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My Baby Can Beat Up Your Baby

The Squirrelly is shaping up to be quite the bruiser. At seventeen months he stands a head taller than most toddlers his age and has already wearing the largest size in infant footware. Upon meeting him for the first time and observing the discrepancy between his physical and behavioral development, many people understandably assume that he is a retarded three year old.

There's no way to know if this trend will continue. But, if it does, and he winds up a hulk compared to his elementary school classmates, it will be incumbant upon me to teach my son the fine art of not being a bully.

Alas, this may prove to be a problem, as I have no expertise in this area. Which isn't to say that I was bully in school -- far from it. It's just that bullying was never viable career path for a child of my stature, so I never had to grapple with any ethical quandries when opting not to pursue it. Indeed, any sentences describing my childhood years that contained the verb "bullied" was infinitely more likely to feature my name as the direct object rather than the subject.

So I'm not really sure how to go about imparting the whole "with great power comes great responsibility" message, and I'm often afraid that I am inadvertently teaching him the wrong thing. Take the other day in music class, for instance. All the parents were sitting in a circle with their toddlers on their laps, and the instructor was clapping her hands in assorted rhythms. Most of the other children were clapping along, but The Squirrelly was just looking at the other kids with curiosity. So I gently took hold of his wrists and brought his hands together repeatedly in time with the beat.

After about a minute of doing this, I glanced down and noticed that The Squirrelly wasn't exactly clapping; while his left hand was flat, he had the fingers of his right hand curled into a ball.

So there he was, looking at each of the smaller children in turn and ominously punching the fist of one hand into the palm of the other.

Posted on August 03, 2005 to The Squirrelly


As the father of a similar child, I feel your concern. My boy stands 48 inches tall at five years of age...

I'll let you know how it goes as kindergarten begins in four weeks or so. One thing we have noticed from pre-school is that he thinks other kids are just smaller versions of Dad and wants to wrestle with them. They usually lose. It doesn't seem to be out of malice though; he's just playing. We've tried to explain the physics of mass and velocity and well, now we just say "Don't because I said so".

Posted by: Chris Hansen on August 4, 2005 10:58 PM

I don't like where this is going... at almost 7 months, my daughter is taller than a lot of 9 and 10 month year old kids. I'm 6'4", so that's not surprising, but still... she's also the first of her little friends to learn to sit up, and has a lot of mobility because of it.

As much as I want to raise all my kid not to care about gender roles, maybe teaching her to be the nuturing motherly type is a good preemptive measure... I remember my tomboy-ish younger sister flinging the boys into walls, etc. and shudder... :)

Posted by: cam c. on August 4, 2005 11:16 PM

"There can be only one."


Posted by: JohnTomato on August 5, 2005 3:14 AM

Just have four more, and then start your own basketball team.

Posted by: Michelle K on August 5, 2005 6:16 AM

Having 4 more wouldn't stop the bullying problem, believe me. I have 3.8 kids right now, with the 3 "not still in the womb" ones all being boys. And watching them play with other kids is sort of like watching a game of Katamari Damacy. You get this mass of kids rolling around on the ground and then as they get near other kids, the others just get sort of "absorbed" into the mass.

Posted by: Skane on August 5, 2005 6:52 AM

I wouldn't worry too much, most of the bullies I experienced and saw bully were the shorter kids. They followed this basic formula: get buffed-up - wide instead of tall, get a crew to back them up, and then let the taunting and threatening begin...

Perhaps you should let the Squirrely watch the movie "My Bodyguard" several times (Adam Baldwin of "Firefly" protects the bullied from bully Matt Dillon). This may give him some ideas about how to use his potential brawn for good instead of evil.

Posted by: Russell on August 5, 2005 6:58 AM

I am am right there, too. My elder kid (4) is average height and extremely slight, like his father. He's also bossy, logical beyond belief, and very serious.

But. The 2.5-year-old. People have asked me if they're twins. The younger has been bigger than the older for at least a year. Kid is solid. Thankfully, it looks like he has a gentle giant kind of thing going on because he is slow to anger and would rather joke than fight.

I'm still looking forward to the day the younger *realizes* he is bigger than the older and he can DO something about all the bossiness going on. Probably not something a woman should be anticipating with giggling, but, oh, well.

Posted by: Amethyst on August 5, 2005 7:13 AM

My (now adult) brother is 6'3" and he was huge as a kid, and he was never a bully, even though he was bigger than all the football players in his high school. All it meant is that the bullies didn't bully him--he was never thrown into a trash can as a freshman, for example. So I think it's probably going to be okay.

Posted by: ALG on August 5, 2005 8:02 AM

At 15 weeks old, Sam is the size of an average eight-month-old, so I understand your concerns. I don't share them, though. As a former class runt all the way through grade school, I plan to use my son's superior size to finally deal with my unresolved issues. Those other kids had better watch out.

Posted by: Doppelganger on August 5, 2005 9:45 AM

From the book "Gestures: The DO's and TABOOs of Body Language Around the World" by Roger E. Axtell, in regards to The Squirrelly's hand gestures in music class:


As a final demonstration of just how casual, innocent gestures in one society can actually be crude and insulting in another, imagine this scene:

You are standing on a street corner, hands free of bundles or briefcases, whiling away the time in a free and happy mood. You swing your arms a bit, and casually smack the fist of one hand into the palm of the other. If you happen to be in places like Chile or France, you have just flashed to all those around you the equivalent of "Up Yours!"


Maybe, instead of being a threatening gesture to all of the other little music students, he was putting you on notice for what his teenage rebellion years are going to be like?

Posted by: C. on August 5, 2005 10:14 AM

How do we pair up the combatants? Weight? Age? Gender?

My daughter (also 17 mos.) is at the 50% percentile for both height and weight. However, she has an exceptionally large (off the chart) and solid head (inherited from yours truly) which she wields with remarkable force. Opponents don't typically anticipate use of the head as a bludgeon, thus adding an element of surprise.

Might make for an interesting match.

Posted by: David on August 5, 2005 10:34 AM

There was one big kid at my daughter's preschool. He wasn't really a bully, but so massive that if he just *brushed* one of the littler kids while careening about the yard, that kid was flat on his or her back and probably working up to a good yowl.

The problem is that, until your little Samson or Samsonette is about 5, there will be no comprehension of things like "with great power comes great responsibility" or even, on a more basic level, "my shove caused that fall."

I think probably preschool classes ought to be sorted by weight and height, as well as age. Squirrelly would just go to a Division I preschool, with all the other future middle linemen.

Posted by: Carny Asada on August 5, 2005 4:21 PM

Note to self: Don't take a drink as you're reading Defective Yeti. Lines about people thinking child is a retarded three year-old may come up and moitor may be sprayed with said drink.

Posted by: Bee on August 5, 2005 6:03 PM

Hmm, I still think it's a little early to bust out the belt.

Posted by: Mike Steinbaugh on August 5, 2005 10:06 PM

Somehow, an asskicker with the nickname Squirrelly just isn't too fearsome. But the image of a toddler smacking his fist into his palm with evil intent is what keeps me coming back to the Yeti.

Posted by: Davey on August 6, 2005 7:06 AM

My kid is way over the 100th percentile on the growth chart and at 11 months when he stands up he looks like he should be running around with the two year olds. That would be if he could stand up. Or even crawl. I call him retarded all the time, but people get mad when I do that.

Posted by: Mainline Mom on August 6, 2005 4:14 PM

At the park today I was immediately reminded of your post. There were about a dozen kids there ages 1.5 to 3 and I'm telling you, it's eerie how quickly you can pick out the bullies. They just have their face set a certain way, the eyes narrow just so and it seems to have little to do with size.

It does seem to have at least a haphazard relationship to parenting though. These kids' parents either don't pay attention (some of them on purpose - they see their kids shove and then look away) or act like it's cute and funny when their little munchkin clotheslines my kid.

I don't know you but you don't seem like the type to be like this. That, and we've let the ball-popper parent our son as well and it's an excellent role model.

Posted by: LizRM on August 7, 2005 9:21 PM

Introduce the Squirrelly to Spiderman comics early on. That way, hopefully the "with great power comes great responsibility" credo will imprint on him. Either that, or he'll end up working in a comic book shop, living in his parent's basement, never kissing a girl and spending all his cash on Star Trek conventions.

Posted by: Renaissance Runner on August 8, 2005 11:09 AM

Most of our 6 year olds class mates don't reach his shoulders. He has always been tall as a result no one has ever given him a hard time.

He is an incredibly gentle sensitive soul, I think part of that comes from not having to fight for playground respect.

The only playground incident he has been involved in was stopping a friend being bullied.

Posted by: Maree on August 9, 2005 5:19 AM

FWIW my son, who is 5 months old, is already wearing clothes for in the 18-month range, and he's just over 20 pounds. According to this:


He's in the 95% of his age. Bring it! ;)

Posted by: Jason Bock on August 16, 2005 1:09 PM