the terrible twos: can we change the name?

The script is pretty predictable.

Surely I’m not the only person who has had the following conversation with a stranger in Target:

Oh, she’s so cute.

Thank you!

How old is she?


Oooooh, the terrible twos.

Now, I’m used to people saying unhelpful and/or unnecessary things to me in public, and it usually doesn’t bother me. These conversations are well-intentioned and genuine more often than not. Plus, I’m not one to turn down adult interaction of any kind any more.

This one though? Can we please call “The Terrible Twos” something else?


Because “The Terrible Twos” implies two things. Neither is true but both are easy to believe.

First, the phrase “terrible twos” suggests that there is a beginning and an end to this first hard stage of toddler-ing. That you just have to make it through this one terrible year and then you’re scot-free! That the terribleness will cease once that third birthday rolls around.

It’s also problematic because it can make you think that the terrible things only happen at age two, and I think the unfortunate side-effect of this one is that it gives some people a false sense of security.

These are the people who, when you tell them your kid is two, respond with an overly dramatic, “Oh, just wait. Three is way worse.”  

Now, I only know as much about parenting as a little over three and a half years can teach you.

(So, very little.)

But I do know something with utmost certainty:

You can’t avoid the terribles.

At least that’s what Jake and I have decided to call them.


The tantrums. The power struggles. The point at which a light bulb turns on in your child’s head, and she realizes she can challenge your authority.

Maybe your kid will start to test your limits exactly at two. Maybe it’s two and a half. Maybe your kid is pushing three and a half and you think you’re in the clear.

You’re not, I’m sorry to say.

The terribles will come for you, too.

BUT (oh, for the love, of course there is a but), the terribles don’t have to beat you.

These kids of ours? The ones who throw 45 minute tantrums because of the color of a dinner plate or rip chunks of hair out of a sibling’s head?

(These are definitely not scenarios which I have witnessed firsthand.)

They have been entrusted to us. They are ours. And, if we don’t love them well, who will?

Plus, I’m also resolved to believe that the terribles will end.

That with consistency and grace and thoughtful correction, we can make it through this stage of parenting (relatively) unscathed.

At least, people tell me this, and I’d like to believe they aren’t lying to me.

But also, we’re starting to see the shiny side of consistency and follow-through with one kid, and it. is. refreshing.

And just in time for another to start toeing the lines of obedience.

The terribles are coming for her too.

And even though I don’t know exactly how long the phase will last and that it likely won’t be over in a single year, I do know that we will come out on the other side better versions of ourselves (especially the toddler).

And that I won’t ever call them “The Terrible Twos” again.

Who’s with me?

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