Graduate seminar in toothbrushing

Oh my god with the toothbrushing. Why, why, why is this such a chore?

We’ve been brushing teeth with Peanut for four years and two months. And we have tried the following tricks, in order, to win over a resistant child:

1. brush his teeth hanging him upside down
2. sing a song while brushing
3. get a flashing firefly toothbrush
4. brush like animals (elephant brushes slowly and heavily, hummingbird quickly and lightly, platypus changes each time because what the f*%#?)
5. you brush then we brush
6. count teeth while we brush
7. tell a long story while we brush
8. play red light, green light dance-style while we brush (green light, you dance while I brush; red light you stop while I brush the tough parts)

And I swear to his future periodontist, I’m gonna let these baby teeth fall out of his head before I invent another game to get these stupid, no-good, replaceable, temporary, cookie-begging teeth clean.

Sure, offer your tricks below. Please. But I can’t pretend I have the energy for anything really creative, so skip the eighteen-part games even if you swear by them. Simple, please. Be gentle with me.

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Toddler or Anarchist?

With whom would you rather share your home—-a toddler or an anarchist?

Hmmm. Tougher choice than it seems. Unless you have (or have had) a toddler. In that case, you know pretty much where this is going.

Two-year-olds can be loving, can be interesting, can be wonderful companions. They also, though, often strive for independence and control over their own ideas and bodies, usually in wildly disproportionate episodes of writhing, screaming, and sobbing. In short, they are trying on independence without any of the skills it takes to button the cuffs of social diplomacy.

Anarchists, on the other hand, just want coercive government to go away. They have social skills, and their tactics are often in direct response to the perceived threat to their independence. You don’t have to baby-proof a house for an anarchist. They have better things to do than chase your cats, break your favorite coffee mug, or pee on your phone.

Like toddlers, anarchists come with all manner of agendas and methodologies. Like toddlers, anarchists can be loving, interesting, and wonderful companions. Unlike toddlers, anarchists aren’t out of their illogical, irrational, freaking minds.

Two-year-old evidence from yesterday: Peanut kissed me at least 45 times each hour, for all 14 hours he was awake. Big, full, lip-on-lip, sweet Peanut kisses. Most of the kisses accompanied by my favorite sentence from 19 months on: “Peanut…Like…Mommy.” Score one for toddlers. It was a good, good day.

Further two-year-old evidence from yesterday: Peanut walked into sporting good store, after agreeing that, yes, this store has some no-touches, so please ask mommy before you touch. He asked, then defied, on four items, each time looking right at me as he touched. I said, “no, thank you. No touch.” He said, “Please” as he touched again. I said, “No. No touch. Please listen to my words.” He touched again and repeated “please.” I shook my head and gently removed his hand. He cried “No Mommy move Peanut hand!” On the fourth item (sunglasses…why, oh why do they put those at waist-level instead of up by our eyes, where they should be?!) he threw a fit. Reaching for it…”I said no touch. If you touch that, we will leave the store.” Touch. Scoop up and take outside. Screaming, crying. Sobbing really, with tears streaming down his face. “One minnow!” (see the one minnow post. priceless. for all other toddler moments, there’s MasterCard.)

“Nope. We’re all done.” Cried on the sidewalk in my arms for, no joke, ten minutes. My biceps were on fire. I tried silence. I tried gentle talk, offering different options. I did not offer (or acquiesce to) a return trip into the store. Crying, crying, crying. Cried a few times as people walked by, I’m sure, just to inform them of my bad parenting. His words, not mine.

Anyway, toddler loses that one. (It was still a good day, btw.)

No specific anarchist data for same day, but passed several pedestrians in San Luis Obispo who were undoubtedly familiar with the tenets of at least one anarchist, and they seemed a welcome, quiet change from a two-and-a-half-year-old. Anarchists do not frequently scream or cry or try to grab things that society asked them not to touch. Anarchists break things and destroy property to reject the notion of property. They are rebelling. I can get on board with at least the idea, if not the reality, of this sort of rebellion. Two-year-old rebellion I do not support, as it makes absolutely no sense. (Yes, I know it does. Yes, I know why they try power battles over everything at bedtime and whenever you really, really need to get somewhere. Yes, I know why very gentle and well-behaved children turn into screaming banshees when you’re on the phone. Yes, they make sense. But not in a grown-up logical way. In a animal kingdom kind of way. But seriously. Let me have my little diatribe here. I need an outlet. Heaven knows I need an outlet.) Where anarchists may destroy property to protest capitalism, toddlers touch stuff that’s not even interesting. They don’t try to possess, or refuse to think in terms of possession. They just touch stuff to touch it. And especially if told no.

Give me an anarchist any day. I understand how infuriating and terrifying it must be to control so little of your world (unless you’re Peanut, of course, who controls more of his world than 99.8% of other two-and-a-half-year-olds do, and therefore should really cut me some freaking slack. We don’t use coercion in his world. He doesn’t even have a right to anarchy. Peanut protesting coercion is like white, middle class kids complaining about how hard their lives are, and turning to drugs because they’re bored. Get a job. Volunteer. Shut up. Go work for Amnesty International for a while.) I do not understand the battles pre-preschoolers choose. Don’t get it. Score one for anarchists.

Two-year-old evidence from today: walks through the kitchen and 1)opens the trash can for no other reason than to peer inside. Thrice. 2) Reaches on tiptoes into the sink to grab the sponge, wet, and throw it on the floor. 3) Grabs a fistful of straws from the choosing cup (I know, I know–my fault for leaving it on the table) and drags them along the wall. 4)Unwinds the whole paper towel roll. Again. 5) Screams bloody murder everytime one of Parker and Skylar’s horses fall over, even though they fall over because he accidentally knocks them down. His fault, but gravity’s response is physically painful to him. When I empathize and tell him that, yes, it’s frustrating when you work hard to stand up a horse just to have it fall down, and that maybe we should try again, he hits me.

Please send me an anarchist for Christmas. Or Channukah. Or Memorial Day. What a great co-brand that would be: Hallmark offering anarchists for Mother’s Day. “When you care enough to give mom a break, send an anarchist.”

Anyway, each of these incidents of strange but typical toddler behavior got a casual, measured, supportive, and corrective comment and a plea to “please don’t do that” because fill-in-the-simplest-reason. Except the hitting. That got a time out.

Here’s the problem. By incident number four I actually said, “Please don’t do that because…can’t you just be civilized? We have the same rules every day. They don’t change. It’s the same rule Sunday as it is Thursday.” [“Thursday,” he cries, “Movie!” He’s right. Thursday is movie day. One half hour of some video that is not geared toward kids. It’s the only way I get to see Planet Earth. But that’s not the point. The consistency of rules is. Or so I thought. Not in his world. Consistency, choices, whatever. He doesn’t really care that we have always been careful with our “no”s because we saved them for genuine danger. He thinks we’re restrictive no matter how many ways we use to suggest activities other than the disgusting, irritating, or destructive one he’s chosen. Please, please. An Anarchist for the weekend. Please. On a toddler for disestablishmentarian trade program?]

An anarchist might look in the trash to find food, subverting the establishment’s insistence on exchanging money for sustenance. Not just to look in there, and not just after I helped her wash her hands. An anarchist might throw the sponge at a representative of government, to suggest any number of metaphoric or literal needs to clean up. But probably not just to piss me off. An anarchist might…okay, seriously, what self-respecting anarchist would drag straws along the wall or unroll paper towels? And therein lies the reason I’d probably choose to live with an anarchist over a toddler–they know the rules and break some to make a point. Toddlers have heard the rules, figure they’re the center of the universe and not subject to the rules, and just do things to get a reaction out of those who watch them. Kisses make mommy sigh with happiness, and ridiculousness pisses off mommy. Gonna try each twenty times today to see what happens. And they quite enjoy that power.

Anarchists push society’s buttons to make us question assumptions. Toddlers push our buttons because it’s fun. I just want to scream at Peanut: “Have some principles, at least, like those comparatively upstanding and logical anarchists. The world is not your plaything, and my rules are really just society’s rules. So put on some pants so we can leave the house, pick up the sting ray so mommy doesn’t hurt her foot again, and please put your plate in the sink or I’m going to have to remember that all the things I’m teaching you will make you thoughtful and logical. Just like an anarchist!”

Who, looking at an infant, would think anarchy would be a positive trajectory?

Well, it’s a serious improvement over two-and-a-half.