the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Miss Manners

Marlo is at that stage in life where the frustration that results from the inability to communicate through words is making life miserable for the entire family. I remember when this started to happen with Leta, right when she was the same age that Marlo is now, when she’d point at something and moan. When we didn’t know what she was talking about she’d just moan louder, except this time some supernatural force would have thrown her body fifteen feet across the room and was causing her hands and feet to kick the floor.

We called an exorcist and all he did was give us the number of a day care.

At the time Leta was also undergoing occupational therapy for her slow gross motor skills (she wasn’t yet walking and hated putting weight on her feet), and they suggested we try teaching her sign language for some basic words: please, thank you, more, etc. Without the consent of her therapist we slipped in: crazy, something stinks, and screw you.

It think it took a whole two months, but finally after one giant standoff where she was in the high chair and wanted to get out, she reluctantly rubbed the top of her her chest in a circular motion (sign language for please) and yelled, “EETHKAHHHHH!”

Ethkah. Translation: You know exactly what the hell I want, dickhead.

Marlo has been just as stubborn to learn sign language and ask for things nicely. We know she has a working vocabulary because she refers to everyone by name. Well, except Chuck. She refers to Chuck as Coco. But I’m pretty sure she thinks Coco means dog, but Chuck is still taking it personally. Like, first we brought another of of “those” home. Second, this one actually likes to touch him. And finally, she can’t even get his name right? Now, why is he not supposed to bite her again?

But then came Halloween! And chocolate! And one bright idea that should have occurred to us years ago, but I can’t even blame the partying I did in college for not thinking of it earlier. Fine, I’ll blame the partying I did after college. The partying we still sometimes engage in when Grandmommy is watching the kids, except now it’s a little less illegal and we’re in bed by 8:30.

I fed Marlo a tiny piece of a chocolate bar while waiting for trick-or-treaters to stop by, and then I refused to give her another piece until she asked nicely. Over and over again I showed her how, rubbing my chest, saying please. I kid you not, she stood there looking at me like I was a moron, as condescending as an almost seventeen-month-old can be, and then she looked around the room to make sure no one was looking. THIS SHIT IS NOT MADE UP.

She didn’t want anyone to see that she was going to cooperate.

You guys, Hollywood is going to make an action movie in the future wherein the villain is based on Marlo Armstrong. Whoever writes it, please give her a mouth full of teeth made out of titanium.

And then she did it so quickly I almost missed it. The tiniest rub of her chest. And then the look in her eyes was hurry, someone could show up any second. These tiny chest rubs continued as did the quick side glances of her surroundings until she’d eaten the whole bar.

Behold my restraint: I didn’t stick out my tongue and yell SUCKER!

  • Fifi Coon

    2010/11/11 at 12:02 pm

    OK – that is just flat out funny shit!! And – I am so glad my children are grown up!!!

  • flickster94087

    2010/11/11 at 12:21 pm

    That is pure genius! I am going to do this with my children!

  • Margaret W

    2010/11/11 at 12:24 pm

    I’m with Marlo on this…she has a rep to protect and can’t let people see that she’s conforming to the parentals.

    My daughter started learned sign language at the daycare at about 9 mos old. Only one problem…the daycare didn’t tell the parents. The frustration was a double whammy for Kennedi as I didn’t understand what she wanted. She survived. I did, too. Barely.

  • Mo

    2010/11/11 at 12:30 pm

    If they see her giving in to you, they will all want her to do it. (You know… THEM.) And she cannot let them know of her weakness, lest they exploit it and endanger her mission. Her mission of horribleness.

  • saraminerva444

    2010/11/11 at 12:38 pm

    Hahahahaha Marlo is a genius.

    My son is about a month older than Marlo. He signs a few words, but sometimes he can’t be bothered and proceeds to grunt with increasing urgency. His 4 y/o sister understands his jibberish, so she responds to his demands quickly. I catch her sometimes repeating the word and the sign out loud over and over trying to teach him. He looks at her like DUDE, really?! I already know you speak my language, give me what I want.

  • Erin47

    2010/11/11 at 12:41 pm

    I think I just learned that I laugh with my eyes closed. I wanted to finish reading after “She didn’t want anyone to see that she was going to cooperate”, but couldn’t pry my eyes back open until the laughing stopped, which took way too long. I so wish I could meet these kids of yours.

  • greenplanner

    2010/11/11 at 12:44 pm

    I had to rehome my crazy Aussie Shepherd dog, and the only suitable family I could find were baby sign language teachers. I figured if they had enough patience for teaching babies sign language (…for a living. That’s what they do full time, y’all.) surely they had enough patience for Mr. Chumley. And damned if they didn’t teach that dog some signs, too.

  • mandypants

    2010/11/11 at 12:45 pm

    AHAHAHAHAHA! That just made my day! I’m so glad that I don’t have the only evil spawn out there. I’m still trying the chocolate thing with my 2 year old, who loves chocolate more than anything else in the entire world ever, and he still won’t use the potty. :/ Two year old poo is the worst after great dane poo.

  • Suede

    2010/11/11 at 12:49 pm

    Just wait. Teenagers are 1000 times harder.

  • wordsupmixed

    2010/11/11 at 1:30 pm

    1) marlo reminds me of stewie from family Guy
    2) clicker training. This has two advantages. First, it will extinguish bad behavior and make Marlo a nicer child although they will do nothing about the chipped tooth and various contagions. The second advantage of clicker training is that it should provide you with more things to write about although, somehow I don’t think that’s problem.

    A good reference book is “don’t shoot the dog” by Karen Pryor. While it’s mostly about canines, just, in your mind, substitute “marlo” every time the author writes “dog”

  • luv and kiwi

    2010/11/11 at 2:11 pm

    you know if anyone else had written this i wouldn’t believe them, but because it’s you and i’ve seen marlo’s videos i totally believe that ish.

    lol i can’t wait until marlo starts a blog!

  • bopperbop

    2010/11/11 at 2:38 pm

    When my now 17 year old was little, she would want some m&ms. We were also teaching her to say “Please” so if she said “Please”, she would get an m&m. But I think to her after a while “pees” (as she would say) was the word for m&m!

  • Tricia

    2010/11/11 at 1:24 pm

    That is HILARIOUS!!! My FIL has an annoying habit of calling all children under the age of five a “blank slate.” How he can think that, having raised two children of his own, is beyond me. This story exemplifies how wrong he is — kids have SO much personality, almost from birth. Hysterical. Makes up for all the shit they throw at you, right?

  • kayakgrrl

    2010/11/11 at 2:47 pm

    Bwahahaha! My daughter did that this week!

  • SweetAdeline

    2010/11/11 at 2:54 pm

    Have you been watching a lot of Tyra, because only Miss J could have taught that baby to give such good side eye.

  • Mogsie

    2010/11/11 at 4:14 pm


    Oh, the memories that this brings back … ’tis insanely funny shit like that what keeps a body goin’ sometimes!



  • tallnoe

    2010/11/11 at 6:17 pm

    Dude – I think that wordsupmixed is completely CORRECT!!

  • emilylentini

    2010/11/11 at 6:36 pm

    I cannot wait ’til mine is here and old enough to make fun of!

  • writtendad

    2010/11/11 at 6:44 pm

    Hooray for Marlo! What will be even better is when you try for a repeat by reminding her she did it before and then seeing her give you that “what the hell are you talking about?” look.

    As she snickers inside her little head

  • Pollux72

    2010/11/11 at 8:50 pm

    Oh man, we are right there with you. Our son is 16 months on the dot, and he can be a total PITA, mostly because he doesn’t have words for what he wants, but he *knows* what he wants!!! Too bad he’s the only one! He groans and screams and moans and torques his body in a million different directions, like some kind of crazy interpretive dance. Maybe he’s got a future with Alvin Ailey?

    I haven’t even thought of sign language because he is just as bossy and stubborn as Marlo sounds. It would probably kill him to actually use a sign to communicate!

  • PeggyMomma

    2010/11/11 at 9:00 pm

    Absolutely love it, Heather. There’s no need for a video camera when you explain them yung’uns of yours! 🙂

  • Anu

    2010/11/11 at 11:32 pm

    Totally loving it. Can you please get a video if possible…even a photo will do. Very funny 🙂

  • Eh What Huh

    2010/11/12 at 7:11 am

    Hilarious. Kids are so funny sometimes. Thanks for making me laugh! 🙂


    From Eh? What? Huh?

  • floridagal73

    2010/11/12 at 8:51 am

    You gotta love winning a battle – it’s so seldom that it is certainly worth celebrating. Congrats!

  • annegirl80

    2010/11/12 at 11:45 am

    I refused to teach my 19 month old son sign language because I found the repetitive use of the sign for “more” annoying. I would rather just pretend I don’t know he wants more of and try to give him more peas instead.

  • zwie

    2010/11/13 at 1:51 am

    Hahaha…very funny!
    My 3 y/o took longer to speak and so up to now there are some things that i just agree to but have no idea what he’s saying! He also mixes 2 languages and that makes things even more interesting!

  • TheFunFamilyMom

    2010/11/15 at 7:03 am

    Great article. I have just started reading your site recently and can totally relate. This article describes my 17 month old son perfectly. He’s stubborn as anything and won’t give in unless no one is looking. We’ve got our hands full!

  • chempel

    2010/11/15 at 10:58 am

    3 words: Baby Signing Time

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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