I wonder what it was like right before the Dark Ages. I wonder if the people knew what was coming, that the time in their lives would be known as the Dark Ages. A step backwards from what they had enjoyed just a year earlier. The signs were there. The world always gives us clues about what’s to come. Sometimes they are just hard to see.
I imagine that is much like the shift from baby to the dreaded twos. In the midst of the good, happy, sweet times of babyhood lie the signs of what’s to come. A bout of screaming here, a little more demanding request for milk there. It seems so harmless out of context. And then one day, you wake up and the screaming doesn’t stop. The demands have no end. The sweet little girl that you held is no longer. You aren’t quite sure who the new girl is. A month later, you look back and with horror realize you’ve entered the dark age.
I first noticed it at dinnertime on Tuesday. I was making lentil burgers and gathering my ingredients. There were mild upset noises in the background but like any good mother who has been at it for a while, I was able to tune it out, offering a half-hearted “what’s wrong?” every once in a while. Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t move. There was something at my feet blocking motion in any direction. I moved right, it moved right. I moved left, it moved left. All the while, it looked up at me, arms stretched wide, screeching a version of “up, Up, UP!”
Who was this demanding little girl? Not Madison. Not my sweet, angelic Madison. Who then? My face went white. I stammered, dropped my mixing spoon, and sucked in my breath. It was a two-year-old. Surely not, I reassured myself. My sixteen-month-old had just been there the day before. She wailed insistently again. Yes, there was no mistaking it. A two-year-old. Eight months early.
“It’s too early” was all my feeble war-torn mind could think. It seems I just made it through this emotionally bloody battle with Riley. The battles are still fresh in my mind. It was hard to go anywhere. Hour-long temper tantrums over such simple things. You never knew when you might spend the next hour scraping your child off the floor cloaked in humiliation. The body contortion acts when trying to strap her wailing body into the car seat. The writhing to get out of your arms just to turn around and insist that you pick her up again. Never able to be pleased. In Lesley’s case, the ear-piercing proclamations from the body slung over her shoulder that she was never loved and begging for strangers to come and save her.
Can I make it through that again? The thought keeps me up at night. I can’t even remember what my battle plan was, and truly, this is a new enemy I’m fighting. She’s been throwing herself on the ground in protest since she was six months old. Before, she was easy calmed — a soft blanket, a sip of milk, even just a simple hug. Oh god, no. Please, two-year-old, don’t take away the hugs! Surely those will stay, right? “It’s too early,” I repeat.
Five days later, there is no mistaking it. We are in the dark age. I pray for this period to be short and swift, knowing in the back of my mind it likely won’t be. We’ll learn to get along. Somehow.