There used to be a time when I thought it was absurdly intrusive and morally wrong, but lately I’ve been quietly admiring China’s one-child policy, although probably for different reasons than its government intended.

Weeks away from giving birth to my second baby, I keep whispering to my womb to run for cover. From my first baby. Yes, it’s come to that.

My daughter turns 3 next week, and it’s a good thing the train has long since left the station with my pregnancy, because if I knew nine months ago what I’d be going through today, there is a strong possibility I would not have risked experiencing the terrible toddlerdom stage with another child ever again. Like, ever.

I used to joke that my daughter’s terrible 2s started when she was about 17 months old. But in hindsight, none of it was really awful — as in the current awful I’m experiencing, which is to seriously consider leaving her on the curb with a FOR SALE sign taped to her chest — until about two or three months ago. But now she’s turned into one of those kids that I figured only ever happened to other people. You know, other bad people.

Sure, technically I can still handle her, you know, to the extent that a rabid raccoon or feral cat can ever really be handled. I’m just not enjoying it (except for when she’s asleep — then I take pictures by which to remember and reminisce about her sweetness for when the going gets rough during the waking hours). However, what happens later this month when I have a newborn to care for? I’m not delusional enough to think that her behavior is going to get better when a little bundle of competition enters the fray.

She started preschool in June. It’s thrilling to hear from her lovely and patient teachers that none of the behavioral issues that exist outside of her classroom have seeped into the schoolhouse. (And why would they when she’s clearly doing it all for my benefit? She’s not dumb enough to waste her energy acting out for other, more fun people.) But her school progress still has no bearing on my patience, which has long since departed for greener, more manageable pastures.

A few days ago we were sitting in a pizza parlor and I gave her a cup of water, despite having a sippy cup on hand. She rewarded my trust by taking the water and pouring it deliberately on the floor. She repeated the same action twice over the next 36 hours.

On Sunday she refused to nap. And by “refused to nap,” I mean she pooped her pants twice. I had such high hopes that after six months of potty training, we had finally reached a joyful and definitive conclusion about two weeks ago. Clearly I was wrong, and at this rate, we’re going to have to keep bribing her not to soil herself until she leaves for college, at which time it’ll be her roommate’s problem.

Not only did she not sleep (and scurry like a cockroach allergic to light when I walked in the room both times and found her wreaking havoc on a box of tissues and her sock drawer, respectively), but she also succeeded in reminding me that as a parent, you’re never quite done childproofing. In addition to ripping the cover off of every book in arm’s length while she was behind closed doors, she also took the small, wobbly table in her room, put it next to her bed and stepped onto it to take down all of the precious and delicate (read: sharp and potentially lethal if broken) items on the shelf above her bed that were there so as to stay out of harm’s way.

I wish I could pinpoint her behavior as either indicative of her age or the impending arrival of the new baby, but I’m afraid it’s the perfect storm of both. As my husband dragged more baby clothes and gear out of storage on Sunday in preparation for baby girl No. 2, baby girl No. 1 — who’s seriously not a baby anymore (Did I mention she’s turning 3 next week?) — decided that she should crawl for a while instead of walk. And suck on a pacifier (which she never even took to when she was a real, not pretend baby). And sit in the baby’s chair. And car seat.

It’s not that I don’t admire those people whose children are 11, 15, or 18 months apart. But I purposefully put a few years between my little ones because I had no interest in dealing with two babies simultaneously. Apparently my toddler was not aware of this strategy or, unbeknownst to me, would have liked to have had some buy-in in the decision making process.

I’m sure it’s just a phase (please, God, let it be just a phase), but it doesn’t make living through it any better, or anticipating what will inevitably come next any easier.

At least we’ll always have the nighttime, assuming she ever chooses to sleep again.

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