Sometimes almost-two is transcendent, like yesterday when I took advantage of a morning off work to take Nico for a walk in the sunshine. He takes walks with my dad almost every nice-weather day, but I don't know how far they go. I figured we'd just set out and wander until he got tired, and we meandered through the neighborhood for about 45 minutes. He stomped through the leaves piled along curbs and at the bottoms of front walk steps, announcing "Nico walk leaves!" He observed with great interest as I showed him how small acorns crunched under our shoes, then collected a handful of large acorn caps which he stowed in the pocket of my jacket rather than his own. He carried a large capless acorn in his small fist for blocks and blocks, his other hand wrapped tightly around my index finger. We crossed the street to investigate a parked school bus, walked across the grassy medians, stepped up and down at curbs. When our across-the-street neighbor came out as we were passing by to put out the mail, Nico -- usually shy and clinging to my legs in the presence of strangers and near-strangers -- marched right over to her and presented the acorn. We spent a bit of time at the playground down the block, then walked back home and had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I was left feeling like this toddler thing maybe isn't so hard.
But sometimes, almost-two laughs in my face. Like tonight, when we took Nico to a really cool fall-themed event and then had to literally carry him kicking and screaming out to the car after he had a giant meltdown in the middle of it (because we are leavers to the core). He seemed so happy to be there at first, and I tried to get him excited about going on the hayrides and seeing a real owl. But once we started walking around, all he wanted to do was walk. If we stopped, he didn't waste time asking us to continue, he simply started thrashing and whining and, if we didn't hustle him quickly onward, would eventually fling himself to the ground. There were cute moments, like seeing him wade hip-deep into a gigantic leaf pile with a look of determination on his face, or how he climbed into the sandbox full of seed corn and walked around in it rather than just digging through it with his hands. And I know that he doesn't know he missed out, that I'm the only one who's sad about the fact that during our hasty exit we lost the tiny plastic snake he got as a prize for pulling five acorns out of the seed corn, but it was so disappointing. I should know by now to keep my expectations in check when taking a toddler into any kind of new experience, but it's hard. It's not that I'm disappointed in him; I'm just sad because I know he would've loved all of it if he'd just stopped being so damn two long enough to try it.
It's not quite best of times / worst of times, but almost-two is kind of kicking my ass.