The first thing is that kids are a lot smarter than they let on. I figured kids are learning how to think. Not true. They know how to think. They are learning to communicate, they are learning the hand-eye thing, but thinking they've pretty much got nailed right out of the box.
Another is that children are very, very lucky that they're cute. I mean that sincerely. A little munchkin will walk up, not knowing how much he depends on family resemblance and say
"Uncle Rusty, can I play with Rex the Wrecker?"
"Does he make noise?"
"Go for it."
"Uncle Rusty, can you help me find Rex The Wrecker?"
"Well, what does he look like?"
"He's Rex the Wrecker!"
You don't say. Ok, take my hand -- and we'll go around the house hunting for him. We'll come to the den where his cousin is already playing with the toy. He knows this, and I know it because Chris is suddenly lunging at the toy and I say
"Chris, no! No! Your cousin Trey is already -- Chris. Chris. Christopher. Look at me. Baby Trey is playing with Rex The Wrecker. Look, here's.... Dolly the Doll. Knock yourself out."
Peace at least? Heh. "Trey no! Trey -- Christopher! Tr--- look. If baby Trey wants to play with Dolly the Doll that means you can play with Rex The Wrecker, ok? Glad you could work that out, all right?"
"Can I play with Dolly The Doll?"
"No, Chris, you can't play with Dolly The Doll you're playing with Rex the Wrecker!" But what he's really playing with is my soft, little mind.
And it's not just me. My dad used to work for Headstart -- you know, teaching kids how to read and write and clap their hands -- getting them prepared for school which is what Headstart is all about. The kids would be drawing on these big pieces of paper and my dad would pick it up and say
"Emily, this is a beautiful drawing! This is your house, yeah? And that's your folks, eh? Great. Jorge, this is a beautiful drawing! That's your dog? What's your dog's name?"
But there was this one kid -- I'll call him Pepito. He was very quiet, very shy, didn't really talk much. My dad picked up the paper and it was all black: a square black thing there, something else with a tail, spiky black grass and a big black sun and he said ".... Pepito... this is a beautiful drawing! This is your house?" Pepito nodded his head. "And these are your folks?" Nod. "Ah, ok." Dad knew he had to be delicate here because children-- especially young children --often don't have words to express what they're feeling, and it can come out in other ways. So he sat down and said
"Pepito, is everything ok?" Nod. "Nothing's wrong, nothing you want to tell me about?" Shake. "So why is your picture all black? Pepito?"
"Oh no, don't cry! No, don't cry, I'm not mad at you Pepito, this is a beautiful drawing. No, no.... you're not in trouble, no... look here, blow your nose, ok, it's a beautiful drawing, yeah... if there's anything you want to tell me, it's ok, ok?"
"So can you tell me why your house is all black?"
"Because... I ate all the other colors..."
They're lunatics, dammit! They're lunatics and they're going to drag you down with 'em. I'm writing this for those of you that don't have kids, maybe thinking about it, maybe listening to those love songs on the radio, getting a litle bit excited... I want you to think it through; remember where it leads.
Because when you become parents (and as you slowly, slip into madness) you'll start doing very strange things and you won't even notice. You'll be expected to form strong opinions about various cartoon animals. No matter how bad you were at spelling you will become a master talking about c-a-n-d-y and going to the d-o-c-t-o-r.
You will wake up one day and say to yourself "You know, it's been ten years since I've had sex in my kitchen." And then you'll realize you've got ten more years to go.
So just remember: cuteness is a survival trait. And they are out to get you.