Monday, November 18, 2019

You Are Dumber Than a Toddler

I'm going to tell you about my son learning to walk.

This may come as a surprise to those of you that aren't parents, but babies don't propel themselves out of their mothers' nethers, land on their feet, and start doing the Charleston in the delivery room. They can't run, walk, stand, crawl, hold themselves up, lift their head, or even roll around. They have to develop the ability to do all of these things over time.

The road to being able to walk is a long one for a baby that requires both physical growth and trial and error on their part. It never enters their head, at any point, that they are not going to be able to walk. They know it can be done because they've seen it done, and the premise they start with is that they can do it too.

The way I know this is that they keep trying until they're able to first stand up while holding on to something. Then they try to stand up on their own, then take a step, then take more steps. No matter how many times they miss, slip, fall down, bonk their head, stumble, or trip, they try again. Sometimes they try immediately, sometimes they take a break to grab their teddy bear, drink a bottle, scream, or take a nap. But no matter what, they try again.

And when walking finally does click for them, they aren't satisfied with those wobbly, uneven, stumbly steps. They want to walk like the big kids do, like mom and dad do - they want to run, they want to jump, they want to climb stairs, do cartwheels, stand on one leg, kick a ball, kick someone *in* the balls. They know all of these things can be done because they have seen them done by someone else first, so they try over and over until they get it too.

But learning to walk, walk well, run, climb, jump is not just about what they do do, it's also about what they don't do, which is a lot more than just "they don't give up".

My son has a cousin that's a little bit younger than he is. So far she's done all the major developmental milestones earlier than he has - rolling, crawling, walking, noises, words. At no point did my son see his cousin walking when he could only crawl, say to himself, "She can only do that because she got good quad insertions and hamstring genetics, and Uncle Bob clearly gave her extra grape juice, I guess I'll just crawl and let that fuckin' cheater walk without earning it and that'll show her," and then shove his pacifier in his mouth and go pout in a corner.

He's been to the playground and seen older kids running around fall and run into things or each other and get hurt. He's tried to stand up and whacked his head on the bottom of a slide and a table and a chair and the cabinets, and scraped his knee trying to take a step on the sidewalk. At no point did he say to himself, "The risk of getting a booboo while trying to walk is just too risky, it's safer to perfect my crawling form," and then grab his teddy and give up on trying to walk entirely.

There were times that he clearly got frustrated that he wasn't getting what he wanted. I didn't know that babies would do this and I assume he must've seen me or his mom, but some of the times he tried to take a step and fell, he balled his little hands into fists and shook them and grunted. But he didn't say to himself, "This is too hard, fuck this, I give up, I can already crawl, I don't need to walk," and then pick up his bottle and chug it down and never try to walk again.

You might be thinking, If you can read a baby's mind, why aren't you rich, dumbass?

Because my technology is too dangerous to fall in the wrong hands and I have since destroyed it.

Fortunately, I don't need to. I know that my son never did these things because he is currently running around my kitchen trying his damnedest to step on everything he could possibly slip or lose his balance on. I know that seeing others succeed faster, seeing others get hurt, getting hurt himself, and repeatedly failing didn't stop him from trying to walk because I watched him try until he walked a few steps, and then keep going. And now he runs. And he's still wobbly, and he still falls, and sometimes he gets hurt, and there are still things he can't do yet, and sometimes he has to ask me to help him get somewhere. But he also still hasn't given up.


Somebody out there is going to read this, and get where I'm going with it, and say, "Fuck you purplespengler, it's not the same, a toddler isn't blah blah blah blah blah".

You're right. It's not the same. A toddler completely lacks the mental and emotional development to have the thoughts that I described.

When I turn off my son's favorite Cookie Monster song, there are no words that I can say to him to explain that it's bedtime and I know he's falling asleep and if he doesn't go to bed he's going to feel really shitty tomorrow and be cranky, because those concepts don't exist for him. Only Cookie Monster and not-Cookie Monster exists for him, so he screams until I pat his back and put a pacifier in his mouth. Because a toddler also completely lacks the mental and emotional development to understand consequences, think and plan ahead, be rational, or exercise self-control.

And if you said "Fuck you purplespengler, it's not the same" when you realized my parable is about you, I want you to think about what it means that a toddler who has no control of their emotional state didn't give up on their goals and compare that to how little it takes to make you consider it.

And then when you read that, and you again think "Fuck you purplespengler, that's bullshit because blah blah blah blah", I want you to think about what that means too.

It means you're being a baby.

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