Right after she turned 1, Ella went through this phase where, honestly, I wasn't sure if we'd both make it.
It was either going to be her or me.
And no matter who survived, it wasn't going to be pretty.
Luckily, she got easier.
When I was at the true end of my rope, her language skills blossomed, and her comprehension sky-rocketed.
And while she was no perfect 1-year-old specimen, she was bearable.
And then she hit 19 months old.
Honest to God, she's like a million terribles I didn't anticipate happening.
Yesterday, she threw a tantrum over the fact that, from what I can tell, she couldn't carry four books, a stuffed pig, and a toy teapot with her knees.
A 45-minute screaming, fighting tantrum. Over a physical impossibility.
We then had about 30,000 conversations that went, i.e., whined on, as follows:
Ella: Mommy, Mommy?
Me: What, baby?
Me: What's up?
Me: Yes, love?
And on and on and on and on and on.
I'm still not sure what she wanted. Other than to test out how hoarse and offensive her little voice could be, while hitting unbearably tough pitches of whiny-ness.
Other tantrums also ensued, in a matter of hours, because the grocery-cart buckles wouldn't snap, her least-favorite baby doll wouldn't talk back, I didn't make her avocado-tomato sandwich in under 51 seconds, and I only let her have three pickles, and not four, with her lunch.
She's super-sensitive to sleep. Too much? And she's groggy and clingy to a fault. Too little? And you might as well light a Molotov cocktail and throw it into a room full of senior citizens knitting with flammable yarn.
She wants to do things herself, but refuses to be alone to try them. She loves to be out and about, socializing. But she throws an absolute fit while we get there.
If she wants to "side" at the park, we better do it. Right then. If she wants a "snackie," that means she wants rice cakes. Right then. Or hummus and crackers. Or almonds. Or freeze-dried mango. Who knows, really. She can clearly name whatever "snackie" she wants. But she won't. And God forbid you guess wrong.
I have tried every tactic in my book. Nothing's working.
The Terrible 2s are here. And I am not used to them.
Last month, I was ready and willing. My fears about having two girls 20 months apart had faded to a dull pastel color. I knew it wouldn't be easy. But I really thought I could do it.
And now? I'm not sure I'll survive parenting just this one.
I'm actually looking forward to spit up. And 30 diaper changes per hour. And constant nursing. And unexplainable fits of gas and colic.
Somehow, that all makes a lot more sense than this.
The problem is, add that to the already current tumult that is toddlerhood in our house right now, and there won't be any question who my favorite child in my house will be.
Yes, that's right. The third, as-of-yet-unconceived child, who demands nothing from me. That one I will love the best.
I am already really tired and really pregnant. And now, Ella is fighting back.
She's clingy but independent. She's high-energy but easily over-stimulated. She's super chatty and yet, can't - or won't - explain what she's craving in her heart of hearts.
And she's about to have a baby sister, right in the middle of the Terrible 2s.
Pretty sure this is scarier than when I first saw The Ring in high school.
And I've never been a brave girl, either.
Yesterday was bad.
Like, I wasn't sure I could be trusted to feed her dinner, bathe her, and read her a bed-time story without jumping out a window by the end of it.
But then I found myself sitting on the floor, one of her little arms around my neck while she munched on a bowl of steamed green beans in her footie pajamas, all while telling me, "I wuv you, mama. Kisses." Granted, she demanded I then bestow kisses on Marvin ("Mo") next. But still, cute stuff.
She went to bed soon after without a hitch. And I realized we'd survived another day.
It reminded me that I am grateful for some things about toddlerhood: The fact that she often sleeps through the night, the highly verbal skills she's acquired that make things exceedingly funny; the ability she has to actually play and play-act with toys and not just gum them and whip them about.
Her many expressions. The fact that she's a little sponge who picks up colors and numbers and letters, even, like it's no big deal. I watched her read a Dr. Seuss book aloud to me yesterday, and she remembered a lot of the words and corresponded them to the correct page and everything.
Her mind is a steel trap, this one.
But that's what makes it hard, too. I know she knows better. I know she knows what she's doing. I know the incessant screaming she did in the car yesterday was calculated. And I know she knows that it grates on me.
Developmentally, I also know this is all normal.
And I know that remaining calm, validating how she feels, removing her from situations where she can't be successful and can easily frustrate us both, as well as ignoring negative behaviors that are simply attention-seeking, so as not to reinforce the behaviors, are the right way to go.
Easier said than done, on some days, anyway.
And a lot easier said than done when your 20 month old is also expected to share your energies and attentions with a newborn.
There's no way around it; life is about to get real interesting around these parts.
This, in fact, is likely just the warm-up.
Poor Ella. Poor me. Poor all of us.
And now, here goes nothing.