Toddlers Have A Death Wish, So It’s Amazing We’ve Survived As A Species

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danger toddlerIt’s fairly obvious when comparing a two-week-old baby to a new kitten that human infants are pretty far behind in the development department compared to their counterparts in the rest of the animal kingdom. Motor skills, vision, and hearing will all be on their way soon, but the thing that’s going to take quite a dozen additional post-birth trimesters to develop is an ounce of common sense.

Toddlers are maniacs. They have less sense of self-preservation than a crinkled gum wrapper, combined with the adventurous spirit of a modern-day Indiana Jones. Except instead of a battered fedora, they’ll have an entire blanket wrapped around their heads, while they attempt to scale the weathered face of Mount Living Room Sofa.

Off the top of my head, the catalog of attempted and/or successful self-inflicted injuries committed by my two toddlers in the past week alone includes (but is not limited to):

  • Jumping off a chair
  • Deciding to quit a piggyback ride
  • Running headfirst into a wall
  • Grabbing for a sharp knife in the dishwasher
  • Climbing on a library table
  • Trying to take a header out of the high chair onto the tiled kitchen floor
  • Unplugging the fridge, which provides double death-wish opportunities: either fooling around with the newly-open electrical outlet, or eating rotten food if Mom doesn’t notice in time

I know that play – including reckless, crazypants play – is how children learn. However, the main thing that my kids seem to be learning is how to give me a daily heart attack. That’s an important preschool preparedness skill, right?

Sometimes I wonder how, with the toddler death wish at play, we’ve made it as long as we have as a species. It’s not like there was such a thing as childproofing in caveman times. How did enough little Cro-Magnon toddlers make it through grabbing for Uncle Grunk’s hunting spear, jumping out of trees, and eating sharp rocks for humankind to have survived? Maybe only the most timid of prehistoric preschoolers lived to pass on their genes, and what we have to deal with today is only the tip of toddler death-wish iceberg.

My kids are currently working on learning how to ask for food, milk, and nap-time. I’m not sure at what stage we get to practice the words, “Mama, is it a bad idea to dive head first off of the couch?” but I’m hoping it’s soon. And besides, I–oops, hold that thought. My daughter is standing on top of the Mega Blocks table doing toddler ballet.

(Image: Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock)