I’m the annoying mom who didn’t experience the terrible twos with her firstborn. Age three proved much more of a challenge with my son, and even at its worst, I don’t remember my son throwing many tantrums.

Before you start to envy me, though, fear not. My second-born spirited daughter has opened my eyes to the terrible twos. I can assure any doubters out there that this developmental stage is as real as the pain I felt during child labor.

The terrible twos look like . . . 

My daughter striking the power pose with her hands on her hips at least 10 times a day. This pose is accompanied with a scowl on her face and a loud, “NO” preceding a meltdown when she doesn’t get what she wants.

They look like my daughter kicking and screaming in the grocery store when I don’t buy her a lollipop. The strangers in the grocery store all stare, half are compassionate looks, half are judgmental looks.

They include fits thrown over the smallest matters in my mind that are earth-shattering actions to my two-year-old, like taking away the scissors or wiping her face clean.

The terrible twos sound like . . . 

“Mommy, I help you.” I hear this phrase often throughout the day. “Mommy, I help you,” said before she provides the opposite of help with laundry, cooking, and cleaning.

They also sound like, “All by myself,” even if she can’t do what she wants to do. “All by myself,” when it’s time to wash her hands even though she can’t reach the sink.

And wails. I can’t leave out the wails that come with the territory of the terrible twos.

The terrible twos feel like . . . 

Having an adorable little grenade running around, never knowing what is going to set her off.

It’s a helpless feeling when I watch my daughter’s sweet face turn bright red. I want to take her angry tears away, but sometimes the only thing I can do is offer support.

It’s hard to watch this little person who you love so much struggle with learning the limits on her newfound independence.

Sometimes I feel a sense of panic that time is unforgiving in how fast the years go. Am I taking these years in? Am I appreciating every moment? The honest answer is no. I’m not because these years are hard. They’re hard and magical, and the last thing I want to do is miss the magic because I’m focusing on the hard.

Because the terrible twos also look like . . . 

My arms wrapped around my daughter on my lap. They look like precious baby dimples on the backs of her hands. Though she stretches longer every day, she still has her baby fat to the point that it’s impossible to find shoes to fit her chubby, brick-like feet.

They look like her hair that is soft and straight on top with baby curls underneath. She’s part toddler, part baby, and the baby part fades away more and more every day.

They look like me breathing in the sweet smell of strawberry yogurt leftover on her velvety cheek and smothering her cheeks with kisses.

The terrible twos also sound like . . . 

The music that can only be made from a little girl’s laughter.

The hilarity that can only come from a child with no filter.

And heart melting phrases like, “I love my fam-ee.”

The terrible twos also feel like . . . 

Wonder as you watch this personality unfold that is all your child’s own.

Excitement as you see them understand the world in new ways.

Love beyond measure that makes you want to freeze time before one more ounce of babyhood is lost.

Sometimes I have the terrible twos blues over the difficulty of this stage, but most of the time I have the terrible twos blues because I never want this phase to end.

Isn’t that parenting in a nutshell? Simultaneously feeling the heavy weight of how much you are needed and never wanting the need to go away.

“All by myself.”

Please don’t rush it, sweet girl. I want to soak up every last inch of baby in you.

Kristen Guest

Kristen Guest is a wife, mom of two, and a lover of truth. She enjoys writing because it’s cheaper than therapy. She blogs about motherhood, faith, and personal development on her blog at www.mamastay.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.