Let’s Get This Potty Started

There are a hundred different methods for toilet training a toddler, most of which revolve around incentives and punishments designed to coerce their child to poop in their potty.

The Queen and I are trying a different tack. We’re just going to teach The Squirrelly to enjoy sitting alone in a small room every morning for as long as he’d like, quietly reading the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly.

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&nbsp Swing&nbsp Time For A Book
* Well, okay: in this respect they aren’t that dissimilar from myself …


Head & Shoulders

Many parents track the height of their child by having them stand next to a designated wall every year or so and making a hashmark just above their head.

I’d use this method, if I trusted myself to remember to do so every 12 months. Fortunately, I have figured out an alternative way to track The Squirrelly’s growth. Whenever I have him on my shoulders, walk through a doorway, and hear a “Twump!” from above, I just stop for a moment and jot the current date on the wall next to the frame.

Twos, The Terrible

It’s been 24 months since The Squirrelly barreled into our lives, though The Twos — the Terrible ones, specifically — began months ago. The kid’s a flaming ball of id these days, a Lil’ Bacchus who enjoys nothing better than good food, a long nap, lively music, and an invigorating poop.

And he’s as garrulous as ever, yammering away at every available moment. You’d think the perpetual narration would provide us with some clue as to what was going on in that head of his, but, more often than not, but he still catches us off-guard with non sequiturs. “Do you want a snack?” You’ll ask him; “I’m a dog,” he’ll reply, “Ruff! Ruff!” Honestly, I have no idea how to respond to someone who says something like that (unless it’s the guy sitting next to me on the bus, in which case I respond by hastily moving to to another seat).

Occasionally he’ll seize upon a word or phrase that’s particularly fun to say and just holler it out at random moments. “Edamame!” and “avocado!” are favorites, as are “down the hatch!” and “all right, kiddo!” He also likes to recite the line from The Cat In The Hat that goes “So all we could do was to sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!” But he, like most toddlers, lisps a bit, so it sounds like he’s shouting “shit! shit! shit! shit!” like he’s frantically trying to flush contraband drugs down the toilet before the cops bust through the bathroom door.

He hasn’t adopted any real obscenities yet, something that can be attributed to luck rather than any effort on our part to moderate our language. Unfortunately, he has learned the worse four-letter word of all: “want.” Someone told us that a sure-fire way of reducing frustration tantrums in a toddler is to teach them to express their desires, so we foolishly went ahead and taught him the w-word. And it’s true: he has fewer frustration tantrums, no doubt. Now we instead get the tantrums of outrage, when we have the impertinence to question one of his edicts. “Want oatmeal,” he’ll say. “Dude, there’s oatmeal in the bowl right in front of you, eat that,” I’ll reply. “WANT OATMEAL!” he’ll shriek and throw himself to the floor, where he kicks and screams for approximately six seconds before deciding that it’s not worth the effort, climbing to his feet, and announcing “I’m a dog! Ruff! Ruff!”

So, yes, we’re having the standard toddler War Of The Wills, but, fortunately, The Squirrelly is exceptionally easy-going. His tantrums are infrequent, and rarely last more than a handful of seconds. When we took him in for his two-year checkup, the pediatrician asked “does he ever have tantrums that last longer than half an hour?” and we were all, like, “Half and hour?! Fuuuuck no — if he did we would have just left him in your elevator, sprinted back to the car, and driven to Ontario at 85 miles an hour.”

We also learned, at his 24 month exam, that his future career as an NBA center has been nipped in the bud, as he is now in the 50th percentile for height (instead of the 70th, where he was at a year). It’s just as well, as he clearly has his sights set on some sort of musical career. We bought him a toy piano for his birthday, and he loves plunking the keys and singing the the “ABC Song.” He really seems to enjoy music so we thought we’d encourage it — it was only after the fact that we realized that we’re probably setting ourselves up for 12 years of elementary, junior high, and high school band concerts. Dear lord, what have we wrought!

Oh well. If the next 16 years are anywhere near as fun as the last two it’ll all be worth it, even the “Cleaveland Middle School Spring Ensemble.” Plus, hearing loss runs in my family, so I might luck out.

Take Me For A Ride In The Car Car   GFEDCBA   Too Cute For Naptime

Talkin’ Bout A Revolution

The Squirrelly’s new favorite game is “kittycat,” though he tends to leave out the “ee” part of “meow” when playing. All of the sudden he’ll leap to his feet and start marching about the living room shouting “Mao! Mao!” like he’s trying to foment his own little cultural revolution and overthrow our bourgeoisie household.

Fortunately, I think we’re safe. Lord knows we haven’t engaged in any arts or intellectualism recently. Not since the child was born, at any rate.


In my eighteen month Squirrelly Update I mentioned that the twerp’s entire vocabulary consisted of the words “kitty” and “Pooh.” Since then, though, he’s been cranking out words faster than global warming can produce hurricanes. For a while there we were excitedly phoning each other up whenever a new one debuted and trying to keep track of them all but, honestly, we pretty much threw in the towel we he came out with “precipice.” I shit you not. He’s become adroit at parroting the last word we use in a sentence, and one evening, after I caught him doing somersaults on the bed and delivered a sternly worded lecture about the danger of this activity, he shouted “precipice!” and did a celebratory somersault on the bed.

Of course, the real danger of his mimicry is that he will start adopting phrases like “I shit you not,” which means we should probably start watching our language. But frankly, I’m not too worried. Given the speed at which vulgar language is now evolving, I reckon that by the time The Squirrelly is old enough to “hang out” with his “dawgs” and “homies” any obscenities he picked us from us will be quaint and charming, the equivalent of a 2005 “poppycock.” By then they will probably be using terms so unimaginably filthy by today’s standards that words we currently consider to be unforgivably profane will show up in spelling tests and Jumble puzzles.

Having mastered the ability to utter words, The Squirrelly is now focusing on individual letters. He can already recite what he believes to be the 23 letters that make up the English language:

  • A
  • G
  • Q
  • Gubble-oo
  • B
  • Ah-chay (that’s Spanish for H! He’s bilingual!)
  • Ah
  • X
  • C
  • I
  • S
  • Y
  • D
  • J
  • T
  • And
  • E
  • K
  • U
  • Zeee!
  • F
  • Ellemenopy
  • V

    His current goal, as near as we can tell, is to set the world toddler speed record for saying the alphabet. He’s getting pretty quick, although he often cheats by omitting some letters and substituting the sound “mm” for those that he can’t remember in his haste.

    “A! B! C! D! E! F! G! Mm! Mm! Ellemenopy! Q! Mm! Mm! Gubble-oo! Mm! And! Zeeeeeeeeee!”

    Yes, only 22 months old and he’s already mastered life’s most basic skill: the ability to fake his way through things that he doesn’t entirely understand. Somewhere a position in middle-management awaits him.

    Update: The Queen has informed me that The Squirrelly is, in fact, 21 months old. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO REMEMBER WHEN HE WAS BORN, THAT WAS 22 WHOLE MONTHS AGO!!

    Womb Service

    The Squirrelly spends a lot of time in the car: going to and from daycare, to and from swimming lessons, to and from music class. He spends the ride strapped in his car seat, clawing banana cips from his Snack-Trap™, drinking water from his travel sippy cup, and letting the vehicle carry him where it may. Honestly, he wasn’t so much born as upgraded to a better womb. When he turns five and has to start attending school, we’ll hire a midwife to extract him from the Toyota and send him on his way.

    I think this is just an intermediate step, as we humans slowly evolve into marsupials. Someday in the near future our baby-carrying devices will merge with us, and will we carry our infants around in a pocket complete with built-in DVD player and Goldfish cracker dispenser. If there is any any justice in the universe, it’s the fathers who will wind up bepouched.