In which, if you believe the books, I should be able to get into a standing position, clap hands and indicate wants in ways other than crying. Yeah, right.
PARENTS. A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE THORNY SUBJECT OF
Essentially parents are odd fish. Their ways are mysterious and many of their ideas are just plain bizarre. I’m not sure what the point of them is, but, like junk mail or a sniffle in winter, they are exceedingly hard to avoid; parents come with the territory. Standard issue is two, though one is fairly common, and three or four not unknown. I myself have in my employ two parents of the usual variety.
If you, like me, have a duo of parents, they normally fall into two distinct categories. The first category is Smooth, the second is Hairy. Smooths tend to be full-time staff, whereas Hairies are, at best, part-timers. Some people I’ve met claim their Hairies do equal if not more hours than their Smooths, but frankly I find that a little hard to believe. Smooths also tend to handle more of the refueling functions and the nether-region work.
Now, because I spend more of my time with Smooth, the appearance of Hairy, when it occurs, is a situation that can be exploited in many ways. Prime among these is the ruse of spending most of the day in dispute with Smooth, then being all smiles and cuddles when Hairy turns up. It’s a divide-and-rule ploy that never fails to produce results. I know it sounds a little devious, but it’s one of the few chances you have of outmaneuvering parents who so often hold the upper hand.
And that is the nub of the parent conundrum.
You see, although the parents are undoubtedly working for me, by some ludicrous twist of fate, they have been put in charge. It is a position they are so patently ill equipped to handle that it leaves you with the disquieting feeling that you are the victim of some monstrous mistake. I mean, they know so little about me and the world I inhabit that it’s hardly surprising so many of the decisions they make about me are completely wrong.
For instance, no one likes cereal. Absolutely no one. That’s why, given a choice, at breakfast people eat cornflakes or toast or a croissant or pancakes or bacon and eggs. So how come I’m force-fed cereal every morning?
Or what about the things they put in my crib? Some nights I get in and it’s like trying to find a seat in an overcrowded train. Okay, I admit that by now I know some of the fellows who share my crib, but honestly I really know most of them only slightly. For heaven’s sake, I’m trying to sleep in here, don’t I deserve a little space of my own?
The bitter truth is that parents are in charge. So, one way or another, you have to discover your own way of getting along with them.
The spectrum of possible strategies you can employ ranges from total deference, through collaboration, to outright war. My advice is, don’t put all your toys in one toy box. Vary your approach. It’ll keep you interested and them on their toes. Just because they’re in charge doesn’t mean you can’t be in control.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
They say the Eskimos have hundreds of words for types of snow. Pathetic.
I’ve loads more than that for types of poop. When the stuff is such a big part in your life, you tend to dwell on the subject. And all too often you don’t just dwell on the subject, you frequently dwell in it as well. There is something deeply deflating about having to sit in your own poop. Let’s just say it is not the biggest boost to one’s self-esteem. So of course I scream my head off. Wouldn’t you?
Back to the naming of the names. I won’t detain you with the full list but just pass on some of my own particular favorites. Top of the Billboard
charts is grouty poop. This is the type of poop that gets into all manner of cracks and crevices, makes itself comfortable, then dries. On first encounter, grouty poop looks inoffensive. And it is dry, which makes it less gooey to handle. However, the downside is that grouty poop dries rock hard. To get rid of the stuff, you almost have to resort to a chisel.
To trump the challenge of ordinary grouty poop (or OGP, as I sometimes abbreviate it) is the horror that is overnight grouty poop (ONGP). This doesn’t so much dry as set. Like concrete. Forget the chisel. For ONGP you need a fat laborer sporting low-slung jeans, wielding a pneumatic drill. That’s the only way to shift it.
Next is pollocky poop. This is poop that splatters across pristine white surfaces in a random, abstract fashion. It is poop that in many ways crosses the boundaries of poop itself. Is it really poop? Why is there no form or shape to it? Isn’t it really just a mess? What does it mean? My personal belief is that pollocky poop is poop, and that it is great poop. But it is poop that obeys the rules of its own aesthetic. The trick is to accept it on its own terms.
Then there is BTP. BTP is relatively rare and can vary tremendously in shape, size and consistency. What makes it special is not so much its nature but the reaction it can engender in parents. BTP can turn the most laid back of individuals into a veritable maelstrom of activity. If you want to see what a tornado looks like close-up, just indulge in a little BTP. That’s bathtub poop.
Finally, of course, there’s chewy poop. But maybe we shouldn’t go into that right now. After all, you might be eating.
NURSERY CRIMES ONE: CIRCULATING TEDDY BEARS
“Round and round the backyard
Like a teddy bear.
One step, two steps
Tickly under there.”
Point of order, Mr. Chairman?
I have spent considerable time in many backyards and I have as yet to find a single instance of teddy bears going around them. I have also consulted with numerous of my colleagues, who, between them, have access to many other backyards, and they confirm that they can recall no occasion on which a teddy bear has gone around a backyard.
Frankly, the whole teddy-bear-around-the-backyard thing is little more than a blatant, spurious and all too often successful incantation designed to distract an individual prior to a totally unprovoked tickling attack.
It is a con and a trap.
In the light of this transparent misuse of power, I have decided to pay particular attention to all nursery rhymes that I encounter from here on. I mean, if parents can do it once, what’s to stop them from doing it again?
I shall report back as and when necessary.
Excerpted from Autobiography of a One-Year-Old by As told to Rohan Candappa. Copyright © 2001 by As told to Rohan Candappa. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.