My son has been two years old for almost three weeks now. Which is by no standard a lot of time. But since he turned two and, to be entirely honest, a couple of weeks before his second anniversary, he’s been discovering the miracles of make-believe.
The kitchen in our house is special grounds with plenty of restricted areas, including several cupboards with chinaware which he knows quite well that remain off-limit. Still, he has grown more audacious and he serenely ignores my gentle protests that emerge the instant he opens one of the forbidden doors. Curious what his first temptations in that taboo cupboard would be, I deliberately paid full attention to the coffee mug where I was diligently stirring the hot liquid and stayed silent as he placed his tiny hand onto one of the inner shelves. There were four egg-stands that apparently resembled little cups – each painted a different colour and wearing a different smiley face. They are a present from a dear friend and I was about to yell “Put that down!” when I noticed what he was doing: raising the egg holder to his lips he pretended to be drinking something with deep sips and then put it back in its place making the sound of papillary satisfaction that he must have heard in one of the adults at some point in the past. He did that with all four ‘cups’ and, as he was extremely gentle and careful, I let him finish before taking him out of the cupboard and, respectively, of the kitchen. He’s been doing this every single day for more than two weeks and he’s just as serious as the first time when he takes his long and noisy sips of the imaginary liquid.
Thinking that maybe this is merely a detail, I told of it to nobody. But today, having crossed the two-year threshold, I challenged him to a game I thought he would quickly refuse. I put down a set of plastic plates of very small dimensions, an uneven number of forks, knives and spoons, all made of the same soft plastic, a couple of miniature mugs and a pot with a green cover. I set down on the rug and started moving the cuttlery around, without doing anything that might have suggested eating or setting the table or anything similar. He stood beside me for about three seconds, then joined me on the carpet. I took out a couple of spoons from the box where the rest of the items had been and just watched him without making any gestures. He took the cup first and started drinking some imaginary coffee (or maybe it was tea or water, he never told me). He set it back down and then picked one of the spoons and took a spoonful of something from one of the plates and shoved it hurriedly in his mouth. He took the cover off the pot and poured something into the empty plate. Apparently now it was full of some delicious food. As he had never used a knife and he’d never been allowed to toy with one, I brought some very small pieces of bread and put them on a plate. I pretended to be cutting them into even smaller pieces using a knife and a fork and he stopped me short. He took the fork from my hand, pierced the miniature buns and ate them one by one.
My husband joined in at some point, surprised to witness such a game, which although simple in its nature, proved to us our son’s mental evolution, and he was immediately offered bread crumbs from a pink plastic fork. He praised the exquisite taste of rug dust and the unprecedented saliva moisture on a piece of unique bread which our son had adminsitered with obvious pleasure.
It is now clear to both of us that the age of two is one that brings about a more lucid and realistic perception of the world, as our son can also understand some basic jokes, can recognize a flower in a drawing and can make the distinction between a real cat and a cartoon cat. It is also the age of the first rebellion: although the child understands perfectly well what he is being told (of course, we haven’t tried to explain the theory of relativity yet and we haven’t charted the stars together), he is inclined to simply ignore you if he feels reluctant toi do what you wish. He couldn’t care less of your scolding and he will turn his back to you as soon as you finish slapping his hand or yelling your command, moving on to the next item on his secret list, still not bringing you the pen he threw on the floor or the pacifier he dropped in the shoe.
It is the age of the first seriously adult-perception changes.