The Semiotics of the Toddler

One of my many flaws is that I can’t seem to leave an argument alone.

My younger brother uses it to great effect whenever he wants to wind me up, adopting a ludicrous position, arguing dismissively and then smiling broadly when I take him seriously and get on my high horse. His pleasure is drawn from watching me become a pompous arse because he is, and always has been, an utter git. It still works. He did it this weekend.

I’m 34.

As such I sometimes struggle when my youngest, who some describe as determined but I consider to be straight up bloody-minded, digs his heals in over something that is clearly wrong.

He is not learning to ‘dab’. I hope.

This came to a head a few days ago when I was trying to get his shoes on.

“They are trainers” he opined in a tone that suggested I was in need of a live-in carer.

I agreed but highlighted that they are both shoes and trainers.

To be honest I was looking for something a little more developed than him screaming ‘no’ and bursting into tears.

Even when I drew him a Venn diagram, in which I clearly demonstrated how shoes can also be trainers, he wouldn’t give in.

Obviously the right thing to do would be to just accept that he is three and therefore not quite at the point where we could discuss linguistic relativism. Obviously delivering an eight minute lecture on semiotics is not the first thing that should go through an actual grown-up’s mind when faced with a toddler having a tantrum. Obviously.

“Why is it taking so long to get his shoes on?” yelled my wife putting her head around the front door and noticing that he was unshod and puffy from crying. She’d been standing outside in the cold rain for around eight minutes.

“They’re trainers!” bellowed the youngest, red-faced with frustration at the shower of morons he is clearly stuck with.

“Fine, why has it taken so long to get his trainers on?” Asked my wife, eyes narrowing as she did.

“Well darling, we were having a small chat about post-strucuralism.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“I was just getting to Derrida…”

The other eyebrow was raised.

“…and then I thought I’d briefly give some real-life examples using Baudrillard’s views on systems of signs…”

Both eyebrows remained raised but were somehow emphasised by a slight tilt of the head.

“Okay, we’re coming.”

His ghetto look is somehow undermined by the addition of Pudsey ears.

This isn’t the first time he has aggressively defended his stand point. Whenever I try to give him a cutesy nick-name I’m treated to a stern telling-off as he patiently explains that “F-Dog”  isn’t, actually, his name. The look that accompanies it is withering. His tone gilded with sarcasm. I try to explain that I gave him his name and can change it to anything I like, including but not limited to “F-Dog”, “The Tank” or “Sleepkiller”.

Although apparently I can’t.

Sometimes these arguments are so demonstrably inaccurate that its hard not to get stuck into twenty minutes of ‘yes it is’ countered with ‘no it’s not’.

The other day he, copying his older brother who is learning to read, was making letter sounds:

‘Ess’ he said cherubically, pointing at the sign for Specsavers as we navigated the hundreds of Christmas shoppers heading into town.

‘Good boy,’ I was beaming with parental pride, looking round to see if anyone else had noticed. ‘What else begins with ‘ess?”


And me correcting him triggered a very loud and very public melt-down. Members of the local community walked past muttering to themselves, no doubt commenting on how terrible a parent I clearly was. Bet he beats the poor mite one probably said. And makes him stitch footballs potentially agreed another.

I wanted to run up to them and yell “boats begin with ‘buh’ not ‘ess'” but I’m not sure this wide-eyed outburst would have helped them to view me in a better light.

My youngest now wearing his trainers skipped down the front step and turned to face me.

“Daddy, these are trainers.” he said this slowly, so I would understand.

And shoes,” I whispered, correctly.

“Silly daddy.”

Silly indeed.

9 Replies to “The Semiotics of the Toddler”

  1. I think lecturing pays great dividends. Not only will your child’s vocabulary be improved, but eventually they won’t argue back in order to forestall a lecture they’ve already heard a thousand times.

    “Because I told you so” is parenting for amateurs.

    Liked by 1 person

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