I haven’t gone to confession since I was kicked out of one when I was about 10 years old. I’ll save that story for another day but it’s not like I don’t make confessions any more. I confess that I steal funny stuff and have murderous thoughts when a guy in a bagel store puts an onion or everything bagel in with plain bagels. Anyway, I’m pretty sure at 10 years old I was just normal bad. I shouldn’t have gotten chased by that grumpy priest. It’s not like I was baby bad.
A recent episode on the radio show, This American Life was about bad babies. Basically, the theme was that all 2-year-olds are mean, terrible beings. They want to bite people, defy at every turn, make demands, and just cause destructive havoc.
It was the story of a kid named Chris that had me cackling. When he was just two and half his mother took him to the A & P and sat him in the shopping cart. She first filled the basket with cat food for their pet. With nothing else in the cart he started whining, “I don’t want to eat cat food again.” Some people turned towards them. Again in an even whinier voice, the kid said, “I’m tired of eating cat food.” Mom, embarrassed, tried to smile and laugh it off as she pushed the cart to the next aisle, all the while wondering if people were going to call Child Welfare.
Another time the kid was at the top of the stairs when Grandma walked in. He said to his mother, “Me not a sumbitch. Me not a sumbitch” That made Grandma think Mom had just cursed him out.
Years later, Mom said, well, I didn’t call him a son of a bitch that time.
Dad, the patient one in all this, finally had enough one day and said, that’s it, you’re going to the bad boy house. He dragged the kid to the car and they drove to some scary old abandoned factory and he told the two and a half-yearold to get out.
Chris now 30-something remembers his father forcing him out and then starting to drive away. Dad says it never got that far but he did scare the kid straight, for a couple of days anyway. Every parent has wanted to drop their kid at an abandoned building at least a dozen times.
As it happens, the little demon eventually turned into a human being as soon as preschool started. And that was the point, you can do all you want to get little kids to behave but sometimes you just gotta wait. Some shrinks say the real troublemakers, criminals in many cases, are just two-year-olds in grown up bodies.
Problem is, there’s nothing more dangerous.