instead the answer was a sweet little "Okay, mommy! Let's make play dough together!"
Still fearful of setting off another round of NO!!'s, my hands shook slightly as I filled the measuring cup with flour, measured salt and squeezed red food coloring into the goo. But later, kneading the warm play dough actually had a calming effect on my frazzled nerves, and I realized what's fun for little ones can also be stress-relieving for big ones.
At nap time, as I picked up little balls of pink dough from the rug, I congratulated myself on surviving another morning as a stay-at-home mom. Yes, it's a hard job. But still, I'd rather be the one to get those peanut butter kisses after lunch.
My youngest daughter still has her moments. Recently we had to convince her to go to the doctor for a serious cold, and as she insisted that NO, she wouldn't go, I got a glimpse of the two-year-old she once was.
She lives too far away now for peanut butter kisses, and if I mailed her play dough she'd probably use it for an engineering experiment. She no longer has a yellow sweater, but we still insist she drink out of plastic cups, since she has a habit of breaking Champagne flutes.
I still think that night 23 years ago, when she came into my world in a great big hurry, was my lucky day. Happy birthday, Daughter Number Two!
Play Dough Recipe
2 cups flour
2 cups water
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
a few drops food coloring
Mix ingredients in saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until mixture thickens and becomes the consistency of play dough. Remove when cool enough to touch. Store in airtight container; this will keep for months (and is non-toxic).