I have no life.
That statement could accurately describe most eras of my existence, but at the present time I get to blame it on having a two year-old. Whereas my social advancement was likely hindered in the past by poor wardrobe decisions, ill-timed jokes, and an unhealthy pro-wrestling attachment, parenthood now bears the blame.
If you have or ever had a toddler, you know what I mean. In fact, if you have or ever had a friend who is a parent, you also know what I mean. When I was single I couldn’t understand why so many of my once-dependable compadres who had become parents had “fallen off the face of the earth”. All I was asking for was a 5pm til midnight “happy hour”, 3 or 4 nights a week, MAX. What was so difficult about joining me?
I get it now. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade a moment of time with my wife and son for anything, but it did take time to adjust. No amount of research or experience prepares you for the moment you discover your two year-old’s new self-applied Sharpie goatee, or when you wake up at 3:30am to find a live bat hanging from a lampshade next to the crib.
“Daddy look! I washed your phone!”
We as parents today have the benefit of technological advancements. Using the bat-in-the-bedroom crisis as an example, when I laid eyes on the frightful creature my first reaction (after swatting wildly about my person to make sure there weren’t any bats on me) was to go to Google for the answer. I grabbed my phone and Googled ‘bat in my house’ and instantly had a wealth of advice at my fingertips.
Armed with a broomstick, a pillowcase, and a HazMat suit, the bat crisis came under control. Thing is, it wasn’t that long ago that “Googling the answer” wasn’t an option. What did our parents do, run to the encyclopedia shelf to find advice? The scariest thing I learned during the short time I spent teaching was that the kids that are currently in high school have never operated in a Google-free world. That’s how fast the planet has changed.
My wife spotted an article in a recent parenting magazine that claimed to “dispel the myth of the terrible twos”. My initial reaction was to search for some of the author’s other work, where he “Dispels the Myth of Gravity” or lists “The Healing Factors of the Filet-O-Fish”. How could anyone argue that two year-olds aren’t lighting-fast, quick-learning, super-cute spawns of hell?
Turns out, the author was actually saying that from about 18 months until 5 years old should be considered the “terrible twos”, but most people begin to notice it at age 2. The nickname was developed as a way for parents in the 50s to save face when their child was acting like a rascal.
It was the climax of the advertising era in which families were presented as perfectly functioning units. When dad pulled up in his DeSoto, the apron-clad mom had just pulled dinner out of the Smart-Range oven. There was no room for unsightly ill-behaved toddlers in this scene. Only a family of heathens would allow their child to misbehave and carry on.
If only those helpless parents had some naturally-occurring developmental phenomenon to blame the uncontrolled outbursts on. Thus, the “terrible twos” were born out of the need for social acceptance.
My point is, for a society that has advanced with remarkable speed in so many other fields, can we help parenting get out of the 5os? Can we retire the “terrible two” crutch and just accept the kicking, screaming and permanent marker facial art? I think parents are ready to come clean and be comfortable with the reality that kids will be scoundrels from age two and up, it’s the non-parents that need to come to grips.
I used to be the guy with his friends at a restaurant, judging the parents who couldn’t control their toddler. I just wanted to enjoy my hash browns and have a nice breakfast. I loathed the uncontrollable high-chair beast and his helpless parents. Now I’m the guy stuffing those same hash browns into my cargo shorts (that I’ve had since 2000) mid-meal and frantically carrying my unhappy two year-old out the door.
On the blessed occasion that I am afforded the luxury of a peaceful meal and someone else’s mini-demon is on the speed train to Meltdown Village, I feel true sympathy for them; I have been there. Judge not, non-parents, for there is no “Googling the answer” to the terrible twos. Although a HazMat suit and a broomstick might not be a bad idea in this case, too.