Toddlers, though, are a different story. They can get around on their own, they invent intricate little games involving using toys in ways they were never intended to be used (I still don't know why there are little piles of alphabet tiles all around the play room today, and I don't know that I ever will), and while they know exactly what they want, they're discovering new things that they want every day and don't yet have the language to communicate them. I just never really understood how to interact with toddlers. I didn't speak the language.
What no one told me (and I suppose I never asked, so why would they?) is that your own toddlers are an entirely different thing.
Because you're part of their world. When they develop their funny games, you're part of them. As they start to communicate, you recognize what they're trying to say or trying to get across because they're mimicking something they've heard you say or they've seen you do. You know, somehow, the difference between a "wet diaper" dance and an "I just spilled milk on myself" dance and a "this is a really good meatball" dance and an "I love this song" dance. You discover that it doesn't actually matter if you don't know the point of the game; they don't really know either, they're just playing, and when you participate you just add another element and it's that much more fun.
As it turns out, the sheer delight in the realization that you do know what they're trying to ask is immense. I'd also never realized that toddlers are always trying out jokes. They're regular little comedians. Nearly everything they do is hilarious to themselves or each other, and all they really want from nearby adults is a laugh (but not too much of a laugh, otherwise Eleanor won't understand why you're laughing more than she is, and think you're laughing at her, and get upset - she has a very nuanced way of seeing the world already). Even though they don't have many words at this stage, they're amazing communicators. "UH-oh" conveys a multitude of things, mostly having to do with dropping something, which happens a lot, or planning to drop something. "Doddy" and "Daddy" somehow get across half the things they want to communicate, since I suppose the doggies and daddy (and mommy, who's also "Daddy" for now) make up most of the world they see every day. They're also already fluent in Whinese - irritating, but effective. Mostly at telling me it's time for a nap.
The truth is, if you'd asked me before I had kids what stage I'd love the most, I'd have said babies. Squishable, sweet-smelling, snuggly babies. If you were to ask me now?
I wouldn't trade toddler-time for anything in the world. I don't even have that nostalgic "oh, wouldn't it be nice to have another squishy sweet baby in the house?" thing. Which may be partly because I've got a sweet, squishy (but growing every day) nephew to snoogle, but is also because my toddlers are so. much. fun.