ISSUE 109

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 Does your toddler think only of themselves? Is it me, me, me? I want that doll. Read me a story. Give me those Oreos, or I’m going to blow my shit. If so, your child may be a narcissist.
 Toddler narcissists are born with a skill for manipulation, the manipulation of their own mothers. Baseless, senseless, out of touch with reality, absolutely unhinged around pancakes and ice cream… these only hint to what’s within that adorable child with the chipmunk hat on.
 Masters of deception, they may cause the staunchest, most intelligent adult to act like an idiot. This adult—possibly an astronaut or an Army sergeant or that jerk who works at Enterprise—will quickly redefine their life by whether they can get a toddler to smile, the same child who eats spaghetti with their fist and pretends to read a book upside down.
 As narcissists, toddlers can’t understand how they only care about themselves. When you explain their selfish tendencies and why they must eat their vegetables, their excuse is hey, my brain hasn’t developed enough to understand what altruism or vitamins are.
 In fact, most attempted negotiation with toddlers usually ends with the repetition of a single word that may or may not be understood. You explain who their father is and they point at the dog or the couch, casting doubt on whether they will ever move out and find a well-paying job.
 Like all self-centered people, a toddler’s conflict-resolution skills are abysmal. They simply cannot engage with the world in a mature way, rather choosing to use a spoon to hit things. They deal with life by pointing, grabbing, crying, lunging at coffee cups, and preemptively shitting themselves, rather than calmly accepting their external reality.  
 What should you do if your child is infected with narcissism? Removing one’s presence from a situation has no discernable effect, toddlers only crawling after you and screaming.
 An uncompromising “no” is recommended by experts. Deny a narcissist and they’ll realize they won’t get what they want—or they’ll steal it when you aren’t looking. To counter this, understand that children are limited by their height, fine motor skills, and intelligence. You have every advantage, except time and healthy knees. 
 Attempt to explain the concepts of empathy and altruism with puppets and breaded chicken in the shape of dinosaurs. When Little Lisa wants to eat the head of the dinosaur, make the other dinosaurs sad because she is decapitating their friend. This will teach her that it’s not okay to eat someone’s head, a valuable lesson in today’s society.
 Read your toddler stories that feature fuzzy animals doing nice things for each other. While the story will rarely present a realistic picture of nature or how society functions, it will communicate how soft an animal’s fur is, which is so, so soft.  
 Being with other children also encourages sharing. Playgrounds, preschools, and parks allow you to teach your child kindness and how hot metal slides get in the sun. So, when they offer their ball to another child, congratulate them and offer them fruit snacks. When another child steals their ball, covertly trip the other child when their parent isn’t looking.
 At times, you will sabotage your efforts to create a well-functioning member of society. You may look at a toddler and think, This person is defenseless and adorable. Just remember what else is cute: Kittens. Puppies. Pandas. Sometimes squirrels. And you know what they have in common? They make good computer backgrounds, and at some point, you will step in their poop.  
 Some question whether small children can help being so needy and selfish. They’re born that way, they say. Give them time. They’ll grow up. Warning! These people are co-conspirators of toddlers, known to give them treats and Eggo waffles, especially Grandma.
 Don’t panic. Even when your toddler throws a plate of scrambled eggs on the floor and looks at you like, Yeah. Fuck the system, narcissism can be beat, though the stakes are high. If you succeed in instilling good morals, your child may take up a low-paying career in social work or teaching. If you fail, they could become an investment banker or politician.  
   
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