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.
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.
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?