I am in the waiting room of Davide’s doctor’s office for a routine checkup. Around us, three other moms with their children. Naturally, we enter a dialog concerning the two chief world systems. A preposterous notion? Well? Do you expect mothers to only discuss poopy diapers and breast pumps? Wrong! In fact this time, we take on the terrible twos.
Next to me, sits the mother of three and a half year old twins. She tells me that, to some extent, they are more difficult to handle now than when they were younger. The tantrums seem to have escalated instead of subsiding, and their will power has now become such that they strenuously object to anything they are told to do. I can only nod in agreement while I glance over at Davide who is busy playing with the other kids in the designated play area.
He has improved. Not too long ago, his inarticulate sounds would make mincemeat of my brains, now, his attacks are subtle and the challenge much greater because he is somehow capable of argumentative thoughts that leave me defeated and speechless, like: “No, we are not going out until my favorite show is over and that’s my deal!”
It is common knowledge that nos are good and help children grow stronger. I feel though that all I’m getting out of them is an ulcer and premature aging. Every time I say no, Davide switches to fire-engine mode, blaring sirens and all: “I wanticecreamIwanticeacreamiwanticeacream!!! Did you hear me mom? IWANTICECREAM!!!”
Evidently, his language skills have come a long way and that’s often an advantage, but also, sadly, at times, a huge problem for me. If Aristotle, the Greek visionary were to hypothetically enter a standoff with Davide, odds are he, too, would get beat up badly and wonder whether he’d be better off cleaning fish at the fish market instead of busying himself with mathematics and philosophy.
“Mom, will you give me a candy? And why do you give me a candy if I ask for one? No, I don’t want candy but you need to give it to me, ok? And you will give it to me, right mommy? Right? Mom? Are you listening?” Oh great, now I have a headache.
The other mother sitting next to me interjects: “Wait until they are pre-adolescents and adolescents like mine!”. According to her, the sweet, naive children turn at some point into unidentified beings that tend to smell (especially the male kind), and are introverted and grumpy. Beings that can recite the Bill of Rights whenever they feel they have been wronged in some way and hold a grudge just for being ordered to stop playing with the Xbox.
The conversation continues, replete with horrifying anecdotes, head scratching and plenty of empathy.
We all arrive to the same sad conclusion: after the terrible twos, come the terrible threes and then the terrible fours and so on and so forth, until well into their forties.
While I ponder this new reality, I notice for the first time another mother sitting nearby and her tiny baby girl in a carrier by her side. On her face, a look of shock, eyes wide open. She is staring at me, speechless, then looks at the adorable little thing peacefully sleeping in her carrier, and shakes her head in a trance-like state.
Great. We have just terrorized a new mom. We should have also discussed the pride with which we watch our children grow, anything to help her shake that feeling that she may have given birth to the offspring of Hannibal Lecter. But still, parenting is not a walk in the park and it probably helps to know that from the start. Once I read a quote that made me smile: “If maternity were easy, it wouldn’t start with labor”.
Clearly, though, if it were just a load of drama, mankind would not have lasted as long as it has. So I smile at the new mom and tell her, softly: “Don’t be afraid. It’s not easy but it’s totally worth it. We all make it in the end”. She smiles unconvincingly and I’m not so sure I’ve helped much.
And you? What do you think? Would you tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth well knowing you will scare a future mother or would you rather gloss over the more painful details in order to protect her?