It was my nephew's second birthday today (which is frankly absurd, but that's another rant for another time - what little time I have left, that is). With a gaggle of aunts and uncles, that boy is quickly acquiring a fearsome array of toys, fit for any child to put away in a closet and rarely if ever play with.
Actually, I think there may perhaps be a need to have a couple of conversations about gift values - certain aunts seem to be rather more extravagant in their giving than certain uncles, which isn't actually terribly fair. Especially when dealing with a child, who by virtue of age might not grasp that just because a person doesn't give as much doesn't mean that they don't love as much.
However, that's not really what I want to talk about. Instead, a reflection on just why that difficult third year is sometimes referred to as the "terrible twos":
When a child is new-born, everything is being encountered for the first time. The crushing banality of life hasn't really had a time to set in, and things are really quite exciting.
Then, when the child turns one, there follows the most productive year of his life. He learns to walk, and to talk, and it's all very exciting. Extremely significant events, there.
But once the child is two, what is there left to do? Well, I'll tell you: potty training. Certainly important, but it lacks the glamour of walking, and talking. Let's face it, you're never going to get quite the same buzz from, "behold, I am no longer waddling in my own poo!" as you do even from merely being able to say, "behold" in the first place.
And then there's the toys. Go to a toy store, and you'll find plenty of toys for children at 3+ months. Likewise, 6+ and 9+ months are both solidly represented. As is 12+ months, and so too 18+ months.
Then it jumps to 3+ years. All the really good toys are for children of 3 and over. But for the two-year-old? Nothing.
So, one has the choice: does one purchase a toy suitable for a child of 18+ months (which, frankly, seems rather young even for a child of 18 months, never mind 2 years), or does one ignore the guidelines, and go for a 3+ years toy?
Well, the answer, actually, is that you can't do the latter. While the parents can elect to ignore the guidelines, knowing the capabilities of their child (and, perhaps more importantly, the risks they are willing to expose their child to), the well-meaning uncle can't really make that call.
And so, not only does the two-year-old only have a rather mediocre year of intermittent non-poofulness to look forward to, but they also get a haul of fairly lame toys as gifts.
No wonder they're tetchy!