David is 22 months old and very much two years already. He is my little devil in disguise - incredible charm and charisma liberally coating a will of steel. Yesterday, we went for a short walk after dinner. Just up the street to the supermarket to get some pistachios, and to check for a portable potty at the maternity store next door. Roundtrip maybe 700 meters. The route leads along Calea Dorobantilor which is a very busy street. Now, Alan is very well behaved and will hold your hand while walking where it's dangerous. He doesn't always like it but he will always do it. Not so David.
Did I mention he's already very much in his Terrible Two's? Well, we started walking and as soon as we closed the garden gate behind us, he yanked his hand out of mine and started running towards the big busy street. All educational experts say that if your child runs away from you, don't run after him. That doesn't work in a busy big city with lots of cars and buses and trucks. No. So I ran after him and picked him up. Much screaming and kicking ensued. Repeat the following dialogue twenty times over the course of the next half hour: "David, do you want to walk?" "YES!" "Then you have to hold my hand, OK?" "Yes." Down he goes on his feet. "David, take my hand." "NO!" Kicking and screaming, repeat dialogue. It gets tiring after a while but we want him to learn this. It's a contest of wills. His ultimate weapon is the tantrum. He throws himself on the ground - actually, he carefully lowers himself to the ground - and lies on his back, screaming. Usually, we just ignore him and walk away. Sometimes, I come back and distract him. This works or works not. Then I walk away again. This is somewhat more complicated on the sidewalk of a busy street in Bucharest. The first two or three times, he just got picked up by Doug or me, kicking and screaming. On our way back, though, at a relatively safe stretch of the sidewalk, we kept on walking, carefully watching him out of the corner of our eyes. First, he was stunned, then the howling began. Now, it was about a quarter to seven, and that's a very busy time in Bucharest. People are coming from work, doing some grocery shopping, running to catch buses, traffic is thick and slow-moving. Within seconds, David had an audience. We were maybe fifteen meters down the street, our little boy lying on his back on the sidewalk. He's blonde and blue-eyed just like his brother, so it's easy for people to make the connection between those two adults with the blonde, blue-eyed three-year-old and this pitifully crying, blonde, blue-eyed darling. Oh, the parents! (Dirty looks in our direction.) Why would they do such a thing to such a wonderful little creature! Isn't he adorable? How dare they! (David flashes one of his famous smiles.) Oh, oh! (Flower girl appears out of nowhere.) Oh, you poor little boy, here's a flower for you! (I'm not making this up!) He caused a little commotion and we got a few pieces of advice on parenting. Sigh. It's very Romanian, that. In Germany or the US, nobody would think of interfering with your educational efforts. This has its bad sides, definitely. But the Romanian way of giving you unsolicited advice about missing hats, gloves, about potty training and bottle feeding, needs some getting used to. We're here for almost two years now (in two weeks). We smile and say "da, sigur" because we know the intentions are good. But we still walk away when David throws a tantrum. Because he finds tantrums without a rapt audience utterly boring.