How to drive a toddler over the edge

This truth is self-evident. One-year-olds are patriots in their zealous devotion to the pursuit of happiness. They want happiness, and they want it now. They’ll let you know, quickly and unambiguously, when the path they are on deviates from that ultimate goal.

The path deviates regularly, because the things that make a one-year-old happy are often disruptive, destructive, dangerous, or all of the above. Further frustrating the pursuit of happiness is their reluctance to abandon the notion that parents can make all their wishes come true, regardless of the laws of physics or better judgment.

Our one-year-old’s happiness is hindered by baby gates. He isn’t bothered that they prevent him from going down the stairs; someone will carry him down, if he asks. Baby gates frustrate him because they have a mechanism that he cannot operate. He doesn’t need freedom to pass the gate; he wants the knowledge to open it, to liberate himself from ignorance.

gateway to hell

This gate has a long history of vexing one toddler and numerous adults. It has been pulled out of the wall twice – probably not by the toddler.

Once, when he was especially frustrated by the gate atop the basement stairs, I tried to explain the purpose of baby gates to him. I told him that baby gates wouldn’t be useful if all manner of little people could operate them. I was careful in my explanation, but he acted like he didn’t even understand most of the words.

I asked him if he would like me to take him to the basement. The look he shot me said, “Mommy, my juice, and the gate I was working on before you butted in are all up here. What the hell would I want with the basement?”

Toy trains are another frustration to the boy. He loves playing with his big brother’s trains. Big Brother, in adherence to rule number one of The Boys’ Guide to Optimal Utilization of Toy Trains and Real Dads, owns several incompatible sets. The cars of one set won’t hook to the cars of another. This drives the one-year-old into a toddler-sized fit of apoplexy.

His dream is to make a single chain of all the diverse engines and cars in the house. He gets annoyed when he can’t get two cars to hook together. Then, he taps me with his hand and points to the troublesome connection. Since I can’t make incompatible trains fit together, I’m left trying to explain.

the problem with trains

All the connectors are the same color, but somehow that’s not enough. Were the baby Vanderbilts saddled with such trials?

Incidentally, if you want to know what frustrates a man in his 40s, it’s trying to explain compatibility to a toddler.

I finally got him to understand the color coding – blue hook doesn’t fit into white hole. Then he brought me two engines with only white holes as connectors, tapping me on the shoulder and pointing to the work he needed done. You should have seen his face when I tried to teach him that the two whites couldn’t connect without any hook pieces. Knowing what I know of his toddler language, I’m pretty sure he called me a lying sack of something or other before he flung the engines across the room.

How could any child build a viable transportation system with parents like this?


20 comments on “How to drive a toddler over the edge

  1. Now I’m confused about the train hookups too…

    We may suck as parents over here because we never did get that baby gate we talked about getting when the oldest was born 10 years ago. G$ has had a couple of nasty spills, but they seem to only make him stronger.

    Do you have to reassemble tracks on an almost daily basis? The boys are always taking the tracks apart and I have no clue how to reconnect them to their liking, so it’s easier to take them to Barnes and Noble and let them play with their Thomas the train set.

    • I could easily live without baby gates, except for the one on the basement steps. That open stairwell wasn’t designed with children in mind. Especially since the boys are constantly running around the kitchen. It may not have saved any lives, but it takes one fear off the parents’ minds.

      Fortunately, the little boy doesn’t need tracks. He’ll happily play trains on the carpet. The big boy likes tracks, but the little boy discourages him from investing too much time in trying to have intricate layouts.

  2. mewhoami says:

    I enjoy your view from a child’s perspective. They probably think we as adults are the ones who need to learn. Also this really stuck out to me, “liberate himself from ignorance.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could all liberate ourselves from ignorance? There is so much to be learned.

  3. Tom W says:

    Just wait, next year he will be programming the DVR for you.

  4. This might possibly be the funniest thing I’ve read from you…which is saying a lot. I flarted (is that a word? I think I just made it up. It’s like when you laugh and your mouth makes a farting noise. Anyone? No? Just me?)…anyway, I flarted at “I tried to explain the purpose of baby gates to him.” Because damn it, don’t we all do that shit? When are we going to learn? HIlarious.

  5. cookie1986 says:

    I could never operate our baby gates properly. Sadly, Destroyer has flown down the stairs so many times we don’t even worry about it anymore.
    I figure, either she’s made of steel, or the scar tissue has built up enough to protect her melon by now.

    • The irony is that no one in our house has shown any inclination to fall down stairs, except me, when I am standing on the stairs, trying to open the gate, while holding a (guess what?) – sleeping toddler in my arms. Chalk one up for the Law of Unintended Consequences. Fortunately, I’ve never completely lost my balance. Yet.

  6. Traci says:

    I’m afraid I can’t contribute to the toddler part, but friends of mine, in an effort to keep me safe from their dog during the night, put up a baby gate that nearly killed me during a nighttime bathroom jaunt. I’m sure there’s probably a disclaimer on the instructions that frees baby gate manufacturers from liability when adults maim themselves.

    • Yes, they probably have a disclaimer now. It’s kind of sad, considering in the old days they could have just relied upon embarrassment to protect them from law suits by adults who fought a baby gate and lost.

  7. pieterk515 says:

    Some of these damn baby gates the wife wanted me to employ so many moons ago were even frustratingly difficult for me to manage. Your kid has my sympathy. Bucket loads of it.

    And if you want to see the same kind of frustration from a seven year old boy, buy him a race track and watch him react when those frigging cars fly of the tracks constantly!

  8. A. van Nerel says:

    Was laughing all the way through…and feeling your son’s frustration. Shouldn’t the definition of the word ‘compatibility’ be like his third word, right after ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ (or am I so obviously not a parent myself?)?
    And speaking of learning words…I admit I had to look up ‘Apoplexy’, so thank you for the laugh and adding to my vocabulary. I’m looking forward to the time I can use ‘apoplexy’ in a conversations.
    Lastly, I’ve been going through your comments and I think ‘Flarting’ should become an official word.

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