The Terrible Twos are a parenting myth says Sophie White who has just weathered the hellstorm that is the Demonic Threes.
When my first child was a brand new, highly demanding and largely nocturnal newborn creature, I took him to Ikea. Like all the Ikea trips I’ve ever attempted with children in tow, it was extremely stressful. Now when friends tell me they are going there I advise taking a preemptory valium to cope with the stress of parenting at Ikea, it’s basically a safety measure to inure against potentially attacking someone for walking too slowly or suffering a psychological break in the warehouse section and just abandoning your children because they’ve been chanting “mama” for the 120th consecutive minute (you’ve probably gathered that I don’t really go there anymore, I wouldn’t risk it).
Anyway back to that fateful day moving gingerly through a mock kitchenette with the newborn in the sling. I was trying to quell that curious all-pervading anxiety that accompanied my every outing in those early days and praying that he’d stay asleep at least until the canteen, I needed a hit of that Ikea cake – you know the marshmallowy one with chocolate, a known cure for sleep deprivation.
It was then that I heard the commentary of two women I was passing.
“Look,” Ponytail nudged her friend, Short Bob, indicating my son.
“Ah don’t you miss those days when they were so easy!” was Short Bob’s response, a response that in an instant shattered my deeply-held, desperately-clung-to-for-dear-life belief that I was in the thick of the parenting shitstorm, that things were only going to get easier as my son grew up.
I was so stunned I actually stopped dead, wheeled round to them and semi-screeched “WHAT?”
I spent the next few days in shock. This was the easy bit? I hadn’t slept a full night in two months, the child cried any time there wasn’t a boob or a bottle in his mouth, I cried any time he cried, I was perpetually covered in fluids. This was the EASY BIT?
“THIS IS THE EASY BIT,” I screeched to The Man (the screech was here to stay, I discovered).
“If this is the easy bit, what’s coming?” I implored my friends, none of whom had kids yet. They looked helpless, shrugging.
“The terrible twos, I suppose,” one offered.
“Christ. What would they involve?”
I commenced agonising over what fresh hell awaited me in a couple of year’s time. This is why it is simply not fair to tell new parents anything about what’s coming down the line, it’s an act of wanton cruelty. I now possess a nearly four-year-old and a one-year-old and I’m sure people will be tempted to scoff in the Facebook comments: “Bah she thinks three is hard, wait till he’s four or five or 55.” And to these people I would just like to say: “Oh god please don’t tell me what’s coming, I need to maintain complete denial.”
The Terrible Twos, I have decided now that I’m out the other side, have got to be one of the greatest parenting misnomers. They were not amazing. There was a a fair amount of screaming from him and screeching from me (Pro tip: practice screaming the name angrily when deciding on baby names, I did not and, unfortunately, sound like I'm barking like a wild dog when I scream my oldest's name). However, the supposedly Terrible Twos paled in comparison to the threes. About two weeks after my son’s third birthday I started to seriously question whether I’d perhaps accidentally stumbled into a Buffy The Vampire-style Hellmouth – an area in which the barrier between dimensions are weak, a portal basically between our world and the world of evil demons (and presumably the TV licencse man, the guy who drives the ice cream van around my area at dinnertime and anyone who rings the doorbell post bedtime).
If all this is sounding mildly crazy, please remember that the sleeping is still very erratic and this could be adding a sinister tinge to proceedings. Still, there are definitely a few things the classic threenager does have in common with someone suffering from demonic possession. Re-watching The Exorcist recently in honour of Halloween I was struck by far too many similarities between the onscreen mother’s life and my own.
For starters, my house looks almost permanently like we’ve just been burgled, but now I was seeing the disarray in a new, disturbing light. It bore a striking resemblance to the room where young Regan is being stored while the priests are desperately trying to cure her and dodge vomit.
Suddenly my toddler’s hissing and babbling tantrums began to sound unnervingly close to speaking in tongues. Creepy.
And around this time he also perfected a strange style of crawling backwards that somehow managed to look all kinds of wrong. Very Exorcisty – an adjective I never thought I’d be coining, especially not in relation to my child.
Also before you have a child you think reports of the range and capabilities of projectile vomiting has been vastly overstated, but then they do the first mega-spew and, it has to be said, the little girl in The Exorcist probably would’ve been pretty impressed.
Also occasionally he would suddenly stare past me at absolutely nothing which is pretty unnerving, especially when I was on my own with him – It’s never a could plan to be creeped out by your kid, I honestly don’t know how the Omen parents didn’t just run away.
I have come up with a pretty reliable litmus test for the whole 'is it a three-year-old or is it possessed by evil spirits?' thing: Is your child suddenly speaking Ancient Aramaic? If not, you're probably sound. If so... well let's just say it's not cool to bring your possessed-by-satan kid on playdates until the possession is out of his system.