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It's a well-known fact that toddlers are terrorist of the
worst sort, by which I mean the most adorable sort. They are tiny toddling
proto-humans who tell you they "wuv you mom" with one syrupy breath
and then kick you in the shins with the next. But recent research has led me
to believe that in addition to being terrorists, toddlers are also con men.
In her new book "The
Confidence Game," The New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova writes that we are most
likely to be conned when we are feeling emotionally vulnerable and lonely; if anything describes motherhood with a toddler that is it. Konnikova shares that con artists have a dark triad of personality traits, which include psychopathy,
Machiavellianism and narcissism.
I found a link to a test that screens for this dark
triad and my toddler passed (or failed?) with the darkest colors of all. Here
then, is a list of all the ways my toddler cons me every day.
One time he badgered me for three hours for a cookie, and I finally gave in because I was in awe of his persistence.
This isn't my first rodeo.
I have an older child, but somehow knowing that this is my last child makes me
more vulnerable and I always fall for his demands. And when I take a stand he
wears me down with near constant wheedling. One time he badgered me for three
hours for a cookie, and I finally gave in because I was in awe of his
2. He is charming
Like many mothers, I'm a little shocked
and mostly proud at how many people think my toddler is adorable. He is. He has
this giant grin that takes up his entire face, delectable cheeks and an
adorable little lisp that he executes with a very serious face. People are
always giving this guy things. Once, mid-tantrum, a woman walked up to him and
offered him a lollipop. He took it, thanked her with a grin, and then continued
to scream. "He's so sweet," she told me.
3. He studies my
No one knows me like my toddler. He has spent the first two years of
his life studying my every move. I sometimes imagine that I will flip over his
mattress and find a collection of surveillance photos, a list of my comings and
goings and diary entries that read: "Mom says she doesn't like caramel,
but will often eat it with compulsion." "Mom expressed her desire to
wake up early to do more work. Will now begin to wake at quarter-to-five to
4. He doesn't care
I sense a certain sinister glee in seeing me hobbling out of bed to cut those damn waffles.
could be huddled in bed with the flu, vomiting and sobbing, but he would still
insist that mom and only mom come downstairs and cut his waffles into triangles
or "twyangles" as he says. Doctors and psychologist assure me that
this is just because he hasn't developed empathy and it's just a part of normal
development, but I sense a certain sinister glee in seeing me hobbling out of bed to
cut those damn waffles.
Konnikova wrote her book after watching "House of Games," a David Mamet film in which someone who is smart
and familiar with human psychology becomes embroiled in a con man's games.
Konnikova herself has even mentioned in interviews that she had to stop
interviewing con men, because she was beginning to empathize with them and fall
for their games. Even though I'd like to believe I am smart, even though I have
a deep understanding of children, I fall for his tricks every time and, I don't
know, maybe I like it. It's so hard to be mad at that cheeky little grin
covered with chocolate chips.