Yesterday I came home from work having picked up the three older kids from school, only to face an exasperated wife.

"She's yours."  she said, and went off to do her thing.

I went to the bedroom and there "she" was:  Julia, our two-year old.  She was supposed  to be taking a nap, but, as usual, sleep was not on her mind.  And, as usual, there she stood in her crib, totally naked.  Not only were her clothes strewn all over the floor, but so was her bedsheet, pillowcase, pillow, blankets, Jingle Bell (her Webkinz pink pony), and her curled up stuffed cat she likes to sleep with.  Oh, and since she can reach the bookshelf from her crib,  all the books littered the floor as well.

She looked at me and gave me the biggest smile you have ever seen.

Welcome to the terrible twos, that fabled age in a child's development where naughtiness (or, rather, impishness)seems to grab hold and a child decides to do all sorts of things, for two reasons:  1)  To see how much they can get away with, and 2)  to drive their parents absolutely crazy.

It can be maddening, frustrating, exasperating.  But for us, it is also exhilarating.  Because we have never had the chance to experience this before:

  • When Helena, our oldest, was Julia's age she was still several months away from being officially diagnosed with autism, something we had suspected since she was 13 months old but no doctor was brave enough to tell us until she was 3.  At Julia's age Helena's vocabulary consisted of lots of "A meena meena" and she obsessively lined up toys.  And that was about the extent of it.
  • When Nicholas, our second oldest, was Julia's age he was still going through terrible colic that had plagued him since he was 4 months old.  Every night he would wake up screaming, and it took a couple of hours to calm him down and get him back to sleep.  Consequently, he was lethargic during the day a lot.
  • When Olivia, our third child, was Julia's age, she was just finishing recovering from the developmental delays she was diagnosed with when she was about nine months old.  Already having one child on the autism spectrum, we worked really hard and applied the same developmental techniques we were using for Helena to Olivia as well.  So her twos were very much controlled and filled with therapy.  By the time she was Julia's age she was diagnosed as being developmentally about three months ahead of her age – good news for a family still struggling with life and autism.

We've done a couple of things different with Julia, things that we feel are of benefit to our entire family, given our experiences with autism and our three older children.

  • Julia has never been vaccinated.  We believe that not only were vaccinations the major contributing factor to Helena's autism, but are also responsible for Nicholas' colic (it started immediately after he was given four separate injections in the same visit at 4 months), and Olivia's developmental delays (we stopped vaccinations after 6 months, when Olivia was pretty much like a vegetable all day).
  • Julia has been on the gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet her entire life.  We started this diet after Helena's autism diagnosis for all our children, and we feel that it not only has helped Helena in her development (probably the most important factor, along with hippotherapy), but has helped all our other children as well.  Quite honestly, it is a healthier way to eat, in our opinion.

As an infant, Julia never had a day of colic, and she was rarely sick.  She was crawling at 7 months, walking at 11.  Soon after, she was running, trying to keep up with her older siblings.  She's been speaking in sentences for several months now, and is almost potty trained.  She's even just about gotten a handle on riding a bike with training wheels.  She loves to play blocks and Little People, and watch Thomas the Tank Engine and Barney.

She also pitches screaming fits when it's time for bed, refuses to let you help her get dressed for bed, and insists quite forcefully that she needs to brush her own teeth.

Ah, the terrible twos.

I love all my children for who they are, and how they are.  I don't think I would ever want them to change, because it would change what makes them so unique and special.  Even Helena.

But with Julia, it is nice to experience what other parents have experienced with their own children.

Even if it is the (not so terrible) terrible twos.