Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Toddler Effect

My first post!

January 9, 2017
C. D. Brady Post "The Toddler Effect"

I went with my son to a car dealer to get his free oil change. I'm not going to mention the name of the dealership, but they tell you it is going to take one hour and twenty minutes. Doesn't matter which service, it's always one hour and twenty minutes. They are wrong - it's always longer.  I berate myself every time for taking the free service when I could get a much quicker oil change closer to my house but it's hard when you're cheap.
We finally got a chance to sit down on some comfortable chairs in the 'adult' lounge. My son sat down and started playing his games on his portable, and I read an e-book. I nodded at the clean-cut gentleman next to me. Well-groomed with a crewcut, he was working on a crossword puzzle.
 There was constant buzz from the children's lounge. A small girl came running out into our lounge followed by a little boy of the same age.  She hid behind my son's chair. She was a cutie with brown hair and big brown eyes. She had a pink ribbon in her hair and a big smile on her face.  The boy was smirking at her with a glazed look on his face.
The little girl touched my son, smiled and ran back to the children's lounge followed closely by the boy. My son didn't even notice, just kept playing his game.
"Don't look them in the eyes," the cruciverbalist (someone who does crossword puzzles) said.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I said don't look them in the eyes."
"The kids?" I asked.
He nodded. "Worse than kids," he said. "Their toddlers."
I was a little confused. "Why can't you look toddlers in the eyes?"
"The toddler effect.  They can sense weakness, especially when they start traveling in packs. They're hungry and they are tired, conditions that make them ripe for toddler tantrums."
The little girl came running back out from the children's lounge, this time followed by three other boys, all the same age.  She had the same smile on her face and all the boys were sweaty and had the same glazed looks on their face. She ran back beside my son's chair and stopped, staring back at the boys, who had stopped and were staring back at her.
She smiled and put her hand on my son's arm. He looked at the girl and smiled. He looked at the boy toddlers and they all backed away. He returned to his game. An older woman, most likely the little girl's grandmother came out of the children's lounge, a perturbed look on her face. She seemed weary and pointed at the little girl and called her. The little girl ran toward her and the boys followed.
"You're talking about the terrible twos," I said.
He took his glasses off. "No, toddler tantrums is part of the toddler effect. They get to the point that they have no fear of the consequences. I think it’s due to evolution, probably some sort of defense mechanism to protect the tribe and family. Like the berserkers of olden times, warriors who fought with trance-like furies."
"But they are only toddlers," I said. "What can they do?"
"I'd seen them take out a whole marine company," he said seriously.
We both watched as another toddler, a little boy, came running out of the children's lounge. His face was a bright red, almost as if he was feverish. Chocolate was smeared on his cheeks. He was followed by an older girl, who I assume was his sister. He ran to the little refrigerator where they keep the free water bottles, opened the door and started throwing the water bottles on the floor, one by one. The girl reached over and grabbed him, yanking him back.
"Tyler, no!"
He screeched at the top of his lungs. It was so loud, my son actually looked up from his game for a second. The girl had her brother in a headlock and wasn't about to let him go. Tyler bit her and she screamed, releasing him. An office door across from the lounge flew open and a harried woman marched out. There was a scowl on her face. Both children melted to the floor whimpering. She was just a little woman, but she walked over and picked up Tyler. She glared into his face for a second, and he immediately quieted. They walked back to the office together.  The boy was half her size and he hugged her as she carried him back with her, a beatific smile on his face. The girl calmly put the bottles back in the refrigerator and returned to the children's lounge.
"How did the toddlers wipe out the marines?" I asked.
The man smiled and put his glasses back on his face. He had me interested and he knew it. "The company was just returning from Afghanistan," he said.  "It was tough over there, but after eight months they were finally home.  The families were re-united in the camp gymnasium and everything went well initially.  Everyone was ecstatic - there was cheering, bands playing, and happy tears. But then, everything went off track."
"What happened?"
"The CO decided that the women should have a relaxing tea session with his wife. The commander's wife invited all the mothers, grandmothers and older daughters to have a cup of tea with her in the adjoining meeting room, while the returning marines could spend time with their children. It was a perfect scenario - the women would have some peace after a long deployment and the men could get to know their children again. The men would share cookies, drink lemonade, and play on the floor of the gymnasium with their children."
"Sounds like a good plan," I said.
"You would think so, but you forgot the toddler effect."
"What happened?"
"Think about it - most of the toddlers were babies when the men left and had no clue who their fathers were, even if they had seen pictures or participated in video-chats," he said. "There was a groan and whimpering as soon as the women left. Within fifteen minutes, there was complete chaos.  The toddlers formed groups and began terrorizing the marines. Men who had worked together for months defeating the enemy were besieged on all sides. Panic set in."
He became more agitated as he talked, gesturing with his hands. "Some took their clothes off and began pounding on the doors to get the mothers back into the gymnasium."
"The toddlers did that?"
"No that was the marines," he said.  "The CO himself finally went in and asked his wife to return the women."
"Thank goodness," I said.
"It took them a while, but order was restored."
"I bet the CO took some heat for the whole thing."
"Actually, he didn't," he said. "It turns out that the unit had a less than ten percent retention rate, but they blew through their re-enlistment goals before the men left that day."
"Wait, are you saying the men were so intimidated by the toddlers, they re-upped for a tour?"
He nodded.  "The toddler effect," he said. "The scenario is still studied at Annapolis and West Point to this day."
"The CO was a genius," I said.
A service host came by. "Colonel, your car is ready," she said.
"Terrific," he said.
I stood up and shook his hand. "Thank you for your service, colonel."
"Thank you," he said.
The little girl came running out of the children's lounge. Her bow was askew. There were five toddler boys who came running out following her. One tripped and fell, but pushed himself back up quickly and joined his friends.
"They're nearing critical mass," he said, a twinkle in his eye.
I laughed. "It's the toddler effect."
He smiled and I sat back down, chuckling. The girl hadn't moved and was staring at my son.
I thought about the story. 

"Hey, son," I said. "Let's go for a walk."

C. D. Brady is an author whose website is located at www.cdbrady.com

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