“Let me help you.” “You cannot do it by yourself.” “Are you listening to me?” “What did I just tell you?” “No, you cannot go to the store by yourself.” “Yes, you have to take this medicine.” “No, you cannot eat that right now.”
Sound familiar? If you answered ‘yes’ then you have young children or have reared young children at some point in your life, rejoicing when this stage passed.
But beware. These same old commands lurk around the age corner, waiting patiently for the next round of the terrible 2s—as in the 82s, 92s, and 102s.
“No, mom, you cannot drive to the store.” “Mom, let me help you get dressed.” “Mom, you have to take this medicine.” “Mom, the doctor says you must be on this diet.” “Mom, put in your hearing aid before talking on the phone.” “Mom, take your cane with you.”
Of course, these one-sided conversations are met with protests (“Why?” or “You can’t make me.”); pouts (the silent treatment); frowns (exaggerated facial expressions); and dismissals (“Go home.” “Leave me alone.” “I don’t need your help.”)
For me, what makes these interactions harder to bear is the fact that my 87-year-old mother is still very much coherent. As is her 96 year-old husband. As is her 92 year-old sister who lives next door. There are no signs of dementia or alzheimer’s. Just old age wearing down their physical abilities and memories. But the years have not worn down their stubbornness to be self-reliant.
And who can blame them for this stubbornness? My mom and aunt were born in Oklahoma during the great depression, became itinerant farm workers in their preteen years, traveled the country picking the food crops—living like nomads. They learned how to make-do with what they had on hand.
Yet, during those tough years my mom and aunt also managed to get a basic education—first grade at one farm camp, second grade at another, third at another, etc. The encouragement of a few insightful teachers spurred the just-passing-through students to continue their education at the next camp, and the next, and the next, until they managed to obtain an eighth-grade diploma. A great feat considering their sporadic school attendance.
But this stubbornness that once served my mom and aunt during the early difficulties in life now only hinders their reasoning skills as to what they can or cannot do in their elderly years. And here I am, daughter and niece, sandwiched in-between the phases—early childhood and elderly life—having to guide, instruct, and reprimand all over again.
Ultimately, these terrible 2s will also pass. And I will miss them terribly.
(Photo: Mom is in the middle of the group.)