The 1983 film Terms of Endearment with Shirley MacClaine and Debra Winger has a semi-comedic scene that stands out among many remarkable scenes from that film. Debra Winger, playing a young, frazzled, self-involved mother, is in a grocery store parking lot, trying to have a conversation with a young John Lithgow. She tells her son, “Go wait over by the car, honey.” And as he argues and drags his feet and generally tries to avoid complying with her request, her rage bubbles up as she again tells him, “Go wait over by the car, honey. Over by the car, honey. OVER BY THE CAR! NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!”
As the boy retreats to the car, John Lithgow says with the most deadpan affect, “Nice boys. And you’re great with them, too.”
I tell you this because I have a two-year-old who will soon turn three but shows no signs of ever vacating the stage which makes two-year-olds famous.
I don’t know how this happened. Following our high-maintanence son, she was an angel of a baby. From the time she was born, her nightly slumber was interrupted only by succinct and efficient feedings. She didn’t cry or fuss or even spit up. She entertained herself. Caring for her was so easy I almost felt as if I were cheating.
She’s going to be an easy child, I thought.
And she was for the longest time. When it was time for bed, she waved “ni-ni” to her brother and her daddy and toddled up the stairs. When I asked her to put her toys back in the basket, she complied. I gave her food and she ate it.
This baby was poised to become the most well-behaved child ever.
The change was gradual, starting at about 20 months. A little asserting of the will here, a small skirmish there. My trying to manage the conflict without rendering her powerless. A little screeching on her part, a little more management on my part.
I don’t know when the transition was final, but I am now left this Rumpelstiltlskin-esque creature who rules our home with an iron fist. This little beauty, smart as a whip, is demanding as all get-out….demanding her cartoons, demanding candy, demanding juice. Fighting every transition and directive. Fighting when she must go into the tub, and fighting when she must come out. Refusing bedtime. Refusing her dinner.
It is during these times that I hear Debra Winger’s voice inside my head, screaming, “NOW! NOW! NOW!” I can feel it rising up in me, and it would be so easy lose it just once and scream, scare the pants off her, and make her comply without a second thought, but I resist. I breathe, I swallow, and I send Debra Winger away.
I adore this child, my little tyrant, but Lord help me, I am worn out. I bite my lip, stay strong, and know this will pass.