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The Trouble With Toddlers


Gone Fishin

In the months before The Squirrelly was born, The Queen and I had many discussion about whether we would prefer a boy or a girl, and, in the end, we decided that it didn't really matter. But I can tell you one thing: if we'd been given a choice, we certainly wouldn't have opted for a two year old. And I'm not just saying that because giving birth to a 30 lb. toddler would have made The Queen even crankier in the weeks following the delivery.

No, the problem with toddlers is that they are actual human beings. Unlike, say, infants. Infants share genetic material with the rest of our species, but that pretty much where the similarities end. You can't reason with them. You can't fathom their moods and desires. They have no memory or bowel control or sense of decorum*. They don't even enjoy watching Arrested Development, for crying out loud -- their idea of a good time is looking at a black square on a page. They pretty much exhibit none of the essential characteristics of humanity, aside from the farting. On the spectrum from "Pet" to "Person," babies are much closer to your average box turtle than they are to you and I.

But that was okay by The Queen and I -- we're not crazy about people anyway. We get along famously with our cats, though, so adding another critter to the litter suited us just fine.

But there's a big different between cats and kids, we soon discovered: cats become increasingly inert as they get older, while infants start crawling, and start walking, and start running, and start climbing, and start demanding that you play the "Best of Harry Belafonte" CD four times in a row. And one day you realize that nature has stealthily insinuated a little human into your lives. You start out with an infant, you wind up with a housemate.

So, long story short, now we got this thing crashing' around our household:

Under The Boardwalk

Oh, well. If we had been given the opportunity to pick out our own toddler (out of a police lineup, perhaps), we couldn't have selected a better one than the one we got.

Of course just because we like the little guy doesn't mean we couldn't stand two hours less of him every day. Sadly, this has not been the case since April, when, in the throes of a one-fortieth-of-the-way-through-life crisis, The Squirrelly a abruptly realized that Every Moment Counts and decided to stop squandering his precious time on naps. So now he's a 9 to 5 job -- except it's closer to "7 to 7" job, and you don't get a lunch break (unless downing a few bourbon shots while he eats his noontime chicken nuggets qualifies as "lunch"). The upside is that he goes to bed at night pretty reliably, though he has made it clear that he does so by choice and not necessity. Once, about a month ago, we put him down for the evening, settled on the couch, and started watching a DVD; "Hiya!" The Squirrelly said 10 minutes later, as he gamboled into the living room, having climbed out him crib and opened his door to his room. He hasn't done that again since, but he probably figures he doesn't need to. Just the knowledge that he can is enough to make us live in fear.

So what does The Squirrelly do with his boundless energy? Well, he enjoys the pool, for one.

Water Nymphs

We have him enrolled in swimming lessons for children under three, and man oh man does he ever love them. I think the allure of swimming is that we basically encourage him to do all the things we usually frown upon. "Kick!" The Queen yells from the sidelines, as I lead him around the pool, "for the love of all that's holy, kick your feet!" And then, 30 minutes later in the pool's lockerroom, he's doing the same thing as I try and get a diaper on him, and I'm growling "you seriously need to stop that" and he's all, like, "okay, look: you and mom need to call an executive meeting and get your story straight on this whole kicking issue, because I'm getting nothing but mixed messages here." Additional (and otherwise verboten) activities he gets to engage in while at the pool include flailing his arms with a ferocity rarely seen outside Animal from The Muppet Show, and leaping off walls into a 5 ft. deep concrete pit (albeit a pit filled with a fluid mixture consisting of 4 parts water, 1 part chlorine, and 2 parts toddler urine).

He's also way into spelling these days:

Future Spelling Bee Champion

So far he's got "mama," "kitty," and "duck" down pat, so he's already well on his way to "chiaroscurist" and "staphylococci." Which is good because his winning the National Spelling Bee when he's 11 is pretty much our current plan for funding his college education.

Or I guess we could just invest the money we're saving on groceries. About a month ago The Squirrelly apparently became epiphytic, because he no longer eats food and, we can only presume, now absorbs nutrients directly from the atmosphere. His boundless reservoirs of energy also have us convinced that he is photosynthesizing as well. Even though I married a botanist I never imagined I'd wind up with the Swamp Thing as a son.

Dinner guest  Swing  Time For A Book

* Well, okay: in this respect they aren't that dissimilar from myself ...
Posted on June 21, 2006 to The Squirrelly


Ah! That sounds tough! How has he best been able to contribute to the website, by typing or setting up the photos? I've got about 8 months until we get our little one on the payroll.

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on June 21, 2006 8:54 AM

Just wait until 3. The father-in-law tells us 47 times each visit that "3-4 is the new terrible two's" and compounding the pain is that he's right.

However, when the little one says out of nowhere "Daddy, you're the best man I ever knowed" - gold. When she hears Marvin Gaye singing "Let's Get it On" and shouts "Get On It!" over and over while dancing (which, when you think about it, is pretty much what Marvin was getting at) - gold.

Posted by: Condalmo on June 21, 2006 9:20 AM

He's such a little boy now! He's just so cute!!

Posted by: Anita on June 21, 2006 10:44 AM

the coolest is when you are driving along in the car...and lets say a green day song come on...and you look in yr rearview mirror and your 3 yr old daughter is nodding her head in time with the song....now that is good parenting

Posted by: shawn on June 21, 2006 10:48 AM

Typical exchange with Other Parent:
Her: I hate people
Me: Let's make more!

Oh, yeah, 2 was easy. Now we have boundless energy plus experiments in malice:

C: I hit you! Are you ouchie?
Me: ...
C: I hit [experimental subject A]! He cried! Are you sad? Or tired? Are you happy? I have a pointy chin! [ad-lib to fade...]

Posted by: jeremy on June 21, 2006 11:49 AM

Um... stash that food away for when he is nine. Trust me, he'll be eating then. Everything that isn't nailed down... and attempting to pry with his pointy incisors what is. Repeat after me: "NO! You may not eat again. You just ate two tacos, an apple, carrots, juice, and a side of cow. DRINK WATER." Practice, practice, practice. :)

Posted by: Wende on June 21, 2006 12:05 PM

Typical exchange with Other Parent:
Her: I hate people
Me: Let's make more!

Oh, yeah, 2 was easy. Now we have boundless energy plus experiments in malice:

C: I hit you! Are you ouchie?
Me: ...
C: I hit [experimental subject A]! He cried! Are you sad? Or tired? Are you happy? I have a pointy chin! [ad-lib to fade...]

Excuse me, am I married to you? These scenarios sound awfully familiar.

Posted by: journeywoman on June 21, 2006 1:29 PM

You think it was tough having an actual human
being invade your house? One day, not long
from now, an ADOLESCENT will invade! Then a

If you're lucky you'll have a lot of joy ('cause
he's / they're so much fun) and a lot of heartache
(because the fun is about to end, when he/they

I wish you all that.

Posted by: collin on June 21, 2006 1:48 PM

MATT! WAKE UP! You have not got a toddler. You have got a gamer. Forget Cat and Mama, get him to show you that 6 green cubes is better than two red cubes, so he gets the 8 points and you only get 4. Then you'll have something to write about.

You have till August.

Posted by: jon on June 21, 2006 3:15 PM

He's only two and he's spelling? Dang.

Posted by: brittney on June 21, 2006 4:33 PM

Also impressed with the spelling. And the cuteness. And the ability to survive without food.

Are you sure he isn't a Zogg?


Posted by: ozma on June 21, 2006 7:21 PM

Dude, it's seriously time to do the potty training. There are the difficult ways (numerous), and The Easy Way, courtesy of John Rosemond.

1. Get a potty and put it in the room where he spends the most time.
2. Teach him how to use it.
3. Dress him without diapers or pants (this young, they still dislike the feeling of excreta on themselves).
4. Encourage w/o going overboard (do you congratulate your wife every time she uses the toilet correctly?).
5. Clean the carpet after he gets it--should be about two weeks.

Get him while he's young, and it's much easier than waiting until after 3. Good luck!

Posted by: Squidley on June 21, 2006 11:33 PM

I didn't think The Squirrely could get any cuter. Then he did.

Posted by: redbetty on June 21, 2006 11:52 PM

Our little bundle of joy looks like the Squirrelly’s twin brother but has only just celebrated his first birthday. He also seems to act like the Squirrelly used to, i.e. crawling around looking for electrical sockets to lick etc. He barely walks but can already climb like a gibbon and expresses his affection for humans by slapping them vigorously on the head while giggling like a chipmunk.

These posts about the Squirrelly are giving us a holistic glimpse of what our own son might resemble one year into the future. So we see them as sort of pediatric prophesies. keep them coming.

Posted by: Lung the Younger on June 22, 2006 1:01 AM

Welcome to my world. I tell him, "Three years ago you weren't even in my world and now we're doing everything YOU wanna do?" I feel like the goon from "O Brother Where Art Thou" when he asks, "Who elected you leader of this outfit?" Suddenly you've a whole 'nuther human being with thoughts and ideas. It scares me.

Posted by: Wickwire on June 22, 2006 3:27 PM

We just added one of these baby thingamajigs to our household (Max was born June 11). I know I should be grateful for all the time he spends sleeping right now (allowing me to do important things like catching up on Defective Yeti), but man, sometimes I just wish he would wake up and, you know, do something interesting.

You and the Queen sure do have one heck of a cute young'un!

Posted by: Larisa on June 22, 2006 5:38 PM

Too Cute :-)

But then again, they're always cute when they're someone else's kid...

Posted by: Colin on June 23, 2006 5:11 AM

Great use of the 10-12 days of bright sunlight in Seattle. Didn't know they even sold daylight film there.

Posted by: spiiderweb on June 24, 2006 4:24 PM

Love those Squirrely pix!

We skipped that whole baby/toddler thing by adopting two school aged kids from China. The first one was 6 years old when she came home. It was truly alarming to have an extra person in the house all the time-- and an extrovert at that (and one that seemed to feel that rules of games were a sign of a lack of imagination-- fortunately she outgrew this outlook).

Plus, of course, she didn't speak any English for a while. I was her primary translator. I got my first break after a month home, when we went to my in-laws and the young'un decided language barriers were unimportant when playing with cousins, and took off upstairs to romp. I nearly collapsed from the shock of the drop in adreneline.

We're slow learners, so we did it again 3 years later, this time with an 11 year old. I was amazed at how fast they figured out the sibling rivalry thing (during their first meeting at the airport). Bickering sounds extra-special in a tone language like Mandarin.

3 years later again-- what can I say, they're both great girls. I can't imagine life without them. (A WEEKEND without them, yes, I can dream about that. But life would be incomplete were they not in it.) This despite the fact that the older is well into teenagerhood and the younger is fast picking up pointers. Doesn't matter. And yes, they do become gamers quickly, raised in a household with/by gamers. They even help with playtesting during new game design.

For what it's worth, the Chinese pretty much go with Squidley's method of toilet training. They put the kids in "split pants" as soon as they start being mobile, rather than diapers, and the kids seem to figure it all out pretty quickly.

Posted by: edalton on June 24, 2006 9:56 PM

I, too, have a toddler and I was laughing so hard that I could hardly finishing reading because the tears were getting in the way ;)

Posted by: Mrs Potato Head on June 25, 2006 12:58 PM

That green striped polo shirt/khaki hat combo could last him well into adulthood. I can see him wearing it on the golf course, is what I'm saying.

Posted by: Jennifer on June 26, 2006 10:33 AM

I was so smug when my son did NOT go through the terrible twos... he was sweet and I was obviously the prefect parent!

The evil little genius was saving it all up so he could give me a nervous breakdown later.

just before he turned 4 he started a campaign of terror that no babysitter could handle. He was expelled from sunday school and just when i thought he was winding down a bit, he'd smile and take it up another notch.

even my mother in law (she who thought him the perfect child)
began to tire of him. Bending over him as he had a tantrum, she got kicked in the eye by those hard little shoes she had bought him. After that she'd greet him by handing him a huge bag of M&Ms instead of a kiss. She'd flinch when he'd wave his arms.

he knew he had the power. The first day of kindergarten, he BIT the school principal. I don't know what the Furiously angry Principal did to my son behind the closed door of his office, but whatever it was, it worked.

Our nice sweet kid was back, and he is 30 now, and fine.

Posted by: Audrey on June 27, 2006 12:46 PM

I don't have a toddler. Yet. Our former Larva is on the verge of walking and as I read this post, I started to cry. Please, for the love of God, let it not be that bad...

Posted by: Aaryn on June 27, 2006 2:40 PM

I was curious why we see so much of the Squirrelly and none of the queen? Does she not like the idea of having her picture on your blog?

Posted by: Rocky on June 28, 2006 10:33 AM