Please, when you see a stressed mom of a two-year-old, do not laugh and tell her that the "terrible twos" don't really exist and that the real age at which little kids are terrors is three.
You probably think that you're encouraging her, telling her that things really aren't so bad right now. But think about it from her perspective, and from the perspective of building up the culture of life; if her two-year-old has spent the past 23 hours screaming and sobbing about every single thing that has happened—the light turning on, the light turning off, wearing pants, hearing the story he just begged for, mama cleaning up the juice he poured on the floor—and you cheerfully tell her that this is nothing compared to how he'll be acting a year from now, do you think that makes her want to be open to life, to happily anticipate adding to her family?
Of course not. She can barely handle this, she's thinking to herself; how much worse will next year be? And what if there's a new baby needing her time and attention too? What if she has twins? She will probably only be half-joking that night when she tells her husband that they aren't having another baby for at least a decade.
There are joys and challenges with every age, with every stage of parenting. Intellectually, we know this. But the brinkmanship mentality that's crept into parent-to-parent interactions, the need to "prove" to others that their current struggles are nothing compared to what you've gone through or are going through, ignores the joys and magnifies the challenges into terrifying bogeymen that tell already-discouraged new parents that they simply can't do it. That it's impossible to be genuinely open to life and have any hope of peace and happiness and sanity. And that's not the message you want to be sharing; it's not true.
If the threes are really worse than the twos, she'll figure that out soon enough on her own. What she needs to hear from you right now, more-experienced-mom, what you need to say to build up the culture of life, is that there are good things about having a two-year-old, too. Tell her that your son was two when he learned to put his own boots on. Tell her how much fun it was when your daughter finally started talking in sentences. Tell her about a book your little ones enjoyed at that age, or share your tips for getting crayon off of floors. And if you absolutely have to say something about things getting worse before they get better, hopefully you'll follow up with "so if you ever need a break, I'd be happy to babysit."
Mom of a two-year-old