It seems to me that these days it is a tough thing to be a two-year-old.
How often do they hear that they need to be a “big boy or girl now”? It’s also a time when changes are happening to them that impact their short lives in quite dramatic ways. Maybe it’s heading off to nursery, and being told to be “big” by parents, staff and other grownups. Maybe it’s the arrival of a new baby in the family and suddenly their position is disrupted and the whole family dynamic changes.
All life impacting events which need lots of empathy and understanding to help our little ones cope and thrive through the changes. I read recently that Prince George, at Princess Charlotte’s christening, was heard to say “I don’t want to Prince anymore”. That summed up for me the heart cry of the two-year-old who is expected to behave, follow rules and look good when they want to explore, investigate, get messy and be very, very active. Maybe it’s time we became childlike again in our faith and simply enjoy the things that delight them?
We know that a two-year-old child’s development is expanding rapidly on all fronts—language is developing, motor skills need practising, cognitive thought processes are blossoming and emotions swing from one to the other. This God-designed stage of rapid learning and exploration is an exciting time for a two-year-old, but coping with this incessant curiosity can be exhausting and sometimes frustrating for everyone.
So how do we offer the much needed help and guidance to our little ones and nurture them through this transforming stage? What do we long to see grow in our twos as they grow physically and emotionally in front of us. And how do we do this?
Two-year-olds are great imitators. Whether it’s click clacking around in mummy’s heels or being desperate to help wash up (and inevitably wash the floor at the same time), our twos want to be active and involved and follow the example they see. Does this put too much pressure on us to behave brilliantly and perfectly all the time? They certainly watch us very closely.
Just last week I broke down in central London in three lanes of heavy traffic. No fun, but the kindness of strangers was powerful. A lady driving by stopped and handed me a bottle of water. I saw the face of her two-year-old watch everything that took place from his seat in the back of the car. He looked at his mum, he looked at me, he looked back at her. All over his face was the intensity of watching and understanding this interaction. He saw empathy, care, compassion and concern demonstrated to a complete stranger, and it was clear that it made an impact.
Two-year-olds are remarkable in their close observation of adults. This gives us the perfect chance to show God’s faithfulness and love. We demonstrate love and care. They imitate our faith in action. We make mistakes. They see us ask for forgiveness. We say sorry. They see the restoring of relationship with them, others and with our heavenly father.
We have a precious opportunity with our two-year-olds to be examples that they can imitate. To show them a respect, love, and excitement for God and His Word. To sow seeds of Bible truths in their hearts. To build connections between everyday life and what the Bible says. To join in with their sense of awe and wonder about the world. To be “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1 NASB).
To become like two-year-olds again and (yes, I really did this) skip along the pavement because it was a beautiful day and because I felt happy, alive and loved. And there was no one to say “you’re a big girl now so behave, sit still and don’t skip down the street!”