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The Story About the Toddler, Volume 10.

Now our daughter Cordelia is 23 months old and getting close to her second birthday. She will soon be the age at which I once thought babies started showing human characteristics. I grew up with almost no exposure to infants. I always knew that babies were inert lumps before their first birthdays and freaked-out, infuriating, little psychos after their second birthday, but I never really gave any thought to the time between those two milestones.

I guess I always thought that one-year olds were like larger infants. Heavier lumps, producing more crap and drool, who suddenly one day opened their eyes wide and said, “Hello, father. I am ready for you to raise me now. And where the fuck is my XBox?”

This doesn’t happen. Instead, the development of actual humanity is a long, slow process, taking place in an infinity of tiny, nearly invisible steps which parents think non-parents will find interesting.

For example, this month, Cordelia began to spend long amounts of time alone amusing herself. She started to fly into a rage when someone tried to help her do something she was trying to figure out on her own. And she began to turn on the Nintendo every chance she got. These three things provide more strong evidence that she is actually my daughter.

She has also picked up the unfortunate toddler habit of punching people when she gets angry. This is bad. Fortunately, merely saying “No!” to her in a loud voice is enough to cause her to instantly collapse and shed tears of remorse. I am enjoying having this power over her, in moderation. I suspect that I will never again be able to so easily subdue her. Or anyone, for that matter.

Experiencing Halloween. Us, Not Her.

Recently, I thought that one advantage of having children is that you get to see things again through new eyes. Things that might have seemed asinine or dull before, like blowing bubbles, become fun again. I suspected, however, that this might just be because having a child makes you retarded.

Halloween made me realize that the second theory is true.

We took our toddler trick or treating for the first time. And, since Cordelia was only 22 months old and could not possibly comprehend what was going on, that meant that, basically, my wife and I went trick or treating for the first time in decades. We used our daughter as a badge of legitimacy. We would drag her up to the door, wave her at the adults, and collect the candy for later consumption by us.

Cordelia did participate. When she realized she was able to grab and take away the objects in the bowls held out to her, she acted as any person whose mental and physical capabilities far outpaced her moral sense would. She grabbed as much candy as she could and howled in anger when we dragged her away.

And then, when we got home, my wife and I gobbled down all her candy, while she stared uncomprehendingly. This is really the only year we will be able to steal all of our child’s candy without complaint, and we took it. The alternative was letting a two-year old eat five pounds of sugar. This would have been hilarious, but a little irresponsible.

Of course, the people who got the most out of it were the adults in the houses. They thought Cordelia was adorable. One household was playing host to an elderly couple visiting from Norway. They were fascinated by the custom of trick-or-treating and insisted we come inside to be questioned and photographed. I can only imagine how they describe the event when they get home:

“You can’t imagine! It was just like everyone said!”
“Yes! They send their children out after dark to beg for food.”
“But Inge, have they no dignity?”
“Look at this pictures. This is what happens without Socialism!”
“We should send these pictures to our fine Norwegian investigative
“Maybe the next night they send their children out to beg for affordable health care!”

Also, one woman was giving out raisins and string cheese. What the fuck? It made me wish Cordelia was old enough to throw eggs.

Things It Is Important To Get Out Of Your System In-between When Your Child Loves the Teletubbies and When She Can Understand What You Are Saying

“Remember, you grab the Teletubby around the chest and shake it until its spine snaps. Then you can feed.”
“No, honey. Teletubbies aren’t really raised for their meat. They’re raised for their fur. What do you think Barney costumes are made of?”

Unnecessary Additional Suffering

Cordelia was watching Elmo on Sesame Street. I was reclined on the couch, trying to compose my own private thoughts.

Then, when I had finally managed to block out Elmo’s shrill, condescending voice, the Backstreet Boys came on and started singing to him.

Watching Elmo be joined by the Backstreet Boys is like having the person who is repeatedly kicking you in the balls suddenly say, “Oh. I’m sorry. I forgot to set you on fire first.”

Toddlers Get To Do All the Fun Things

Cordelia has developed another habit. When a song starts during Sesame Street and her mother or I sing along, she flies into a rage. She will scream, throw objects, try to put her hands over our mouths and, if necessary, physically attack us.

I envy her so much. There have been so many times when I wanted to do this. Singing along to musicals is savage, brutish behavior, the sign of being no more than a mere beast. The only worse crime is quoting along with The Princess Bride, which should be punished with immediate tear-gassing.

Singing along with musicals makes a person low and base, no better than a dirty Rocky Horror fan. It is true. Children do have much to teach us.

Cordelia’s Vocabulary Update

Though she knows many words by now, here are the ones that occur most often in her little vocabulary of incoherency:

“Uh oh.”

Note the lack of actual words.

Facing her crushing, incoherent subliteracy is made more difficult by the fact that I am completely responsible. I am working hard to purge the words “dunno”, “yeah”, and “gonna” from my vocabulary. I have no problem with her saying “fuck”, but if she becomes one of those kids who says “like” three times in every sentence, I’m takin’ her out.

Forcing Socialization With An Iron Fist

Other people have such friendly children.

So the family is in Target, looking for some bracket or something I can use to keep Cordelia from pulling a bookshelf down on herself, thus doing irreparable damage to both her and my old Dungeons and Dragons modules. Some guy’s toddler girl runs up to Cordelia and says “Hi!”

Cordelia is a large baby. She looks like she has already devoured two smaller babies. This sucks, because it makes her look older than she is. Combine this with a lack of coherence and social skills appropriate to her age, and you get a situation where everyone we meet on the street thinks she is developmentally challenged.

Anyway, this girl approaches Cordelia, her dad following close behind. The girl is both older and smaller than Cordelia. She says “Hi!” points her finger right in Cordelia’s face, and says “Baby!” And Cordelia, as always, can’t decide whether to ignore this little nit, hit her, or eat her.

I should also mention that this other baby is frighteningly ugly. Hideous enough to make me suspect that the reason for her approach is to vampirically leech off some of Cordelia’s cuteness. Because she sure didn’t get any attractive features from the middle-aged lump of semi-manhood lumbering up behind her. It looked like all of the nutrients she was supposedly absorbing to grow large and get hair went instead to giving her this enormous, angular skull.

Anyway, his kid points at my kid and chatters, and Cordelia looks desperately uncomfortable and like she was wishing she was far, far away. Which is pretty much how I react to strangers. I, in general, hate people.

This is why I have resolved to give my daughter more opportunities to be around people her age. Not because I want her to keep from being bored and annoyed by most people. I’m fine with that. But because she shouldn’t dislike them until she learns the many good, valid reasons why she should dislike them. Just starting out innately loathing them seems like cheating, somehow.

Finally, the dad grabs his little troglodyte and drags her away. Before he goes, though, he looked at Cordelia’s pacifier and said, “My daughter never used one of those.” It is greatly to my credit that I kept from saying, “Perhaps you should have. It would have covered up some of her face.”

So We Are Beginning Socialization

We are now repeatedly exposing Cordelia to two other small children, the offspring of our friends. One is a little girl, slightly older, shy, and retiring. Cordelia takes her things, eats her food, and just generally steamrolls over her. The other is a boy about a year older, old enough to crush toddlers at will and not old enough to understand how bone-stupid they are. Cordelia occasionally gets flattened by him.

Between the two, Cordelia is learning the two most important lessons for dealing with other humans:

i. Crush the weak.
ii. Submit to the strong.

Somehow, I think she’s going to be all right.

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