The World Covered in Poo
The Dark Knight Begins
I always thought vindictiveness was a complex emotion. I mean, sure it can be a sign of immaturity but it does take a bit of multilevel thinking. First, it requires a person to perceive an offense, or at least be hurt enough by the actions of another to want some sort of retribution. It then requires that person to assess the position of the person who delivered said offense and then plan a set of actions to disadvantage, frustrate or hurt their offender in return. So, while I was convinced that a one-year-old was capable of experiencing anger, I didn’t think spite would be available in their emotional arsenal until… I don’t know… maybe five.
What disabused me of this misconception was an incident now remembered in the Missick household (for reasons that will be explained shortly) as Azariah’s “Dark Knight ” moment.
It was late in the afternoon on a Saturday and after spending most of the morning chasing my son around the house I sat down in front of the television while he spent the better part of an hour just pulling toys out of his toybox. At some point, he got tired of this and unbeknownst to me, removed the remote control from the arm of the chair I was sitting in. He began proudly marching around the house banging the remote against any hard surface in reach of his tiny arms. We had already lost one remote to the wanton destruction of our little Tasmanian devil so I did what any reasonable person would expect, I walked over to him, unceremoniously took it from his hands and returned to my seat.
He stood in in front of the entertainment center starting at me a bit stunned. Maybe he was incensed that I had the audacity to snatch the remote from him or maybe he was just shocked at the suddenness of my actions.
Everything You Own is a Toy
My son is a deep thinker and he needs quiet and time to process information. It’s a fact that my wife and I exploit to make tasks he finds unpleasant less of a drama.
For instance, he hated car rides so we whisked him from the house to the baby seat like the secret service extracting the president from a dangerous situation. That way he was strapped in and watching The Wiggles on his i-pad before he realized that we'd even backed out of the garage. He hates having his hair washed so I have to wet, lather and rinse in three separate swift motions before he understands that his bath time includes a shampooing.
He soon recovered from his initial shock, however, and then, to my annoyance, retrieved another remote – this time the one for the Blu-ray player- from the entertainment center and resumed his hammering. I again moved quickly to rescue this device as well, but this time I was met with resistance. He looked me dead in the eye and pulled back on the remote with all his strength. “Let go, Azariah, this is not a toy.”
Just a side note, “this is not a toy” is a stupid argument to pose to a one-year-old. To them, you don’t own tools, utensils, accessories or portable electronic devices… you own toys. Not only do they think your toys are cooler than the ones you’ve spent a small fortune to buy them, but you must think they’re cooler as well because you won’t bloody share them.
There's a Strom Brewing
Anyway, I won the tug-of-war with the toddler (surprise ending I know) and returned to my seat. This time, however, I was expecting a full-blown tantrum.
My wife and I had made a commitment of ignoring tantrums. The rules were clear: Make no eye contact, maintain a stoic composure, do not verbally engage the subject, thereby starving the tantrum of the attention it needs to survive. I sat down fully anticipating at least a category three level storm of tears and hollering. But it was quiet, in retrospect, too quiet.
In the corner of my eye I could see that he had crouched down in the corner of the room, his face turning strawberry red, his fists tightly clenched and resting on his knees while making determined grunting sounds. All indications were that he was taking a poo. “Fine,” I thought, “I’ll wait until he is finished and then I will change him.”
That was my first mistake. The second was getting so caught up in my program that I forgot to check to see if he was in fact done. (If you're curious I had Netflix’s Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency on - really dope show- watch it.) When I turned my attention back toward him the consequences of my poor decisions were terrifyingly apparent. He was standing across the room in front of me naked from the waist down. In his right hand, he had a grip on a diaper heavily laden with the efforts of his work.
I was confused. Had he done half of the work for me? Should I praise him for his initiative? When did he learn to unbutton his pants? So many questions ran through my mind that I almost missed him slowly raising the hand holding the stinky diaper.
“Hold on baby, let daddy help,” I said with urgency.
But then Azariah took a step back. Was he trying to avoid me? No, he couldn’t be. I took a big step forward and he tore off across the living room, diaper in hand. His curly hair was bouncing manically across his face as he raced away from me to take a up a new position. Like a primitive hunter with a sling sizing up a charging predator, his eyes were sharp and clear, examining me, trying to assess my intentions. His tiny mussels were taught and ready to go into flight or fight mode at a moment’s notice. He then looked me dead in the eye as he levelled himself up with the couch and pulled his arm back.
Things Get Real
He was about to launch a fully weaponised diaper at our only couch. A couch we had spent way too much money for, a couch that absorbed odors like a sponge, a couch that was not going to be replaced anytime in the near or distant future.
“Jesus no!,” I shouted (well screeched), “No Azariah!”
His eyes widened, his neck craned backward and the look on his determined faced transmitted one thought into my brain, a thought that was delivered in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson. “No?! No!? Mother@%#$ you’re in a conflict with a person with biological weapons capability and all you have is a verbal command?”
I slowly took a step toward him. “Azariah…don’t. Put it down.”
I took a step forward and he took a step back. “I’m not joking. Put it down.”
Another step forward and another step back. “Azariah come here now!”
In an act of desperation, I took one the remotes in hand and offered it to him. “Come Azariah, come, you can have it. Come to daddy.”
When he narrowed his eyes, pursed his lips and shook his head “no” my blood ran cold. As far as I could remember until that point he had never given me a clear response to a statement or question that I posed to him. Well, not in clear English anyway.
Do you want more milk baby?” was met with affable but incoherent babbling.
“Let’s go outside,” was met with a grunt or two but never a clear yes or no.
This “no” signaled a couple of things to me:
1. Our communication had reached a new level. He understood what I was saying and was giving a response I could understand and;
2. I was not going to de-escalate this situation. He had gone beyond wanting the remote control. He was no longer a baby trying to have his way, this toddler was trying to prove a point.
The Dark Knight
I’ve been lucky in my life. I have only experienced true terror a handful of times. But I have experienced it enough to know what it feels like. So when my skin became cold and clammy and I could feel beads of sweat roll down my cheek at the sight of him twirling his full diaper around over his head like it was Thor’s flippin’ hammer I knew I was afraid, very afraid.
The moment he threw it I must have had an out of body experience because I saw all of this unfolding from above the living room. It all happened in slow motion. His arm swung backward like the ridged neck of a catapult. He put all of his body weight into the throw. Instinctively, I threw my body between the couch and my son’s dirty diaper bomb, sacrificing myself for the sake of the family’s largest piece of communal furniture.
As all this unfolded I could hear Michael Cane’s voice narrating the scene. The famous words he used to describe the Joker’s motivations from “The Dark Knight” rang through my head and were conveniently paraphrased to suit the situation: “...some babies aren't looking for anything logical, like control of the television. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some toddlers just want to see the world covered in poo.”
I hit the floor and I could feel the warm weight of his diaper against my chest then a cold sickening damp slowly seeping through my shirt. I snatched it off like it was on fire. In the end, a couch was saved, a butt was wiped and re-diapered and an 18month-old was sentenced to 10 minutes (okay five) in his room.
This stand-off didn’t have an entirely happy ending though remember what T-shirt; I was wearing that day but it’s gone now, slowly decomposing in a landfill somewhere in Brisbane.
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© 2017 Rupert Missick