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The Story About the Toddler, Volume 2.

Cordelia, the fruit of half of my DNA and the sole vessel for carrying my hopes and dreams into a gruesome future, is fourteen months old now. She’s old enough now, I think, to grow a proper nose. She still has that little, piggy button nose that babies develop to keep it from being clipped off when the head squeezes through the vagina. It’s adorable and all, but enough. It’s time for her to grow the enormous honker that is her genetic birthright.

Toddlers have limitless energy. It is amazing and frightening. Sometimes, my wife Mariann and I drag Cordelia into our bed with us to have a nice, little family moment. My wife and I will lie there with the baby resting contentedly between us. Then we can all be still for a moment, taking a deep breath and savoring our family togetherness. Our daughter might decide to look up at us adoringly, but that’s not strictly necessary.

But this doesn’t work, because the kid won’t lie still for ONE GODDAMN SECOND. We can’t have our stupid happy family moment because we have to hold Cordelia down to keep her from flinging herself off the bed.

It makes me feel old. I might just want to lie on the couch like a bloated manatee, picking tortilla crumbs out of the folds of my pants and watching the war show on CNN, and Cordelia will spend hours bouncing around the room like a ping pong ball, picking up random objects, practicing screaming, climbing on furniture, and jumping off of it.

How many years does it take for them to learn to relax for a moment? Or, at least, to restrain their frenzy to non-injurious activities?

It is always this way with humans. The capability to do harm comes early, but the wisdom comes later. Much, much later.

Stumbling Aimlessly Into the Future

Toddlers have no long-term memory and almost no short-term memory. In particular, they are incapable of remembering pain they have suffered. They also have almost limitless curiosity and energy. And I believe these traits are the necessary prerequisites for learning to walk.

When a small human learns to walk, the process has three steps:

i. It learns to stand up unassisted.
ii. It takes a few steps.
iii. It learns to go around obstacles, step over things that would trip it, and avoid hard, pointy things.

The period of time that elapses between i. and ii. is very short. It takes forever to get from ii. to iii.

Whack! Thud! Plop! Ooof! Wham! Whaaaaahhh! Whack! Poke! Gouge!

When faced with an unexpected obstacle, Cordelia attempts to just sort of phase through it. She has not yet attained the sad but useful realization that objects are THERE, and that they can not merely be tunneled through by launching herself at them with sufficient sincerity, belief, and velocity. Fortunately, watching her try to burrow through my legs is always good for a laugh.

Is There Nothing Babies Are Good For?

I was finding for a short time that, since babies are helpless, their stomachs are very useful for warming cold hands.

The mother has informed me that this is not acceptable. And yet, I can not find one place in any parenting book that says you shouldn’t do it.

Her Toys Stare Into My Very Soul

Cordelia currently owns two toy phones that call her and tell her “I love you.”

How fucked up is that? What crazy, broken shell of a man designing toys at these companies thought that was a great idea? Was he raised in a box? Did he spend hours of his youth alone in a dark place, filthy, dressed in rags, clenching a rusty screwdriver to his chest and muttering “Yessss, Mister Screwy. I know you love me. Yessss .... Yesssss.” And he grew up and made toys to give cute little shut-ins the electronic validation he wanted but never got?

With the newer toy phone, when you push buttons on the keypad, the phone talks for a bit. Then, a few seconds later, just enough time for the toddler to get distracted and wander towards something that won’t use her emotionally, the phone rings and a voice says “I love you.”

It pisses me off. Girls don’t gain the ability to form proper relationships with plastic toys until they’re 16 or so.

I do not want Cordelia getting emotional reassurance from a cheesy, cheap, plastic phone. If she’s going to be loved by electronics, I want it to be by good, serious electronics. A Playstation 2. A computer. Those are the machines that should make you feel loved. If you care about being loved by a five buck piece of shit toy cell phone, well, then you’re just giving it away.

A Few Thoughts Regarding Cats

I have observed that an unusually large percentage of people I know who plan to never have children are cat owners. Some of them talk about their cats as if they were children. This makes sense.

Cats are extremely self-centered and self-absorbed. Like children. Cats will occasionally give you bits of affection to conceal the fact that they regard you as a slot machine that spits out food and toys. Like children. Cats are warm and soft and can sleep in your bed, but it’s hard to keep from sitting on them. Like children.

The advantages cats have over children, however, are considerable. If your child turns out to have cystic fibrosis, you are doomed to many years of grief and misery. If your cat has cystic fibrosis, you just put it to sleep. And if your child turns out to be overly selfish, obnoxious and irritating, you’re stuck with it, spending years trying to figure out what you did wrong. If your cat is overly selfish, obnoxious and irritating, you just put it to sleep.

Alas, it is too late for my wife and I to have cats instead of children. Fortunately, we can just raise Cordelia like a cat. She really likes drinking out of the little bowl and eating that nice crunchy food, so it’s working OK so far.

The Parent At a Party Voice

Have you ever seen this? You’re at a party where some parents brought their very young child. The child is crawling around on its own. The parents are trying desperately to make some human contact, engaged in pursuits ranging from discussing the political situation to checking out someone’s boobs. But then, suddenly, the kid needs to be changed or fed and starts to cry. The parents look at each other, both absolutely determined not to be the one who deals with it.

I love it when this happens, because then I get to hear people speak in the Parent At a Party Voice. Mommy and daddy have a brief, hostile conversation about who has to look after the kid this time. Their voices are choked with resentment and rage, but they have to choke it back because they’re in public, so the words come out in this dry, monotone song of mutual loathing.

The words may say “Honey, I changed the baby last time. It’s your turn,” but the tone of voice says “This is the first human contact I’ve had in months and I’ll be fucked if I’m going to let you pull me away from it and I would love nothing more than to reach down your throat and grab your soul and rip it out and cast it into Hell forever but I need you to help look after the baby the BABY the DAMN BABY!!!”

It cracks me up. I live for hearing that voice. Except, of course, for the odd time when I’m using it.

At the Risk of Sounding Repetitive, Another Big Problem With Having A Child Which One Should Bear In Mind

OK. So there’s a war on, and all these cable channels are bending over backwards to do their best to make it entertaining to me. It’s like the best reality show ever. They show tanks moving. Tanks sitting still. Buildings in Baghdad blowin’ up real good. Interviews with loving families with bad teeth. This is our new war, and they’re doing their best to make it totally kick ass.

But, since I had a kid, I just feel different about it. Hearing about blown-up kids just doesn’t give me the same surge of fist-pumpin’ adrenaline as it used to. And when I turn on the news and see an Iraqi two year old in the hospital or a marine doctor cradling a little girl whose mother just got shot, well, it just makes me feel like I got punched in the stomach. Some of those Iraqi babies have a more than passing resemblance to Cordelia, but with darker hair. That’s probably just a trick with Photoshop, but still.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not some big, fat, liberal pussy. I watch Fox News now, and I force Cordelia to too. Some of the fun of the war is coming back. But if you’re thinking of having a kid, you should watch out. It may make you uncomfortably emotional at just the times when you should be having fun.

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