Diversionary Tactics for Toddlers and Other Aliens

Children are not right.

The way their little brains function, the undecipherable languages in which they speak to us and to each other (which to them, apparently, is quite understandable – I’ve seen two of the extra-terrestrials speaking to each other in alien-speak, with appropriate hand gestures, and apparently resolve some dispute over the order in which they were to play with a tire swing), and their unearthly energy levels proves to me that they were dropped here by Martians.

The robotic rovers now searching the red planet for signs of water will not discover the tell-tale signs of intelligent life – they will, however, find three-year-olds.

You also know that diversionary tactics are frequently necessary to deal with the peculiar behaviors of the creatures. If one is whining about his friend not sharing a favorite toy, promise ice cream. If one is injured, promise ice cream. If one doesn’t want to go to bed, promise ice creaming (in the morning, of course). These may be empty promises, readily forgotten or modified by exigencies of life, which makes them eerily similar to the political machinations of elected officials.

In fact, there aren’t many curtain-climber crises that can’t be averted with ice cream, even belly aches induced by eating too much ice cream.

But I have been surprised at the other things that can divert the attention of a young space alien.

The Lure of Monster Warfare

On his third birthday Brooks got a tire swing from his Paw Paw (grandfather, to those of you unfamiliar with pre-pubescent nomenclature for relatives), and Brooks and all his co-reveler friends rode the tire swing without incident. When it was Brooks’ turn again (by the way, don’t ever name your child something that ends with “s”: it is a nightmare figuring out how to write, or say, possessives and plurals), Paw Paw attempted the biggest swing of the day. The limb to which the swing was attached groaned and creaked, and momentum set in, g-forces took over, and Brooks sailed out of the swing, slid along the ground on his back, and left a huge skid mark in the mostly red clay and small rocks.

Brooks’ back looked like someone had run a cheese grater over it, and he was wailing as if, well, someone had run a cheese grater over it.

One of his presents had been an air gun that shot Styrofoam suction cup bullets. As I went over to check on him, I asked if he wanted to shoot his gun. His head swiveled in a completely unnatural fashion (remember the prevailing alien theory), and he immediately began cheerily describing the monsters he was going to shoot with his gun. This seemed, at the time, terribly genocidal, in that monsters and aliens probably belong on the same family tree somewhere.

Any trauma or pain over the premature ejection from the tire swing was forgotten as soon as the gun was mentioned, and he took great pleasure in shooting a Styrofoam suction cup bullet in the middle of my forehead.

The Diversionary Strength of Poo

On another occasion Brooks fell off my work table in the shop and landed flat on his back. There was an eerie moment of complete silence as he regained his breath, and then there emerged from his body the volume and type of shrieking so out of proportion to his size that it could only have come from a species indigenous to another galaxy. He was still screaming after I carried him inside to see mommy.

She examined him for obvious emergency-room-level injuries (blood and guts), and as she did so, she began to sniff. Knowing that Roger, the German Shepherd Dog, lived in the back yard, and of necessity frequently defecated there, and that I had just carried the boy through that mine field, I knew what was coming.

“All right, I smell dog mess!”

At this point Brooks apparently forgot all about his condition, which had been earning for him all sorts of parental attention and promises of ice cream, and with great interest responded “Who’s got dog poop?” while beginning to examine the underside of his shoes, and mine.

Canine excrement is, apparently, an attention diverter applicable not only to toddlers, but also to fully grown adult mothers, such as my wife, who also seemed to forget that Brooks might require medical attention when she thought that someone had tracked dog poop in the house.

Perhaps Brooks’ tendencies are not extra-terrestrial, after all, but genetic.


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