Not long after our daughter Cordelia’s first birthday, she stood up on her own for the first time. About ten minutes after that, she decided that standing up was bullshit unless you do something useful with it, so she took her first few steps. And thus our baby became a toddler.
What is a toddler, the uninitiated may ask? The textbook definition is that a baby becomes a toddler when it starts learning to walk. My personal definition is that a baby become a toddler when its brain development starts to be massively outrun by its ability to cause itself grave physical harm.
Being the parent of a toddler is one long, constant exercise in triage. It’s not a matter of whether your child will injure itself. It will. Oh yes, it will. It’s a process of seeing what your kid is doing and saying “Oh, that will just result in her bruising herself and crying a lot. Carry on.” or “Hmm. That will result in a trip to the emergency room. I should step in now. Probably.”
It’s a worry, but the alternative is worse. Sure. You can keep the kid locked up in a room with every surface covered with foam and nothing but Nerf toys to play with and no food but gruel. But then it’ll just grow up to be a Nader voter.
Babies Are Upgraded From Dopey
For the last year, I have done the opposite of making friends by describing babies as “dopey”. I still stand by this term. It’s sort of an affectionately insulting term for the impenetrable shield of obliviousness that is the normal baby state of being.
Now that I have had some exposure to a “toddler”, I have decided that the term “dopey” no longer applies. My operative description for toddlers is “perversely stupid.”
When Cordelia climbs onto a couch, her primary method for getting down is throwing herself off head first. When this had the predictable bad effect, she refined the technique by throwing herself down head first, HARDER.
We took Cordelia to a party at a friend’s house. She kept herself busy by crawling into the kitchen, circling around all of the cabinets, and systematically licking every knob and handle.
Sometimes, she just smacks her head against hard things. I’m not sure how many times she has to do this before she realizes that it is a bad idea. I’ll let you know when she figures it out.
Based on the shit I got from my entire family for referring to babies by the somewhat negative but basically benign and defensible term “dopey”, I expect “perversely stupid” to not go over very well. I consider it my punishment for being one of the few voices for sanity and truth in a world gone mad.
Responsible Opposing Viewpoints Can Be Sent Care of This Station
My good lady wife has objected in very strong terms to the term “perversely stupid”. While I believe that this term is a very good way to let off steam while being forced to look after a creature single-mindedly set on its own destruction, my wife has urged me to change it. Plus, she threatened to hurt me.
Therefore, in the interest of domestic peace, I will refer to toddlers as “perversely stupid, but improving”.
Of course, this is somewhat awkward. Therefore, for brevity’s sake, I will abbreviate this to “perversely stupid”.
Down Stairs, Not Up Stairs
Cordelia now knows how to climb up stairs. She enjoys it. She alsodoes it well. Occasionally, when she gets stuck or confused, she deals with this by standing up straight and letting herself fall backwards. So, except for the bits where she tries to kill herself, she really has it together.
(Yes, yes. We never let her climb stairs without standing behind her every moment. Don’t be dense.)
However, while she can climb up stairs all right, her only technique for getting down them is flopping down face first and hoping it works out. This really bugs me, because it stripped away one of the few reassuring things about being a parent.
You see, when I am alone with Cordelia, I am always afraid I will get a heart attack or stroke or flaming embolism and keel over and die and she will be on her own. And then I know the first thing she will do is roll down the stairs.
The fall down the stairs thing is terrifying, but I could at least comfort myself by knowing that, if she survived her first journey downward, she would be stuck in the basement and largely OK. Sure, she’ll be crushing her fingers under the wheels of office chairs and chewing on power cords, but she’d sort of live.
But now she likes to climb stairs. And that means that, once she falls down them, she will immediately want to climb up them again. And then she will fall again. And this process will continue an INFINITE NUMBER OF TIMES.
I’m not sure how to deal with this. My current plan is that, when my heart burns out and I’m going down for the last time, I will try to land on Cordelia’s legs. This will trap her until help arrives.
Mommy Won the Parenting Battle
Cordelia said “Mommy” first. She almost never says “daddy.”
To my wife’s everlasting credit, she doesn’t gloat about this.
Though I imagine that, when I’m not in the room, she does some sort of “baby loves me more” Happy Dance.
“Isn’t That Sort of Cynical?”
Well, when looking at life, there are two things you should always remember.
First, in any activity involving two people, one of them is the “Winner” and the other one is the “Loser.” A business deal. A knife fight. Marriage. Sex. Always, one person is winning, and one person is losing.
Second, if you don’t know which one of you is the loser, then it’s YOU.
When Do We Have to Stop Laughing at the Baby?
In ages past, bored people would sit around and stare at a fire to help the time pass. These days, a baby can serve much the same purpose.
The other night, me, my wife, and a bunch of our friends were sitting around chatting and watching some babies bounce off each other.
(One of the best things about toddlers is watching them interact with each other. Toddlers are selfish in this utterly pure way that makes them deliciously baffled when confronted with others of their kind.)
Cordelia tried to walk, fell, and smacked herself on the head. She cried. The grown-ups made pitying noises. Mommy calmed her down. So far, so good.
Then Cordelia lied down on the floor. She carefully raised her head. Then she brought it down, face first, on the linoleum. Hard. Wham. So she started crying again. But this time, instead of pretending to be sympathetic, everyone laughed at our poor baby. I would be filled with rage at this casual disregard of my only child’s suffering, if it weren’t for the fact that it was pretty darn hilarious.
One of the reasons I hate parenting books is that, for all their bloviating about breast feeding and educational mobiles, they never cover the issues of real practical importance in a young parent’s life. For example, at what age do we have to stop laughing at our baby? Is there, in fact, an age when we have to stop laughing at our baby? And isn’t getting a whole bunch of people to stand in a circle around the baby and laugh at it a decent way to discourage negative behavior (like smashing her face against the floor unnecessarily)?
Hey, I’m just trying to be a good parent here. I’m not sure what your problem is.
Cordelia’s Other New Skill
My wife, the optimist, says that Cordelia has gained the ability to throw tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants.
I, on the other hand, see it as her losing her ability to do anything that isn’t throwing a tantrum.
Those First, Precious Baby Tantrums
When becoming a parent, it is customary to say “I won’t be like all the other parents. I am going to keep my house clean/raise a respectful child/fuck more than once every seven months/maintain my dignity.” And, of course, this never works out.
My primary parental goal, which I have been told I am sure to fail at, is to create a Baby Tantrum Movie Reel. I want to use our handy video camera to film dozens of Cordelia’s tantrums over the next few years and then edit them all into one massive, mind-bending, awe-inspiring monument to infant pique. It will be amazing to behold, and I’m sure Cordelia won’t mind its existence one teeny, tiny bit.
I have been warned that nothing stops a child from having a tantrum like being filmed. This saddens me, but if the worst thing that can happen is that my kid will stop screaming, I can live with that.
Fortunately, so far, the camera has done nothing to soothe Cordelia’s rage when we prevent her from doing her favoritest thing: fucking around with mommy’s precious and valuable computer. But at least we’re getting tons of great footage.