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5 Ways My Toddler Is Like a Con Man

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Photograph by Twenty20

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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.

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1. I always give him the cookie

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 persistence.

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 patterns

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 thwart her."

4. He doesn't care

I sense a certain sinister glee in seeing me hobbling out of bed to cut those damn waffles.

I 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.

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5. It's hard to be mad at him

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.

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