Transmissions From Toddler-Town: The Aristocrats!


Living with a toddler is like living with a Ritalin-addled velociraptor. And as I’ve said in the past, every day is like that moment in Jurassic Park where the dinosaurs learn to open doors.




B-Dub now says a rather robust contingent of words.

Mom, Dad, Doggie, Truck, Girl, Boo-Boo, Puddle, Meow, Moo, Turtle, Tiger, Purple, Pop-Pop, Mom-Mom, Banana, Night-Night, Yeah, Hi, No, Tea, Teddy, Keys, Elmo, Popsicle, Orange, Red.

Some words get said five, ten times, and never return.

Some are permanent, and get thrown-around in daily use.

Next up, we’re angling for: Blue, chicken, milk, pogrom, pony, vodka, cigarillos, annihilation, Superman, orbital laser, and pterodactyl. So, fingers crossed, everybody.




Oh, when I say he “says” them, I didn’t always mean successfully. Truck is truh, or troo-ah. Girl is gee. Orange is oro. And so on. But see, now I get it. I used to meet people with toddlers and the kid would jabber some incomprehensible string of sounds (“Gobba goobey pee pee snerk florg waka waka”) and the parents are like, “Oh, sure, honey, you can have a sip of milk and then you want to go pee-pee and afterwards throw our G.I. Joes into the large hadron collider again? You got it, little person!”

And I was like, “How the fuck did you just decipher the flurry of clicks and beeps that came out of that fool kid’s mouth?” It’s because as a parent you just know. You start to draw the line between each piece of Lovecraftian gibberish and the object or concept it represents.





Goddamn trucks.

This kid? He loves trucks. He woke up the other night and on the baby monitor we did not hear him call for Mom, nor for Dad. No, in the sweetest, saddest voice he could muster, he called: “Truh?”

He loves trucks.


More to the point: he is obsessed with trucks. We literally have him flipping through truck magazines, like, the ones you find at truck stops and the like? Ads for tractor trailers and such? He flips through them at meal times like he’s actually shopping for a Peterbilt or some shit.

He’s got like, some kind of sixth sense for the things. He’ll suddenly jerk his head up, wide-eyed, and say, “Truh?” And you’re like, “No, weirdo, there are no trucks nearby–” But then you realize he heard a very distant sound of a truck on the road, or he caught sight of one of his truck toys on a very high shelf behind like, a stack of Hustlers or something, or he’ll totter over to a recliner and reach underneath to procure one of his truck toys. As if it called to him. Psychically.




Everyone thinks he’s two years old. He’s taller than some two-year-olds. We figure maybe it’s time for him to start smoking a pipe or learning how to drive stick or whatever it is that two-year-olds do.




He headbutts things. And then he says, “Bump” or “Bonk” when he does it. Which he thinks is endlessly hilarious. And it is, the first couple times. But a toddler running around and headbutting things — couch cushions, the floor, the dog, YOUR SHINBONE — stops being hilarious pretty effing quick. He might as well just run around and punch you. Which is probably next on the menu.




Toddlers throw some spectacular shit-fits. I mean, damn. Toddlers are like the genetic cross-breed between a howler monkey and a typhoon. The weird thing about the shit-fits is that they’re not always… a thing you understand. Nor are they necessarily predictable. Sometimes, sure. He wants something but can’t have it, meltdown. He’s really tired, hasn’t taken any naps, yes, a small psychotic break is incoming.

But other times, it just hits. Like lightning out of clear skies. Some tiny little grain of sand gets in his diaper and it’s suddenly, BOOM. His body becomes a writhing jumble of dead weight, and trying to pick him up is like trying to pick up a pile of grape jelly. He wails like it’s the end of the world. Spins around on the floor like one of the Three Stooges. And again: headbutting.

These aren’t super-common, but they happen often enough you’re ready to blame anything. Teething. Reality television. Climate change.

As a parent, you start to figure out ways to defuse situations like that. You misdirect or redirect (“Oh, look, a truck!”). You walk him around outside, though holding a struggling, meltdowning toddler is like trying to cradle a bobcat someone lit on fire.

Sometimes, though, you just gotta let ’em ride it out.

Let the storm go back out to sea from whence it came.

And at least the shit-fits make them tired.




Oh, and sometimes you can’t help it, but the shit-fits are so bizarre, you laugh. You really laugh. It’s like, he’s on the floor thrashing about like a fish on the dock and blubbering some word that makes no sense in this context (“PURRRRPLE”) and you crack up. You try to stifle it, but it’s hard, because the more you try to hold it in the harder it all wants to come out. Like a burp in church.

And laughing doesn’t help them. It only seems to aggravate the tantrum.

And that only makes you laugh harder.

Being a parent is cruel. But very, very funny.




He likes to hide things.

And when he does, he throws up his hands (as if to say, “THE ARISTOCRATS!”) and gives you a sweet and quizzical look. He learned this because we did it, of course, one time, and all it takes is one time. One time he hid something and we held up our hands and said, “Where did it go?” And boom, like that, it clicked.

Kids are sponges. Inconsistent sponges. You never know when they’re going to pick up a word or a behavior. Thankfully, he hasn’t picked up any bits of profanity yet — and we have started to officially curb the language. Last night we got away for a dinner without B-Dub and it was like a great balloon popping. We just sat in the car, cursing up a storm and laughing. I mean, some truly vile shit came out of our mouths. It would’ve melted his little tiny human brain.

Anyway, the lesson here is, if B-Dub totters up to you and makes the “ta-da!” gesture, it means he’s hidden something. Like the remote control, or your car keys, or your insulin. Good times.




Parenting seems a constant struggle between the easy and the difficult, and frequently, the easy path is the least advisable one to walk. It’d be easier to plop them down in front of the TV to let them zombie-out while you get some laundry done. It’d be easier to give them the crappy sugary food they’d much prefer than to try to find ways to get them to like and crave some goddamn broccoli. It’d be easier to yell, or walk away, or stick them in a box marked FREE CHIMP and put it out with the recycling.

It’s a thing you have to deal with daily, and it’s not always easy to, well, avoid the easy. Sometimes you just want to slide into poor decisions because they’re simpler, more straightforward, with far less effort.

But then you realize, well, if I wanted easy, I shouldn’t have had a kid in the first place.

So you do the hard thing because they’re better off, and that’s your whole purpose as a parent. To hopefully ensure they’re better off.




Some of this sounds kind of awful. Or like I’m complaining. Let it be said: this is furthest-flung from the truth. Toddlers are goddamn awesome. Babies, like, infant-babies? Boring as a sack of carpet samples. They just sit there. Punching the air and squirming. Cute! Very cute. But dull as a butter knife.

Toddlers are hilarious. Start to finish, day to day, they’re hilarious. They do things and say things you never expect, as if some strange person comes into their room late at night to teach them new things. They’re like having drunk people over for dinner every night — they wander around your house and do really weird things like headbutt stuff or hide their trucks in your shoe or see themselves reflected in the oven glass and then kiss their own reflection (seriously, B-Dub does this — the kid’s a bonafide Narcissist).

And they’re capable of wildly sweet gestures, too. A random hug out of nowhere is like, WUUUUUT. Or they’ll lean on you, or give you a little smooch, or bring you a present (like your insulin, or a mouse they killed when you let them outside). B-Dub will sometimes walk up to you, say your name or presumed title, then pat you on the hip or shoulder as if to say, “Good job, old horse. Good job.” He’ll give you a little nod and then totter off again to try to, I dunno, choke on a penny or fling himself from the top of the couch because that’s how he rolls.

Point is, it’s only when they get to be this age that you start to see the people they’re going to become. And it’s then that it all starts to really become worth it — like, the equation of your effort and frustration and sleepless nights start to yield a very real sum, and the sum grows every day as if it’s yielding a kind of emotional interest that you can bank and visit on days both great and not-so-bloody-great.




Oh, and since we’re gluttons for punishment, now we’re looking for a new doggy.

Wish us luck. Or, at least, grant us your sympathy.

26 responses to “Transmissions From Toddler-Town: The Aristocrats!”

  1. Ah, Chuck my old, thank you for this reminder. I am weeping silently into my beer with laughter at the memories. (Actually, it isn’t beer, it’s pavlova for early afternoon tea, but beer sounds better.) There is something so delightfully random about toddlers, isn’t there? Doesn’t always seem delightful at the time, but if you can laugh, it’s better.

    Thanks for sharing and make sure you keep these reports from toddler town. With time, impossible though it seems now, you will forget some of these things and they’re worth remembering. And the day will come when b-dub is old enough to find his younger self amusing. My girl loves b-dub updates and mostly enjoys the reminiscing that ensues!

    Oh, and btw? Laughing is a completely legit response to a tantrum!

  2. My little boy, now 5, has always loved sticks and still does. He collects them. Every day walking to or from kindy is prime stick-collecting time. We visited my cousin who has just had tiny twins and the cousin was worried my boy would be bored in the mini-backyard with no toys. He didn’t believe me when I said he would be quite happy playing with sticks. And laughed at the stick fort an hour later. He’s looking forward to the day his little screamers will be able to entertain themselves like that.

    Toddlers are great. But five year olds who can read to you and start learning to play a miniature violin and ask “why is my penis sometimes big?” … they are great too.

  3. I’m with you on the head-butting. My little guy (almost 2) actually likes to bounce his face off of my belly. Over. And over. And over again.

    He is also big on the hiding, but he only hides himself so far. Luckily, he’s pretty easy to find. We just call “Where’s the baby?” or “Where did that little boy go?” and wait for the answer, “Hiding!” Also, he usually only bothers to hide his head. The rest of him just sticks out of wherever he’s hiding.

  4. I’m with you Chuck – they’re absolutely hilarious. This year between 1 and 2 is such a great time.

    Mine (20 months) has just gotten tall enough to reach the kitchen benchtop. Which means the plaintive cries of ‘pear! a-PPLE!’ can now be backed up by the acquisition of said fruit, if we’ve been careless. And the other day he climbed out of (our) bed at 6am, disappeared down the hall, then returned triumphantly a few minutes later, threw an entire loaf of bread on the bed and announced ‘Bread! PB! Bread! PB!’ until I got up and made him peanut butter toast.

    I would have been grouchy at getting up in the freezing cold for it but we just couldn’t stop laughing.

  5. Yeah, B-Dub digs the sticks, too. I can envision him being quite the stick swashbuckler at some point.

    He’s also now into crayons and paper, so that’s good — his drawings are PURE ART. By which I mean, a sheet full of insane staticky scribbles.

    — c.

  6. I taught my boy (3) the “honk the nose and make the honk sound” gag…which he thought hilarious…then adapted to boobs…any time, any where, any woman.

  7. I don’t have kiddies of my own but I do have a nephew, three nieces and honorary nieces too.

    Spending time with them is like a cool hand on a hot brow.
    They are utterly unpredictable and wild and bonkers and lovely and cuddly and weird.

    My favourite is when they get a little tired and they snuggle up on your lap to watch Peppa Pig and they let you rub their feet and they curl their finger through you hair while petting your face with the other hand, like they own you, like you are there to serve them.

    Which I suppose you are.

  8. The secret to sneaking words like pterodactyl or annihilation into the vocab without getting “what horrible a parent” looks for the more,um… interesting… ones is to make sure the kid learns even the silent letters. Make him say PUH– tero-dact-uhl and ann-HI-ill-a-shun. (Bonus points if you get him to smile sweetly on the “hi”). Then everyone thinks your kid is a genius because they’ll assume he read the words somewhere and absorbed them phonetically on his own.

    Okay, so I don’t have kids, but I do find interesting ways of gaining vengeance on those who expect me to baby sit. 😀

    (btw, ANY song can be the song that never ends to a toddler >:-D> )

  9. My son will be three in December and he amazes, amuses, and makes me want to pull my hair out every day. Especially now that we have a second and he’s had to learn something about that elusive concept “patience.”

    He hasn’t outgrown the headbutting thing. And, rather a tall lad, he’s exactly cranial height to my husband’s crotch. So you know, fair warning.

  10. What is it with sticks?

    My daughter brought one home the other day because it was a perfect size and weight for sword fighting, and she’s TWENTY-THREE and only staying with me between studio flats.

  11. I love the way you describe parenthood. You grok the essence and have a serious knack for using those pesky metaphors to really reach down into the guts of it and bring it into the light.

    I hope you save these and put them in a book. B-Dub is going to hate you with the fury of 10,000 suns for documenting his upbringing more than likely, but hey its good bank for the old man. (That was a joke, he probably won’t hate you)

    I mean this is seriously LOL funny stuff and you have managed to transport all of us parents back to those moments, so thank you.

    My eldest son had a spot on his head for most of a year that never healed because he kept bonking it at least once a day. We are lucky we didn’t go to jail, even though we did our best to “childproof” the house. I think Childproof is an oxymoron.

  12. I’ve got a kid on the way this december (December is the due-date, not the FedEx delivery estimate, you understand…) so I’m gonna use this as a manual for his/her toddlerhood.

    *Sends to print*

  13. Kudos to you for keeping a straight face during the meltdowns. I sometimes see kids in legitimate hysterics in a store and while I sympathize a little with the parents, it normally makes me laugh. There’s something so absurd about it. They become demonic, insensate, irrantional things. It’s a complete abandonment of what separates us from animals and a descent into primal fury. But in such a tiny, ineffectual little package. Parents often appear embarassed by these displays, but I wouldn’t be at all. How could you be? It’s like being embarassed about a hurricane or a tornado.

  14. My month-old boy is currently a whining, pooping, eating, staring blob, boring, like you say. Can’t wait for him to smile, or do something other than spit up all over me. I also can’t wait for him to sleep. Like right now.

    My 2.5-year-old girl, on the other hand, who is as tall and talkative as a four year old on speed, is really starting to make us laugh with most of what she says. Last night, hubby told her she was going to bed. She replied with, “No, Daddy, you’re teasing,” and then, because she’d heard me say it, she followed that up with, “leave me alone.” It only takes one time.

    I don’t know how she knows half the things she does, but I do know it’s been a heck of a lot harder to curb the swearing than I’d thought it would be. Can’t say she hasn’t come out with a few choice words, and then I have to tell her, “Mommy says bad words,” or just plain, “Mommy’s bad.” When Zoe does something wrong, even if I haven’t even brought it up (like her accidentally knocking a picture off the staircase wall), she says, “Zoe’s mean.” All. The. Time. Hilarious.

    Sounds like you’re having fun, and the more they communicate the more fun it is. By the sounds of it, boys are a handful, so I’m sure I’ve got my work cut out for me.

  15. Ah, memories. My kids are long past that stage. Fun times.

    Johnny Depp once said living with a toddler is like “hanging around with a miniature drunk.” Very true words.

  16. I laugh because my daughter is 2 1/2 and you always seem to point out the same things I’m thinking about just a little bit after I’m thinking them.

    My daughterloves rocks. It was one of her first words. Wok. She also calls for inanimate objects. If we ask her where something is, her shoes for example, she will scamper through the apartment calling “shoo! Shoo-oo?” So cute.

  17. My twins are three, which is a little like living in a tornado made of whirling toys, hugs, “I love you”s and “no”.

    B-Dub sounds like an awful lot of fun. It’s going to get even more fun, if my pair is any indication. By two they’re developing free will; by three they’re little people. With all the problems that peoplehood brings :).

    And the ideas they carry forward, my god. Sometime between one and two, we gave the kids a try of our Rita’s ices. Boy hated it, girl loved it. Forward to second birthday party. “Try the {buttercream} icing, Boy! It’s delicious.” { crying ensues }. Through year 2, no, won’t try icing. Third birthday party: “Try the icing, really, it’s the best part of the cake.” “No. I don’t like it.” “You’ve never tried it.” “I don’t like it. It’s cold!” Wife and I just . . . yeah. Italian Ice > probably headfreeze > “ice” is cold > “icing” is cold.

    Amazing, the things you don’t think of.

    I’m a tech writer for a day job. Raising kids is giving me a perspective on end users like I never had before. It’s making me a better writer all around. That huge gap between transmission and reception when you make assumptions has never been so clear…

    All of which is to say “thanks for sharing.”

  18. The bad news is the headbutting stage can last for a while, like to the point where they’re no longer shin-high but are more like groin-high.

    That is also the point at which they have learned they like to run.

  19. Sometimes I think I’m alone in thinking preferring older kids to infants. Every year my children have gotten older, I’ve enjoyed them more and more. My son is now 8 and my daughter 11. You think they’re funny now, just you wait. I’m highly looking forward to your observations of those future years. 🙂 Oh. And 8 is a horrific age – it’s like you got your toddler back, but a whole heck of a lot smarter. Like a tantruming mad scientist.

  20. Oooh, we used to play a game called “Ahhhh….Bonk.” Just wait till his head is the exact height of your crotch. Ahh Bonk’s not so cute any more — or so said my husband.

  21. When our girl (Monster) was two or three, Daddy taught her the art of the ‘tackle hug’. It’s often much more tackle than hug. she’s fling herself at him, and he’d fall back dramatically.
    Or they’d wrestle in bed, with her leaping on him, or flailing at his attempts to tickle.
    Hilarious! I told him he might be starting down a dangerous path… But it’s CUTE. And FUN. And totally okay.
    Now she’s a forty pound five year old. Who likes to body slam him when he tries to wake up from a nap. :-> Yes. NOW it’s HILARIOUS.

    But that’s the great thing about kids. They’re always learning and changing an surprising you. Monster got her very OWN pet this weekend. A shelter cat. We helped her pick him out, brought him home, and our current cat is gradually getting used to the idea of this impostor in her home. So Monster sits down with current cat, and gives her a long lecture on how we still love her, and the new cat is here to be her friend, and she needs to try to be nice to the other cat so they can get along.
    She’s like a miniature adult. It’s boggling.

    Kids never stop surprising you. 🙂

  22. Chuck, one of the dog rescue groups (Operation Paws for Homes) I work with will be having an event at the New Freedom Community Park in New Freedom, PA on 22 Sep 12 from 10 – 4. I don’t know if New Freedom is near you or not. Go to to see the available dogs and get more details. This is a great organization that pulls dogs from high-kill shelters in the Carolinas and brings them to Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania for adoption. I adopted my English Bulldog from them. The process was simple, rational, and easy.

  23. Bang on description of life with toddlers, Chuck.
    I can relate to being an interpreter. I’m constantly translating my three year old’s bursts of blabber for friends and strangers. I love translating his tantrums: “I wish you were never born”…I bet he hasn’t thought that through yet?

    Oh, and just so the record is clear – I did not teach him the ‘I wish you were never born”, it was his older sister…really!

  24. 1. Sympathies. In vast plural amounts.

    2. Headbutting: OH GOD MY ABDOMEN MAKE HER STOP!!! Referring to my daughter, who at that age was a dead ringer for women’s football. Ow.

    3. Inconsistent sponges sometimes give frighteningly consistent results. My daughter, at 2, woke up during a Shark week show where they were dissecting a shark. This wasn’t something we would let her watch, and she saw maybe a minute of it. She is now 9, hyper-focused on science, and wants to be a marine biologist… So that nobody ever cuts up a shark, ever again. And also she loves sting rays. And knows more about sharks than her science teacher and has started asking me about college. O.O

    And did the math to discover that marine biology school costs as much as a parking lot full of trucks.

  25. Yup. This is tiny-person parenting, distilled. It’s awesome and awful (awesomeful?) in equal measures, and mostly on the same day. In my experience so far (with Nearlyseven and Nearlyfour), it gets both better and worse as they get older. Keep up the Transmissions – they’re terrific.

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