Day #126 Warning! Outsmarting your toddler can be dangerous to your health

Today we fell into a trap very much of our own making. It was an epic morning battle ending with a resounding defeat of parental convenience and victory for hard toddler logic.

Remember the little gibbon we brought home from the zoo the other day? Here he is again next to a t-shirt with one of his cousins on a surfboard. Yes, that is a chimp on a surfboard, and my great downfall. You see, I never looked closely to realise that it was a chimp and not (as you guessed it) a monkey.

So this morning when I couldn’t produce a t-shirt with a dinosaur on it, my eye caught a glimpse of the bright tie-dye shirt and I whipped it out, exclaiming triumphantly “hey, how about a monkey!”

Hawkeye took one look at the shirt and shook his head. “No, not a monkey!”

Now, he could have just changed his mind and was trying to tell me he no longer wanted a monkey, but since we had just spent two days convincing him that his new toy is a gibbon and not a monkey, my mind was more inclined to immediately interpret his comment as a correction of facts.

And that’s when I took a closer look at the t-shirt. You see, he hasn’t really gotten any wear out of it yet as it’s deceptively big and hangs long on him. Hawkeye’s a tall but skinny sort of kid and grows into tops at a slower pace than he grows into trousers. So this has been hanging around the back of the closet for a year now without me having a good look at it.

As I gazed on the ape-tacular surfer I sincerely regretted that oversight as several things flashed through my mind in rapid succession with that terrible sinking feeling in my gut that the world was about to end.

  1. We have just started convincing Hawkeye that a gibbon is not a monkey.
  2. We did this by repeating the “no tail, no monkey” rule.
  3. If I tell him it is “sort of like a monkey” I am going to be the world’s worst parental hypocrite and my son will never believe anything I tell him ever again.
  4. We are doomed.

I tried to steer the turbulent waters by admitting my own mistake like an honest person. “You’re right, honey. It’s not monkey. Mama made a mistake. See? He has no tail! This guy is, in fact, a chimp!”

“Not a monkey!”

At this point my own self-confidence in everything I have ever learned was flagging. I mean, it is a chimp, right? Is a chimp an ape? Or is a chimp a different kind of tail-less sort-of-like-a-monkey-but-not-a-monkey creature? It’s been a while since I last watched any nature documentaries and even longer since my last biology class where I may or may not have learned about apes versus monkeys. The only thing I could faithfully recall with any certainty in a related category of facts was acquired from Terry Pratchett’s cautionary tale of what happens when you call an orangutan a monkey (hint: he rips your arms off, then goes back to the library to eat a banana). But I wasn’t quite so far gone to believe that I was looking at an orangutan, at least not yet. But I was floundering in a flood of my own making and decided to seek reinforcements.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s a chimp. Why don’t we ask daddy though? Daddy? Is this a chimp?”

Summoned to the field of battle, my husband entered and confirmed that, yes, this was, in fact, a chimp.

“And are chimps apes?”

“Yes, yes they are.” (My husband always seems to know these things. On our last trip to London I found myself completely turned on by the fact that he could identify nearly all of the dinosaur skeletons by the appropriate Latin names.) 

“Well, there… see? We have a chimp on a surfboard. That’s very cool, right?”

Wrong. Oh so very wrong.

“No! Want monkey!”

Oh oh.

I was about 99% certain there were no other monkey shirts in the closet, though it didn’t stop me rooting through his clothes in a desperate effort to procure a miracle. I was rapidly descending into panic mode when inspiration struck.

Hawkeye’s Nana had recently visited Kuwait, where she and my husband’s sister stocked up on a number of fun new outfits for the toddler they so love to spoil. I had a vague recollection of a monkey-like shirt in the bunch but I had not yet gotten around to taking off any tags and washing the clothes as most of them were on the large side or at least about-to-grow-into size so they were still sitting in a bag waiting for some free time for me to organise them. Frantic rooting through the said bag produced the desired result: an actual monkey shirt with a little velcro flap to represent the monkey’s mouth.

So there you go. Cold, hard, logic prevailed. The moral of the story is that if you’re going to teach your toddler the difference between a gibbon and a monkey, you damn sure better be prepared to face the consequences. I’m starting to think that my husband may have been right that day in the zoo to gloss over the turtle / tortoise distinction, and next time Hakweye points to a goose and calls it a duck I think I’ll keep my mouth shut.

And lest you think the morning was salvaged by the last minute find of a monkey shirt, we proceeded to have a tantrum over Hawkeye not wanting to put on his coat. He ended up being wheeled out of the house in his stroller still in tears, refusing to say bye bye to mommy as daddy took him to creche.

Second moral of the story? There is no victory. It’s just an endless struggle to survive each day with your sanity and sense of humour intact.

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