Following the slightly disturbing realisation that toddlers behave a lot like the children in Lord of the Flies, I give you the somewhat less disturbing suggestion that living with toddlers is also a lot like an episode of Fawlty Towers. (If you don’t know Fawlty Towers, it’s one of those programmes people used to watch in the days before there was only Peppa Pig. You may have heard rumours about those days. Everything you heard was true.)
You recall the basic tenets of Fawlty Towers: extreme tantrums, silly walks, bossiness, grumpiness, unreasonable behaviour, ridiculous misunderstandings, unintelligible English, and hitting things with sticks. Now, if you would just like to consider the last half an hour or so with your toddler…
Or allow me to present the evidence.
1. Public Relations
Much like Basil Fawlty, your average toddler will occasionally decide a random person is the most important* person ever. This person will be fawned over. Everybody else will be ignored. However, this will not last. By the end of the day, both Basil and the toddler will be found screaming at, and probably trying to kick, the previously beloved person.**
**Because they turn out to be a conman (Basil), or because they turn out to be a poohead (toddler).
2. Taking instruction
Basil and toddlers are prone to ignoring instructions (from their bossy wives/mummies); relentlessly repeating the same bad behaviour (hiring unreliable builders who put doors in the wrong place/knocking over baby siblings); and denying all knowledge (of how the door ended up in the wrong place/the baby sibling ended up in tears).
There is an episode of Fawlty Towers in which the new chef only works with duck, all the dishes are duck based, and a significant amount of time is spent searching for duck. By some fluke in the space-time continuum, I believe this episode is actually based on my one year old, who talks almost exclusively about ‘duck’. The pursuit of duck is her main purpose in life. At this very moment, and though she can say ‘cat’, she is following the cat around yelling, ‘Duck!’ It is unclear whether she has decided to assign the cat to the role of duck, or expects the cat to locate a duck for her.
The Toddler approach to food is modelled almost exactly on Fawlty Towers: complain that you don’t like what you are given only after happily eating half of it; and offer other people bizarre, made up combinations of food. (Ritz salad a la Basil, anyone? It’s like a Waldorf salad, but not. No? My two year old can offer you egg tea, if you prefer?) Toddlers further admire Basil’s willingness to shout at a chef who is not in fact there, though they see no reason to limit such shouting to imaginary chefs: the world is literally full of imaginary people at whom you could be yelling.
Que? This one is quite self explanatory. In fact, I believe Manuel’s record for the most prolific use of the word ‘what’ in a 30 minute period was recently broken by two year old Roland from Weston Super Mare.
Now, I don’t recommend turning to toddlers for your hammer supply needs. However, if you do, you will find yourself discussing ham sandwiches and hamsters, with someone who doesn’t fully grasp the English language. It happened to Basil, it will happen to you.
7. Stuffed Animals
The Major may have been somewhat surprised to discover a stuffed moose that was both talking and naughty, but for a toddler, of course, this is just another day at the office. Indeed, up to 70% of a toddler’s time can be spent informing stuffed animals (who may or may not be talking back) that they have been naughty.
8. Causing Offence
Like Basil, toddlers are inclined to say absolutely anything that you would really prefer they do not say. Never mind Basil’s inadvertent mentions of the war to the Germans, Toddler Basil would have unashamedly informed them: ‘You did do the war, didn’t you? You are a naughty wolf!’
So: conclusive proof (‘ooh I know’) that toddlers are living out Fawlty Towers on a daily basis. (Now, just don’t mention Peppa Pig. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it…)