Possibly supporting the theory that they have received some kind of crack military training*, toddlers are all masters of Catch 22. Toddler Catch 22 works on the same principles as the original Catch 22**, but the volume is much louder. If you consider carefully, you will probably find that 70% of what your toddler says consists of Catch 22 style paradoxes. (In case you are wondering, a further 20% is non-sequiturs: ‘Look, Mummy, it’s raining; I want cheese!’ The final 10% is ‘raisins’. My groundbreaking book on the development of language in toddlers will be out really no time soon.)
Here are just a few classic toddler manifestations of Catch 22. (Admittedly, some may not technically be Catch 22s, but I think we can all agree that they retain the key component of ridiculousness.)
1. Too tired for bed
Toddlers may not be put to bed when tired. Any attempt will be met with a meltdown. Why? Because they are tired and they do not want to go to bed. Because they are tired.
2. The category known as: ‘I like cheese. I like toast. What the hell is this cheese doing on my toast?’
According to Catch 22, a toddler may declare that a meal is not to his or her liking. When questioned about the individual ingredients of the meal, the toddler will confirm enjoyment of them all. The toddler will also acknowledge having wolfed down the same meal the previous week. Taking account of these pieces of evidence, would the toddler like to finish the meal?
‘No, don’t like this! Take it away!’
(Additional note: should the toddler subsequently observe a younger sibling eating the exact same meal, the toddler will demand to eat that meal. The toddler will continue to refuse to eat his/her own identical meal. Should the bowls be swapped to accommodate this request, the toddler will need the bowl baby sibling now has. The bowl that was the toddler’s bowl seconds before. The toddler’s bowl filled with the food the toddler would not eat. The toddler wants that one.)
3. Circular reasoning
Daddy is not on the naughty step and must therefore go to the naughty step. Because it is naughty to not be on the naughty step.
4. Shrodinger’s temperature
Shrodinger’s temperature is, of course, a temperature that exists in two states – both hot and cold – simultaneously, until such time as a toddler becomes old enough to make sense. It is this:
‘I’m going to be taking my trowies off.’
‘I’m a bit hot.’
‘Are you? Mummy thinks it’s a bit cold.’
‘Yes, it is a bit cold.’
Holding out arm and toy compass on a watch strap: ‘Mummy, put my clock on, please.’ The ‘clock’ goes on. ‘Aargh, Mummy! Mummy! Aargh! I don’t like to have my clock on.’
6. The Mobius strip of naughty
All productivity grinds to a halt when a toddler gets onto the Mobius strip of naughty. Such as this inability to get dressed: ‘No! Am doing something! Am doing naughty!’ Getting dressed is, you see, quite impossible. We are too busy. We are doing something. We are being naughty. We are being naughty because we won’t get dressed. We are, in essence, too busy not getting dressed to be able to get dressed.
‘ I don’t like to eat broccoli.’
‘Don’t eat it then.’
‘Yes I can eat broccoli. Want to eat.’ Broccoli goes into the mouth.
‘I don’t like to eat broccoli.’
Thinking of touching something that is yours? Think again: Toddler Catch 22 forbids it. Grandma, for example, must not, under any circumstances, touch her own camera. ‘Grandma don’t touch that: that’s Grandma’s.’
Incidentally, if crazy toddler logic has driven you insane, you are entitled to a free spa break. Of course, being driven insane is an entirely rational response to crazy toddler logic. Therefore you are not insane, and cannot have your spa break. Sorry: Catch 22.
** The various crazy and paradoxical military rules, from which the pilots are unable to escape, encompassed within ‘Catch-22’ in Joseph Heller’s novel of the same name (worth a read, if you never have). First seen in the rule that any pilot who is insane does not have to fly any more missions, and merely has to ask to be grounded. However, wanting to be grounded in the face of danger is a sane desire, thus proving the pilot is not insane and must fly more combat missions.