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The Story About the Toddler, Volume 9.

Cordelia, the toddler who cruel Fate placed in our care, is twenty-one months old. And she is still advancing, in all of the expected ways.

Toddlers develop differently than babies do. When I wrote about her as a baby, I did it weekly, because each week brought a new, revolutionary advancement in her ability to survive and function as a human being. One week, I dropped a little pillow on her face, and she just whined resentfully and struggled to breathe. The next week, she was able to push the pillow off her face. And that is a big advancement, so I wrote about it.

But the changes in toddlers, while still significant, don’t seem as big somehow. They’re evolutionary, not revolutionary. And they fall into two categories. Changes that make her more adorable, in the way that I can’t write about them without making myself vomit on the keyboard. And changes that make her more insanely irritating, until I want to drop her in front of a thrift store and 3 AM and let Mexican migrants pick her up for pennies on the dollar.

In the Cute Area

For example, Cordelia figured out, by watching daddy, how to blow her nose. She yanks Kleenex out of the box and blows her nose on them. She also blows her nose on pieces of bread. And daddy’s hand. This is Cute.

She has also figured out what a hat is. She picks up all sorts of objects, puts them on her head, and says “Hat!” She also takes handfuls of food, rubs it into her hair, and says “Hat!” This is Cute.

In reference to toddlers, I have found that “Cute” is another way of saying “Dumb”. For grown-ups, the word Cute is a tag that means “Sort of attractive, but not fuckable.” For babies, Cute means “A little smart, but in a really dumb way.”

But this makes me understand why so many allegedly funny things about babies focus on the cute things they say and do. The most reliable, fundamental sort of comedy, from the days of the ancient Greeks until now, is laughing at stupid people. And babies are dumb ALL THE TIME.

When they are dumb in an amusing way, we call it Cute.

And In the Annoying Area

Cordelia is extremely stubborn and single-minded. She also shows very little interest in whether her parents are with her or not. This means that, when we take her to playgrounds, she shows an astonishing and maddening desire to get as far away from us as possible. Which means she’s reached puberty at 21 months of age.

Is this supposed to happen? Is a 21 month old supposed to run fifty feet from her parent without even looking back, and then walk up to strangers and stare at them with her creepy little eyes? Do we have some sort of broken, suicidal baby? Is there anything we can do to give her stranger anxiety back?

Oh, and she no longer has screaming tantrums and hurls herself backwards onto the floor. She has tantrums where she screams, looks backwards, and carefully lowers herself onto the floor. It’s ADORABLE.

Parental Idiocy In the Guise of Concern and Affection

Parents of toddlers like to engage in idiotic one-upsmanship over how soon their children learn to count and say the alphabet. As if training your child by rote to say “onetwothreefour” in any way conveys understanding of the meaning of numbers. As if managing, through multiple wasted hours, to browbeat your two-year old into going “aaabeeseedee” when it barely even knows any words yet has achieved anything at all.

I’ve fallen into this trap. I admit it. For the last several weeks, I have dutifully dragged Cordelia through an alphabet book, pointing at the letters and saying what they are. She enjoyed it. And she was eager to get into the game. She will often sit with the book by herself, point at every letter in it, and say “Eeeee!” She also does this with random objects. She has indicated to me that a C is an A, a D is a K, and the permanently unsolved Rubik’s cube in her toybox is an N.

So she’s having fun. But letters are an abstraction of an abstraction. It is ludicrous to try and teach a child the building blocks of words, when she doesn’t yet have entirely down what a word is. So now I’m trying to teach her the words for everything in the house. I’m sure it’s annoying the crap out of her.

Speaking of which, I want to teach her the word “crap.” I think that would be adorable! Sure, it is, in some technical, only offend the grandparents kind of way, swearing. And yet, I feel I am allowed to teach Cordelia any word you can say on prime time television.

Why I Always Hesitate Slightly When Someone Tells Me How Cute My Child Is

Cordelia has started to occasionally run up to me, punch me on the leg, run away, and hide.

Does every parent have a moment when they suspect that their child might be a Bad Seed?

Along Similar Lines

Cordelia screams with fury when she sees me and her mother kissing. Interesting, at the age of 33, I react the same way when I see my parents kiss.

So. Life. Is It, In General, Worth It?

So I was thinking the other day about reasons to have children.

And this is a stupid activity. If there is any evidence that our ability to plan and reason is going to eventually knock us clean out of the evolutionary sweepstakes, it is that our ability to evaluate whether to breed and perpetuate ourselves makes us realize what a bad deal the process is.

Even just a few short decades ago, there was one simple, undeniable reason to have kids: “Ooh. I sure do like to fuck.” And you did, and a few years later you ended up with something you could train to haul sacks of oats. You had it because you had no choice, and then you put it to work.

This is what we refer to as the good old days.

But now birth control gives us the ability to have sex without fear. And a combination of child labor laws and their desire to move thousands of miles away from us at the nearest possible opportunity steal our ability to get any productive work out of them.

So stupid smart thinking people have to come up with actual reasons to have them. And, unfortunately, all reasons to have children are either delusional or selfish. Or, in the case of, “I want to give my child my values so it can make the world a better place,” both.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking. And here is my current best (if selfish) reason to have children:

Enthusiasm Is Contagious

Cordelia is obsessed with bubbles. She says it all the time to us. “Buh-bull.” She wants us to blow bubbles for her. And she wants to taste the soap mixture, as she seems to feel it is delicious.

So I blow bubbles for her, and not just because I don’t want her to scream. I blow bubbles because, it turns out, blowing bubbles is kind of fun. This surprises me because, just a month ago, I would have felt that enjoying blowing bubbles could only be entertaining in two circumstances. One, if you had at some point earlier in your life, spent a catastrophically long time without oxygen. Two, if it was part of some exotic trick by a Bangkok lady performer.

But I enjoy blowing bubbles right now. Why? Because Cordelia’s ecstatic enthusiasm is contagious. There is something about being around someone who gets wild enjoyment from asinine things, like kicking a ball, or having a towel on your face, or Halloween, that makes some of the enjoyment rub off. You get to see tiresome things with new eyes.

Of course, that is one possibility for why I enjoy blowing bubbles. The other possibility is that having children turns you into a retard. I am willing to grant that that may be the case. I may be simple now. But it’s a reasonably content sort of simple.


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