Caillou Has Terrible Parents

Tonight my daughter was watching the cartoon, Caillou, so I was watching Caillou too.  Children’s shows are an occupational hazard of parenting.  I suppose it’s possible to avoid them–huzzah for the parents who do–but I find that sometimes I need my children to sit still for 20 minutes.  Cartoons are more humane than a full body cast, which is about the only other thing that might accomplish the goal.  (I haven’t tried the cast for the record.  I’m not a monster.)

If you’ve never watched Caillou, it’s a cartoon about a four year old, his family, their many mild adventures, and the lessons Caillou is supposed to learn from them.  I think it was originally French–the name Caillou is French for “pebble,” I think–but for more than a decade it’s been on television where I live too.  (I haven’t been watching it for a decade.  I’m not a monster.)

Either way, important to this story is the fact that Caillou has a younger sister named Rosie.  Clearly, when they were devising names, Caillou’s parents loved his sister more than they did him.  My best guess is that she’s supposed to be about one and a half years old.  At most she’s two.  For the sake of generosity, I’m going to go ahead and assume she’s two years old.

Tonight’s episode began with Caillou and Rosie playing in their room, fighting over toys as children are wont to do.  Finally Caillou plotted to distract his sister with a fort made out of pillows, but being two she got distracted early and ran off while he was building it.  When he turned around, she was gone.

Of course the audience was privy to a bit more information.  We saw her chase a toy car into the hallway, fumble with it while toddling around at the top of a staircase, and finally run away into one of the many other rooms upstairs.  Her parents were nowhere in sight.  This is when I started to get a little bit disturbed.  I’ve had a toddler by the top of stairs; I paid very careful attention at that moment.

Meanwhile, Caillou believed (not unreasonably, given his age) that his sister must have decided to play hide-and-seek.  He began his search.  This is when we discovered what his parents were doing while their young kids played alone upstairs.  His father was baking cookies in the kitchen.  The kitchen didn’t seem to have line-of-sight to the stairs, and anyway his father was singing and not really paying attention to much.  His mother was sitting on a couch and reading a book.  The room she was in didn’t have line of sight to the stairs either.

I don’t want to harp on this too much–it’s actually fairly minor in the grand scheme of things–but Caillou’s parents were completely ignoring their children, who were playing (and fighting) in an environment that likely included dangers in addition to stairs.  We’ll come back to this, though.

After searching upstairs without success, Caillou ran into the kitchen and told his father that he and Rosie were playing hide and seek.  His father responded that Rosie had run off into a different room.  Then Caillou ran to his mother and said that he and Rosie were playing hide and seek.  His mother responded that Rosie had run into a different room.  It’s possible that his mother actually pointed outside, since that’s where Caillou searched next, but I’ll give his mother the benefit of the doubt and assume that searching outside was an act of Caillou’s own initiative.

Now at this point I think his parents ought to have been somewhat suspicious, even for people inclined to be relaxed as parents.  Two year old children don’t play hide-and-seek.  They have no patience for seeking.  They have no patience for hiding.  It’s really just elaborate peek-a-boo to them.  In my experience every two year old who hides will promptly announce where he or she is.  Two year old children want to be found; they don’t want to hide well.  Also, they are not particularly inventive, so most of them couldn’t hide well if they tried.

Even if they assumed Caillou was lieing, his parents ought to have wondered where their daughter was, since she was now alone.  If they assumed Caillou was telling the truth (from his own perspective), they ought to have wondered how such a simple game could have gone so catastrophically wrong as to keep an eager two year old from being immediately found.  Or, since they had both apparently seen Rosie running through the house, they could have told Caillou that obviously Rosie had gotten bored with hiding and was doing something else.

Then they should have explored what that something else was.

They should not have assumed that Rosie was actually hiding, and hiding so well as to avoid the notice of her brother.  They certainly shouldn’t have returned to their previous activities without some sort of cursory investigation.

But of course they did, so that their four year old could advance outside unsupervised.  Presumably they were also sanguine enough with the idea of a two year old alone in the neighborhood that they didn’t think it strange for Caillou to look outside.  Why would he have done that if Rosie was still in the house?  (Again, toddlers are not hard to find.)

At this point, it would have been reasonable for them to assume that both of their children were outside, that their toddler was outside by herself, and that nobody knew where she was.  Naturally it was very important that they finish the cookies and the book.  In any event Caillou finally got frustrated and returned to his parents to ask for help, otherwise they might have continued baking and reading for years.  This is about the time that his father was putting the cookies into the oven.

The timing here is actually important.  Assuming that Caillou was quick when searching all of the places he was shown searching, their toddler had been missing for about ten minutes. She was likely not in the house.  She may not have been in the immediate vicinity of the house.  Naturally they began leisurely to search the house.

As a frame of reference, I once lost track of my daughter for about twenty seconds.  She was playing in the yard.  I was working in our garden.  I looked down at some weeds, and when I looked up she was gone.  (She had run off behind some building and down the street.  I think she saw a cat and wanted to pet it.)  I did not continue weeding; I found her.  Also, there was so much adrenaline in my system that I could have punched an elephant through a bank vault.

To give them some sort of credit however, the first place Caillou and his parents looked was behind the closed door to the bathroom, to make sure that Rosie hadn’t drowned herself while they were mixing ingredients and enjoying a good novel.  They didn’t seem particularly worried by the closed door however, which seemed to suggest that it wasn’t unusual for their toddler to go into the bathroom and shut them out.  I guess they might just have been preparing early for life when she’s a grumpy teenager.

Either way, let me fast forward.  They finally found Rosie back upstairs in the kids’ bedroom.  (The audience got to see her climbing back upstairs after her otherwise undocumented adventure.)  They found her as the cookies were finished baking.  As a rough estimate based on my own experience with cookies, that’s something like an additional ten minutes.  By the time they found Rosie, she’d been missing for probably twenty minutes, maybe more.

And yet they didn’t seem to care.  Maybe they exhausted all of their love after straining to give her a name not destined to produce long-term emotional scars.  (The other kids have names like Leo, Emma, Billy, and Sarah.  His name is Caillou, pronounced “Ky-oo,” and it means pebble.)

(If your name is Caillou, I apologize for insulting your name.)

Finally, as a fitting end to the episode, Caillou’s father took a tray of cookies out of the oven and gave it to the kids.  He was wearing oven mitts.  They were not.

I suppose if you don’t care when your kids get lost, and you’re fine with any injuries that might result from a total lack of supervision, a few carelessly inflicted burns won’t sting your conscience too much.

And yes, I realize I’ve spent too much time thinking about a cartoon.  My kids are safely asleep though, and I know where both of them are.


Not Her Brother’s Keeper (Thankfully)

My wife and I discover with disturbing frequency that one of the unique perils of having two children is the peril created for the one by the other.  She doesn’t mean anything by it as far as we can tell, but my daughter keeps finding creative ways to commit fratricide.  She really adores her brother though, which is probably the trouble: her affections are not gentle.

The Bible’s Bad Example

One day my daughter discovered a large basket, of the sort used in gifts.  She was really excited and asked nicely to play with it.  It was a basket, not a knife; we didn’t think it could be dangerous.  In fact, we decided to enjoy her excitement and see where it took her.

At first her ambitions seemed harmless enough.  She started packing the basket with a blanket and pillow.  We assumed she was going to use it as a crib for one of her toy animals.  She’s fairly fond of creating beds for her toys.  Fortunately we asked.

Instead she wanted to recreate the Biblical story of Moses, a baby brother, being put in a basket in a river by his big sister.  She thought it particularly convenient that we had supplied her with the baby brother she needed for the game.

Permanent Hide and Seek

She likes hide and seek.  She’s still at the age when she hides in obvious places but doesn’t mind everyone knowing where she’s hiding as long as they make a show of pretending to be confused.  In fact she’ll tell us where she’s going to hide and then tell us to look for her somewhere else before we “find” her there.  It’s all charming.

One day she decided that she would hide under our laundry basket and some pillows.  She had so much fun there that she wanted to share the experience with her brother, even though he didn’t want it.

We caught her as she was pushing down on a pillow-filled basket from which there came a muffled but thoroughly unhappy wailing.  Apparently she figured that he just didn’t understand how to hide, so she needed to wedge him into place to teach him.

More of a Good Thing

My son is vocally afraid of water–bath times are always a treat–however one day while he and his sister were outside, she started splashing him from the baby pool.  I rushed to intervene, only to discover that he was delighted.  Every time she splashed him, he laughed and bounced and showed that he thought this was a great thing to do.

I have worked for years (largely without success) to overcome my daughter’s fear of water; I figured if my son discovered early that water was fun, that could only be a good thing.

The next day though, my daughter decided to take splashing to the next level.  More exactly, she decided that if her brother liked a little bit of water splashed on him by his sister, he would like it even more if she pointed our garden hose at his face.  Apparently his gurgled screams were no indication to the contrary.

A Crown Other Than Gold

We have these plastic rings–I think they’re supposed to be pool toys–and they fit very nicely on my son’s head.  They look like crowns or halos.  Even better, he enjoys having them on his head, and will sometimes put them there himself.

This is the origin of the game Ring-head.  He puts a ring on his head; we all cheer and shout, “Ring-head!”  He takes the ring off; we all wait expectantly.  He puts the ring back on his head; we all cheer and shout again.  Repeat as necessary.

He laughs.  We laugh.  Everybody lives.

Then his sister decided to vary the game by using other objects she found around the house.  Towel-head worked.  Bucket-head worked (because the bucket is small).  Toy-head mostly didn’t work, but was still enjoyable since my son seemed to enjoy various toys rolling off his head

Plastic-bag-head did not work.

* * *

We’re pretty sure she’s not doing these sorts of things on purpose.  As I said she actually adores her baby brother.  (This is an entirely new concern about her eventual teenage years: that she might accidentally kill any boy she has a crush on.)  I’m more worried about what’s going to happen when he’s a little bit bigger and more coordinated.  He may start adoring her back, and things here could become ridiculous.

Parenting With Grammar

My wife is a sort of language super-villain, and she’s trapped my inner language-superhero in a rather tough predicament.

Let me back up a bit.

My infant son is progressing my leaps and bounds, although thankfully he has not yet reached leaping and bounding.  After some significant struggle–he’s big and has a lot of weight to move around– he finally learned to crawl this past weekend.

He started awkwardly; I suspect grace is never going to be his forte.  He’s basically ready to go professional with it now though, which prompted one of my more amusing visuals today.  I was sitting in my daughter’s room, trying to get her ready for bed. Suddenly, an eager little streak crawled by the doorway and headed back the hallway, a fairly significant distance from where he was supposed to be playing.  He looked so happy, like he was going on an adventure.

One of his other growing skills is his ability to understand what we’re telling him, combined with a charming gentleness of spirit sufficient to make him mostly listen when he understands what we’re saying.  This is particularly useful when we have to change his diaper.  He’s large; we need his cooperation.

Herein lies the villainy, and note that I did not say, “Herein lays the villainy.”

My wife has taught my son to obey the command, “Lay down.”  He’ll happily lie down and let her change his diaper.  That is to say, he will happily LIE DOWN and let her change his diaper.  Naturally however, he won’t lie down for me, because I ask him to “lie down,” which isn’t the word he knows.

I tried to fix things by telling him, “Lay yourself down,” but I think that just confused him.  Needless reflexivity will do that to the best of us.

Needless Reflexivity

Either way, if I want him to listen, I have to stab mercilessly and repeatedly at the pure, hopeful, language loving heart that still clings to life inside of me.

I think she might have done this on purpose because I tease her about her accent.  Well played, Wife.  Well played.



Big Baby

My son gets his size from me.  I expected that; I just didn’t expect him to get it so quickly.  He’s not a year old yet–he actually has a way to go still–but he’s rapidly approaching the size of a full grown adult…  elephant.  (I’m exaggerating, but not as much as you might think.)

Big Baby


When we put him next to other babies, he looks like a member of a different species.  Perhaps a species that grows bigger by absorbing other babies.  It’s a little bit frightening, so we keep a bit of distance between them.  Soon he’ll be able to crawl though, and then we might need to lock other babies outside.  That’ll work until he discovers that he’s strong enough to crawl through walls.

If he had green skin, we would license him to Marvel.  He has a somewhat limited skill set–they would probably need to tailor their movies to include more suckling and falling over–but he’s getting better at smashing.

All of this is a surprise.  We’re not sure why.  Our daughter has always been large, something I should really stop saying before she becomes a teenager.  We take her out in public and worry that people will think bad things about her, because she seems like an obnoxious and immature eight-year-old.  In fact she’s merely an energetic but conspicuously enormous three-year-old.

When I sort laundry, I have trouble telling my daughter’s clothes from my wife’s.  Admittedly, that might be more my problem.

In any event, we’ve joked that my son is as large as he is because God knew he would need some sort of advantage to survive growing up with his sister.  Being a mastodon gives him a certain degree of sturdiness, which is a useful defense against the unregulated affections of a three year old who thinks full speed collisions and climbing on a person’s head are a signs of affection.

Granted, I pity her when the tables are turned in a few more months.

Additionally, imagine how big God will have to make our next child to survive life with both of them!