The Story About the Toddler, Volume 20.

In this, our daughter Cordelia’s thirty-third month of life, she changed in several dramatic ways. Since children tend to be rather tedious and slow developing around this age, my wife Mariann and I were very happy to have something to arouse our interest.

Cordelia is now pretty much toilet trained. It just sort of happened. She started using the toilet properly. We stopped putting diapers on her. Sometimes she has accidents, and we heap shame and disgrace on her in the way the books say you shouldn’t. The authors of those books have achieved some sort of pure, utterly peaceful zen state where someone pissing on their nice leather couch doesn’t bother them, but we haven’t.

Of course, like all supposedly helpful advancements a child can make, Cordelia’s toilet training is actually more inconvenient for us. Before, when we were shopping or out for a nice walk, if Cordelia needed to use the bathroom, we just let her blissfully soil herself. Now we have to use some of our precious and irreplaceable time finding a toilet. And if it sounds like I’m just whining here, let me assure you that asking for potty trips when she doesn’t have to go is currently Cordelia’s favorite form of entertainment.

Also, now that Cordelia doesn’t need diapers, she is free to constantly run around the house without pants. If our friends knew how many of the surfaces in our home had baby ass rubbed against them, what few of them there are would soon drift away.

Plus, Cordelia has figured out how to open doors. My goal of getting through the parenting experience without ever having my daughter watch me take a shit just got a bit more difficult.

Her behavior this month was surprisingly good. More agreeable. Better sleeping. Less psycho tantrums. Which makes it sort of poignant that this is the month we abandoned her longer than ever before.

The Ultimate In Detachment Parenting

If you believe the Sears series of books on attachment parenting (and God help you if you do), you know that the ultimate goal of parenting is to maintain Attachment Bonds with your child. These invisible, silver strands bind you to your child, much like the rainbow of saliva binds your lips to the spitting bowl in the dentist’s office.

You build these bonds by always carrying your child around in a sling and having it sleep in your bed and never leaving the house. They guarantee that you will have with your child a relationship of security and love, and that nothing will ever go wrong ever, and when the kid is a teen it won’t be messed up at all. Honestly.

And these bonds also keep you from, say, leaving the child and going away on vacation for a week.

Speaking of which, Mariann and I went away for a week.

In an event which earned us the envy and loathing of every parent we know, Cordelia’s grandparents offered to park their RV in our driveway and babysit her for a week. While they enacted this Ironman Plan of hardcore spoiling and overindulgence, Mariann and I were free to go away. Far, far away.

So we went to Amsterdam. Anywhere on this continent would, frankly, have been too close.

From the point of view of someone into Attachment Parenting, it is three years into Cordelia’s life, and Mariann and I have already failed as parents. Well think what you want. We were off to Europe, LOSERS!!!

A Brief Guide To Amsterdam

Basically, some hardworking, industrious, attractive Dutch people (there are no other kind) saw this swamp. And they said, “Hey, let’s build a city there. There’s no land anywhere else.” Then they sat around and smoked a lot of weed. Then they constructed an elaborate network of canals, dykes, and walls made of tulip bulbs. Then they took the resulting seventeen square feet of land and they built a city on it with the most vertical, homicidal stairways known to man.

It’s a small city, and cramped. But it seemed bigger at the time, because they were all tripping out of their minds on hallucinogenic mushrooms.

For new parents, who have had all freedom, wildness, and adventure stripped from their lives, Amsterdam is the best place in the world to visit. Nothing is illegal there. All the cafes sell pot. Shops sell magic mushrooms. Attractive, prostitutes sit in large windows, winking at you as you walk by. Live sex shows are well-advertised and reasonably priced. You can see homeless people fight to the death in the City Hall basement on the second Tuesday of every month. Feral bears roam the alleyways, and you can have one killed for you for a nickel. Healthy, fresh children of all races learn to work and play and sing and hug together, and you can buy them at the flea markets, reasonable prices, no questions asked.

Truly, it is God’s country.

Meanwhile, Back In the States

Cordelia only asked for us two, maybe three, times a day. If there was ever a testimonial to the mediocrity of our parenting, this is it.

More On the Freeness of Amsterdam

Even the pleasant, sedate, non-touristy areas are infected with Amsterdam’s pervasive naughtiness. Even the Sunday organic market, full of wild mushrooms and gigantic rounds of cheese, was not complete without the table selling DVDs of hardcore pornography.

This is an actual conversation I had with a creepy, hairy, Eastern European guy (CHEEG, for short):

CHEEG: “You! What you want?”
Me: “Oh, I don’t know. This is all OK, I guess, but I was looking for something a little hardcore.”
CHEEG: “Here! Young college girl. Takes on big group of longshoremen. Very nice.”
Me: “Yes. I see. That’s all right, I guess. But I really wanted something, you know, hardcore.”
CHEEG: “How about this. Romanian girl. Young. Takes it every different way.”
Me: “What do you mean, every different way?”
CHEEG: “Look at this.”
Me: “Gyaaahhhhh!”
CHEEG: “See?”
Me: “Wow. That’s neat. But still. I wanted something really … well … hardcore. You know? Hardcore?”
CHEEG: “How about this one? It has the coelacanth.”
Me: “Coelacanth? You mean …”
CHEEG: “Yes. Prehistoric fish thought to be extinct. Only discovered in twentieth century. Living fossil of time when Earth was young. Very nasty.
Takes it many ways. Very hardcore.”
Me: “OK. I’ll take a three-pack of those.”

(Week later, late at night, by myself.)

Me: “MAN! That coelacanth is NASTY!”

Meanwhile, Back In the States

My parents are systematically undoing all the years of work we spent getting Cordelia to go to bed at roughly one time and wake up at roughly another time.

Futile Attempts To Reclaim Our Lost Youth

The food in Amsterdam is excellent. They have great pastries and great cheese. And great traditional Dutch food, like pickled herring, and pancakes, and Schluffengruvvven.

(Schluffengruvvven is a rare and succulent Dutch delicacy. To make it, you take one veal calf, and try to stuff it inside another veal calf of roughly the same size. Then you take the wreckage and boil it for about seventeen hours. Then you cut off all of the least gray bits. And all of the most gray bits. And you put them on a platter. You serve it with a sauce made of cream, heavy cream, buttermilk, and Mentos. We found this lovely place in Amsterdam that made their Schluffengruvvven almost perfectly mucilaginous.)

But Amsterdam is really known for its marijuana. Or, as the kids call it, wacky tobaccy. And, since neither my wife nor I had ever tried it before, we figured that this was a good time. Since we became parents, we’ve had very few opportunities to try to be cool.

First, we tried smoking it. Now, in movies, when someone smokes the first time, they go into a huge, embarrassing fit of coughing. We didn’t. We inhaled, and we had the expected pleasant feeling. However, it turns out that inhaling smoke made our throats burn and hurt like hell. This really did a lot to counter the fun we were trying to have. So it didn’t work.

So we tried hash brownies. It is possible for one to look at a hash brownie and think, “Oh, I don’t want to smoke, because smoking is yucky. So I will eat the brownie instead. It is basically the same thing.” THIS IS NOT THE CASE!!!

In my case, the brownie created an hour’s worth of mild pleasant feelings, following by horrible nausea, followed by passing out for several minutes. When I came to, I could feel the inside of my ears sweating. At this point, I had the advertised pleasant feelings.

My wife, on the other hand, simply vomited and felt miserable for hours. I just wanted to giggle, eat, and stare at lights, but I had to be all caring and solicitous. This was, in the most literal sense of the word, a buzzkill.

Long story short, our bodies strongly resisted the fun we were trying to have. Nothing creates a grim awareness of your own maturity and mortality more than realizing that you are just not cool enough for marijuana.

Meanwhile, Back In the States

My parents were noting the time, date, and physical characteristics of every bowel movement Cordelia had, and E-mailing me about every one. I thought that was anal enough. (No pun intended.)

Then, when I get home, I find that they were also recording this information on our calendar.

I cannot imagine what they were trying to accomplish with this bit of record keeping. And I am not going to ask them, because I am afraid that they would tell me.

Amsterdam, Plus a Bonus.

In addition to Amsterdam, we spent 3 days in Belgium.

While Belgium has good beer and chocolate, there were no shops for the convenient purchase of drugs. And, while I am told that Belgium has prostitutes, none of them were right near me.

FUCK Belgium!!!

Meanwhile, Back In the States

Cordelia actually managed to goad my parents into disciplining her. After a week of putting up with God knows what behavior, they finally gave her a time-out. Turns out she was amusing herself by throwing things at my dad’s head.

I wonder what Cordelia would have to do to actually get them angry. I hope they stop her before she commits actual murder, because two year olds can be tried as adults in Texas.

And Then It Was Over

One long day of travel, one pick-up from the airport, several hateful looks from other, more trapped parents on our block, and it was over. We were back home and forced to be parents again. And, as I understand it, we will never be free again.

Meanwhile, In Cordelia’s Brain

While we were gone, my parents got Cordelia addicted to the popular animated film Finding Nemo. After our little girl’s placid diet of Elmo, Teletubbies, and only the most sedate of anime, this adrenaline packed, non-stop action/terror combo was like a jolt of electricity straight to her spine. In a good way.

For those unfamiliar, here is the outline of this movie. It’s about talking fish. There’s this clown fish named Marlin and his wise wife, who have just moved into this lovely hole in the ground and laid many eggs, which they love very much. Then, of course, an evil eel swims up and slaughters the mother and all of the eggs but one. This egg hatches a baby fish, named Nemo.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Nemo has a crippled fin. Because, apparently, that is the price one must pay to survive.

So, haunted by this legacy of trauma and loss, these two shattered souls move somewhere else. Marlin grew very protective of Nemo, what with him having seen his whole family butchered and all. Then, on Nemo’s first day of school, he is kidnapped and taken away by humans, in a scene that is not the least bit upsetting. Then Marlin must go on a long series of painful and degrading adventures to get his son back.

The moral of the story was that Marlin was too paranoid and needed to learn to relax. Though I feel that every single moment of the movie showed that Marlin’s view of the world was spot on.

Since this movie is very stressful and disturbing, Cordelia loves it. She begs for it. It scares the shit out of her. She runs and hides and screams and angrily throws her pacifiers at the TV. And then, when it’s done, she begs to see it again.

So anyway, to wean her off Finding Nemo, we’re showing Cordelia DVDs that are less violent and disturbing. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Dawn of the Dead. This DVD of bums fighting. That sort of thing.

Why I Am Not Overreacting About This

Cordelia is almost three. That means she is not completely stupid. She saw Nemo had a mommy. Then the mommy was gone. And she was certainly bright enough to ask me and Mariann where the mommy went.

So I’m having to have lots of conversations like this:

Cordelia: “Where the mommy go?”
Me: “The mommy was murdered, honey.”
Cordelia: “She got murdered?”
Me: “Oh, yes. We all get murdered eventually.” 
Cordelia: “We all do?”
Me: “Yes. Though sometimes we die by getting sick. Then we say that we got murdered by God.”
Cordelia: “I don’t wanna get murdered.”
Me: “Oh, I’m sorry honey. I misspoke. I meant everyone gets murdered but you. Nothing bad will ever happen to you. Oooh … let’s watch the movie! This is the part where Nemo’s daddy gets horribly burned by jellyfish.”

It sure puts things in perspective. Sure, Barney is nauseating, treacly drivel. But you don’t have to watch whole families get wiped out. That sort of hardcore, real-life, G-rated stuff can wait until she is four.