Let’s face it—toddlers are crazy. They exhibit behaviors that would get adults committed. The DSM-IV confirms that toddlers are certifiable.
Anxiety : “…inappropriate anxiety is when a person's heart races, breathing increases, and muscles tense without any reason for them to do so. Once a medical cause is ruled out, an anxiety disorder may be the culprit.”
Example - My daughter freaks out when she realizes her stuffed cat, Tessie, in is her crib, a full room away, instead of in her arms. I remind her that the toy is, in fact, retrievable, but she repeatedly calls out (muscles tensing, heart presumably racing), “Tessie! Where Tessie???”
OCD: “…persistent, often irrational, and seemingly uncontrollable thoughts and compulsions which are used to neutralize the obsessions”
Example – We must perform the same bedtime routine in the exact same way every night. It is entitled, “Baby Mine.” The ritual consists of my spouse and I holding Baby together, her head facing the crib, while we sing the song of the same name from Dumbo. It is an exercise in timing and precision, followed by meticulous choosing of the proper blankets for that night’s optimum slumbering.
Eating Disorders: “Eating disorders are characterized by disturbances in eating behavior. This can mean eating too much, not eating enough, or eating in an extremely unhealthy manner”
Example – One night my daughter might actually eat the healthy, well-balanced meal prepared for her. The next, she may only eat ketchup.
Impulse Control Disorders: “Disorders in this category include the failure or extreme difficulty in controlling impulses despite the negative consequences.”
Example – Throwing a wooden train at someone’s head will result in a time out. Baby knows this. Yet, our caregiver may bear the scar of Thomas the Train forever.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder: “This disorder is characterized by frequent and often unpredictable episodes of extreme anger or physical outbursts. Between episodes, there is typically no evidence of violence or physical threat.”
Example – Baby is cute and sweet. She gives hugs and kisses, says “please” and “thank you,” and remembers who gave her certain gifts. Then, she punches my spouse in the open eye.
Mood Disorders: “The disorders in this category include those where the primary symptom is a disturbance in mood. In other words, inappropriate, exaggerated, or limited range of feelings.”
Example – Baby would like to go outside naked in only her tap shoes. It is 50 degrees. I say no. Baby begins to cry, swipes everything off of the coffee table, and then runs through the house laughing and yelling, “Nakey! Nakey!”
Sleep Disorders: “Dyssomnias are those disorders relating to the amount, quality, and timing of sleep. Parasomnias relate to abnormal behavior or physiological events that occur during the process of sleep or sleep-wake transitions.”
Example – Baby announces at 3A.M that she is awake and is wondering, “Santa doing?” Christmas was weeks ago. During “nap” time, I enter her room to find stuffed animals strewn everywhere and a motionless figure standing in the center of her crib silently under the sheet, ala The Blair Witch Project. During post-nap “transition,” Baby asks for water in the yellow cup. Once the cup is filled, Baby tearfully accuses, “I want milk in the straw cup! No water!” No want yellow cup!” I have become a beverage enemy, standing in the way of post-sleep hydration.
Psychotic Disorders: “The major symptom of these disorders is psychosis, or delusions and hallucinations.”
Example – Lately, Baby has begun to talk about her sister. She is an only child, thus far. We ask where her sister is, and she replies, “Out of the house.” Requests for more specific information result in this reply: “Blahdeblahblooblahbleebloobloopltthththth!!!!”
Antisocial Personality Disorder: “angry outbursts, failure to consider consequences of behaviors, irritability, and/or physical assaults…Finally, irresponsible behavior often accompanies this disorder as well as a lack of remorse for wrongdoings.”
Example: See Exhibit A and B below. Photo A taken on Halloween as we smile and play. Photo B taken just after Baby bitch-slapped me.
Clearly, toddlers, and, therefore, humans, are inherently cuckoo. It is the parents’ job to suppress as much of the insanity as possible before sending their offspring out into the public. School then squashes whatever is left of the child’s spirit in its institutional vice-grip, which either finishes the job or makes us start over from the beginning.
So, buck-up moms and dads. You were right this whole time. Your baby is fucking crazy. It’s okay. We now follow in the time-honored traditions of spanking, banishing, smothering, or punishing the crazy right out of our kids to make them fit for society. Of course, along the way, we are free to plant our personal brand of Nutty McNutNut seeds in there, usually sprouted in us by our own parental units.
Some may argue that their behavior is simply a product of growth and development, and that these behaviors are developmentally appropriate. Yeah, I get it. But when my kid won’t clean up her toys and I tell her, “That makes me sad,” and then she hits me and smiles, I derive some cold, desperate comfort in knowing that she’s just categorically crazy until, somehow (for the love of all that’s sacred) I teach her not to be.