Answer to Infant Manifesto
I am not old enough to read, but I heard my parents reading that article called Infant Manifesto. I wanted to respond, but I can’t write yet, so I dictated this to my older sister—she is three years old—and she wrote it down on our new computer. If it weren’t for that grammar and spell check, I don’t believe she could have done it.
Anyway, I just want to say that I disagree with the other kid that is trying to get us to exercise unlimited indulgence. Don’t get me wrong, I know he was right when he said that all us little guys just want our own way, that we seek to dominate our parents and to make them accomplices to our self-gratification. Like any other kid, I was born with a will to dominate, a will to have no authority higher than my own appetites, but I also know from experience that it’s not the best way.
I don’t understand all that theology stuff, but I know that something is not quite right about the way we little ones come into the world. Now I don’t know if it is something in us that is broken or missing, or if it is something in the world, or our parents, or just what, but I know that something is not the way it should be. Surely our Creator didn’t intend for us to all go astray as soon as we are born, but we do.
I started lying from day one. I am ashamed of it now, but I made my sweet mother think that I was hurting or cold, when all I wanted was to be held close. I soon learned that I could make her believe that I was hungry when I was not. By the time I was six months old—it hurts me to say it now—but I was displaying anger against the one who gave me life. Anytime she failed to immediately meet my wants, I would blow up. At first it was just a little whimpering, but then it got worse, until I found myself kicking and bucking in violent anger. Sometimes I would scream until I was blue in the face. Now that I look back on it, the looks on my parents’ faces were horrible, but I was not sensitive to anyone’s feelings but my own. It became an obsession to get my own way and to get it now.
Oh, I don’t blame my parents, I know that I intimidated them, not through strength, but through my weakness. They felt so helpless and inadequate, and I used that to gain even more control. The magazines in the doctor’s office helped me in my conquest toward autonomy. The “professionals” are just little rebellious kids in disguise. I know; I met some of them when I attended counseling with my parents. They have learned to say things with those big words, giving a name to every form of stupid behavior, but they are just big selfish kids trying to justify their own indulgence. They make our patterns of rebellion sound like legitimate childhood stages.
I tell you this at my own risk. It is too late to have me aborted, at least I think it is. They don’t abort two-year-olds do they? Not yet anyhow? But if they find out I am telling you this they might decide to turn my brain into gravy with some of their drugs. I guess I am just paranoid, with the Janet Reno types still running around loose. My big brother, four-years-old, just informed me that I am getting off the subject, but what do you expect from a two-year-old with a three-year-old secretary?
Oh yes, I was telling you how I disagree with that guy that tried to get all us kids to rise up against authority. Before you take the path I did, you need to hear what happened to me. It was just about three months ago on my second birthday. I was opening my presents, and my obnoxious cousin was there. After I unwrapped the third doll, I tossed it aside because it was not as pretty as the first two. When he picked it up, I screamed, “No, it is mine.” But he wouldn’t turn loose, so I jerked harder and screamed louder. I bared my teeth and made threatening sounds. I kept screaming, “It’s mine, give it to me.” The adults rushed over and separated us just as we started hitting each other. My mother told me something about sharing and being kind, but none of it made any sense to me. All I could tell was that they all acted like I was bad. I pulled all my toys in close and tried to keep anyone else from stealing my beautiful things.
And then it came time to cut the cake. Mother wouldn’t let me cut it, so I slammed my hand down on top of the little flowers. It splattered gooey icing everywhere. It seemed to upset everybody, but I was already mad and didn’t care. Mother said she was very disappointed and asked very sweetly—but I could tell that she was mad—“Wouldn’t you like to say you are sorry?” “No, it’s my cake,” I screamed, and ran from the room. Grandmother made it all right by explaining to Mother that I “didn’t understand,” and that I “was just upset.” She told Mom that this was a “special day” and that I should be allowed to cut my own cake.” Mother was embarrassed, and that’s right, I won.
Then while we were eating our cake and I was guarding my presents, I saw another Mom talking to my Mom in a very serous way. They both looked at me like they were plotting something really bad, and then Mom nodded her head yes. The woman opened her purse and handed Mother a plain little book with no color on the cover. I saw that her purse was full of them. She must have been some kind of missionary or something. It didn’t look like much, but mother thanked her and said something like, “We have tried everything….I don’t know what I……are about to our wits’ end….ready for anything….yes, I will read it.” That was the fateful day that was to change our lives forever.
It had not been a happy two years. I thought my mother and father were my enemies. In fact, it was me against the whole world. Everybody and everything seemed to stand in the way of my happiness—happiness being unrestrained indulgence. I never seemed to get enough, and was always peeved. Mother and I were growing further and further apart. I didn’t want that. I really needed her love, but it just seemed that I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t seem to draw a line and then force myself to exercise self-restraint. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t think of others. I was all that mattered to me. I know it sounds bad, but when I stay in the nursery, I realize that I am not alone.
Well, Mother got real intent when she started reading that book. Sometimes she would laugh, and sometimes she would cry, but she kept looking over at me like she had something very serious on her mind. When there was no one around, she would put her head down and talk to somebody she called Jesus, but I never saw him, and she didn’t use the phone. I don’t know what that is all about. I never saw anything like it on television.
When she finished the book, she showed it to Daddy, and I heard them reading it again in the bedroom at night. And they talked about it a lot. I heard Daddy say, “OK, we will try it.” And the next day is when it all started.
I got up grumpy as usual and was unhappy with my breakfast. Mother tried to serve that mush the Quakers used to eat. I pushed it aside and demanded the sweet cereal I am so fond of. We started our little tug of war. She said, “No,” and I started my whining and protesting. I don’t always win everything, but I knew that I could at least get extra sugar in the mush. Besides, like the fellow said in the other article, it was not so important what I ate as it was that I start the day off establishing my autonomy. If you win the first battle of the morning, you have won the day.
But to my utter amazement, it didn’t go at all like it was supposed to—like it usually did. When it was time for Mother to get red in the face and start jerking everything around, including me, she just smiled and said, “You can eat what is on the table or you can do without.” I knew this was just round one, and that if I looked pitiful enough she would come around, but before I knew what was happening she had lifted me out of the highchair and was cleaning the table. I stood in the floor and let out a blood-curdling scream, and then I felt this awful sting on my bare legs. I didn’t think she was mad enough yet to spank me. She usually waits until she totally loses patience and then strikes out in anger, but this time it almost looked as if she was smiling. She commanded, “Stop crying and go change your clothes.” I let out another scream and “Bam,” another lick with that switch of hers. This was war! I couldn’t let her get away with this; didn’t she know I had control attachment disorder? I turned red in the face and screamed like I have never screamed before. This usually brought compromise, but instead, without another word of warning or threatening, “bam, bam, bam”—about ten times. I was shocked. My timid mother, whom I had such control over, was suddenly heartless. But after several more futile attempts that all ended at the end of a switch, I jumped up and ran to change my clothes. I never realized that she was so big!
When I came back and demanded something to eat, she told me that in two hours I would be allowed to eat the Quaker mush, without sugar. I would like to say that I had learned my lesson and that in two hours I ate the stuff, but I didn’t. I had trouble at lunch and again at supper. It was three days before I learned that Mother had taken my place as head of the house. I had to eat what she placed in front of me or starve. This was a different Mom from the one that I had been raising for two years. I couldn’t make her mad, and it seemed that she had made up her mind to never let me win a single contest, for no matter what the issue, she quietly stuck by her word. She never let me overrule her. She was awesome!
It became a thing of certainty that if I whined, I would be denied all pleasure. You will find this hard to believe, but I learned that the only way to manipulate Mom was with a sweet smile and a carefully worded request. Anything else turned her into a broken vending machine—you couldn’t get a thing out of her.
I had been used to her working herself up. All that disappeared. When she gave a command, she just gave it once. My hearing improved. I got to where I could hear a whispered command the first time. My survival depended on it. It was no longer a democracy. She stopped sharing power with me. I was made totally subject to her will.
Now I noticed something right away. Mother seemed to like to read to me more. I fact, she started looking at me and smiling. I found it was wonderful. I really liked it. She looked at me like she really liked me. It had been a year since I had seen that beautiful smile that I loved so much. It made me feel better about myself. Whereas we had once been enemies, we could now be friends. Mother seemed to enjoy me when I was obedient. Of course, it was not my doing. She didn’t leave me any choice but to obey. But it still felt good to be in fellowship with my Mom. She would take me in her lap and we would just love each other like we used to do when I was just two months old. It was wonderful.
Oh, I found that in my weakness I still tried to dominate. It must be that theology thing again. I don’t understand that yet, but I will let you know when I get it figured out. Until I do, it seems as if Mother and Father are not going to give me a chance to indulge my flesh—whatever that is. They talk about self-control. Between the switch and Mother’s smile I have gotten pretty good at that self-control. By the way, have you tried Allfruit? It’s pretty good in oatmeal.