the smell of my desperation has become a stench

The second child effect on choosing our battles

You guys, I think Marlo is broken. She can’t stop talking. She does this thing where she’ll fixate on a word and repeat it a hundred times even after you’ve reassured her that YES, I GET IT, YOU’RE PLAYING DOCTOR. And usually that makes it worse, because somehow that acknowledgment makes the word even more glorious to pronounce, and for the next ten minutes you better brace for a one toddler play in which that toddler beats the living shit out of that word.

This has caused a weird phenomenon where now we can’t pronounce certain words like normal adults, no. When I talk about going to the doctor I involuntarily say, “I’m going to the DOC-TERRR!” It just shoots out of my mouth like that, all toddler-possessed. All covered in something sticky and smelling like Cheerios.

She also has this adorable habit of following every statement and question with TOO. Like, she wants some gum, too. And I’m like, wait a minute, no one else here has gum, and you didn’t ask for anything else. You want gum in addition to what? And when she tugs on my arm in the direction of the gum I know that she wants gum in addition to me shutting the hell up.

I want a waffle, too.
I want to watch Barney, too.
I want corporations to pay higher taxes, too.

But what makes this even more adorable is how she takes this single-syllable word and turns it into a bendy, two-syllable version of itself: TAAH-OOOEW. Like she’s some old lady whose been living above a bagel shop in the Bronx for the last thirty years and asks every single person she sees during the day the same question about her son Bobby, you know, why he gotta leave? Ain’t this place good enough, taah-oooew?

What makes this less adorable is how I am now the Gum Lady. Sometimes I’m Mommy, but when I take a break during the day to spend time with her, she will see me and immediately say, “I want some gum, too.” Not, “Hi! I love you!” Or, “My, how I’ve missed you!” Never, “You are the light and meaning of my soul!” No. None of that. Instead, I am her gateway to gum.

And I don’t know who to blame for what I’m about to tell you, but once I find out I am going to take a wad of gum that I have found in a parking lot and stick it in their ear.

Marlo loves gum, but she doesn’t want to be the first person to chew it. She wants her gum pre-chewed. Sorry, germaphopbes! My toddler puts gum in her mouth that has very recently been in the mouth of someone WHO IS NOT HER! She requests this! She forms words to set this process in motion!

“You chew it first, too.”

There was once a time when on principle I would have said, dude, you can chew your own damn gum. I will do many insane things on your behalf, but chewing your gum FOR YOU is not on that list.

That list has grown somewhat since having a second child, and now it not only includes chewing her gum for her, but if she asked me to suck her sucker for her I would pause only to mourn the loss of my dignity.

  • LizinVa

    2011/10/24 at 1:49 pm

    My youngest got stuck on “mom” for months.

    “shut up”

    As for the pre-chewed gum…ewwwwwww.

  • melo

    2011/10/24 at 1:57 pm

    the first few seconds of chewing a new piece of gum is the best part, sounds like a win to me.

  • Anja6819

    2011/10/24 at 1:59 pm

    For a while whenever my daughter wanted something she’d say “I know” instead of I want. And I’m hungry became “I know hungy! I know hungy! I know hungy! I know hungy! I know hungy!!!” This was repeated until I was able to actually shove something into her mouth.

    I’m so glad she’s not into pre-chewed gum.

  • ErikaMSN

    2011/10/24 at 2:04 pm

    As long as she’s not asking you to chew her gum *after* she’s chewed it. *That* would be gross.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/10/24 at 2:05 pm

    I remember my kids doing what Marlo’s doing. It doesn’t go away; it just gets different. My 8-year-old has been going through this phase where every story he tells you is comprised of sentences that should end with periods, but instead end with the inflection and punctuation of a question, followed by a closing statement.

    “DaaAAD? Today at schoOOL? We were playing dodgeBALL? And TomMYYY? He threw the baALL? At meEEE? And I dodged iiT? By, um, diiIVING? On the groUUND? It was really cool.”

  • Sully

    2011/10/24 at 2:12 pm

    LOVE IT!!

    I agree that it is a total win to get the best part of the gum. Yum!

    My son, age 8, reads fact books and wants to tell us about everything in the book non-stop for hours. I finally broke down and told him that if I wanted to know EVERYTHING in the book I would read it. He still does it. I listen sometimes.

    Someday he is going to sneak permission to do things I wouldn’t agree to into these long talking spells and trick me. I just know it.

  • lissabird

    2011/10/24 at 2:17 pm

    When I finally let my daughter chew gum I went a little too far stressing the importance of not swallowing it (my husband later told me I’m an idiot for believing that it would rot in my baby’s guts for seven years, so I told him Helvetica is just a font and not a religion and that shut him up promtly). She chewed each piece of gum only as far as the garbage can, spit it out, and then came back and asked for more. I told she owed me a quarter, so she handed me a dime. Kids.

  • slappyintheface

    2011/10/24 at 2:21 pm

    That reminds me of the Saturday Night Live sketch about the Bird Family …. it was hilarious, but soooooooooo gross!

  • Serephin

    2011/10/24 at 2:55 pm

    Pretty sure “Gateway to Gum” is a documentary showing nightly on Current TV.

  • OrangeLily

    2011/10/24 at 3:20 pm

    My first thought was that the unchewed gum is too hard for her to chew with those little toddler teeth, so she gets someone else to break down the initial hardness.

    BTW, that’s not gross. You people are too sanitized. Back in the day, how do you think mothers fed their babies who were old enough for solids but didn’t have the teeth for them? 100 years ago? 10,000 years ago?

  • Gina47

    2011/10/24 at 3:28 pm

    I remember when Leta did the same thing with her lollipops. That is STILL a phrase that runs through our marriage….”SUCK IT! SUCK IT FOR MEEEE!” Don’t you remember that??

  • SMD

    2011/10/24 at 3:39 pm

    Sounds EXACTLY like my son, who is a week older than Marlo. I respond to the constant repeating with a cheerful “ok Rainman!” My husband said I should stop doing that 🙂 He says too a lot as well. And though I try not to let him have gum he’s obsessed with it. Calls it “gums.” He hunts it down in the house and says “Daddy gums. I like it.”
    It’s so funny what comes out when they start talking.

  • full contact knitter

    2011/10/24 at 5:33 pm

    My niece is doing the same thing. Recently overheard: Avery (age 2): Momo! Momo! Her mother: Avery, where did ‘momo’ come from? I liked Mommy or Mumma better. Avery: Momo! New words repeated: “Sodo” for soda, “Bampy” for Grampy, “Momo” for mommy or more, “dodo” for doggie, as in the stuffed one she takes to bed with her every night.
    Examples of weird logic: conversation between me and my four year old niece, Taylor: “So you still sleep with your stuffed lamb?”
    “NO, his name is Lammy.”
    “Oh, okay. So he doesn’t have a name?”
    “He does, it’s Lammy. But he’s different from Lammy I sleep with at Grammy’s house. That’s Grammy Lammy.”
    “I see. Does Avery sleep with Dodo still?”
    “Yes. There’s Grammie Dodo and Dodo.”
    “I see. Does Dodo have a name?”
    “No, Avery doesn’t name things. She’s crazy like that.”

  • Kevin Hartnett

    2011/10/24 at 6:17 pm

    My 2yo Jay is also stuck on “too.” He uses it so gratuitously that I think of him like he’s an adolescent who just learned to swear and I want to say to him, “Aren’t you real cool.”

    That said, I’ve found each new addition to Jay’s language skills to seem nearly miraculous. For months he’d say things like “This Jay’s” or “Daddy do it.” Then all of a sudden he started using pronouns and I was convinced he must be a genius. Then I googled and saw that indeed 2y is considered the average time that kids start learning things. So, genius, no. Miraculous, yes.
    A blog about fatherhood and family life

  • gretchie

    2011/10/24 at 6:35 pm

    @Daddy Scratches… WHY DO THEY ALL TALK LIKE THAT?????? It’s like NAILS on a BLACKBOARD. Ten years ago when my husband’s kids were little, they did it incessantly. Now my daughter and all her friends do it. Help me jeebuz. Why can’t children in elementary make bold declarative statements?? So how do I correct this with my daughter? I mock her. She laughs. Win-win. 🙂

    (On a related note, why do children in elementary school smell like ass? Seriously, they smell worse than toddlers.)

    Must share this gem from the dinner table tonight:

    Me: “V, you may have the cupcake with the frosting on it”
    V: “Daddy! Don’t eat the one with frosting, okay? It’s invested with ants!”
    Me: “Invested with ants?”
    V (whispering to me): “It’s not really invested with ants.”

  • comfortablycrazy

    2011/10/24 at 8:37 pm

    My oldest called one of the women at our church Grandma Gum.

    When she passed away they gave a few packs of gum out to all the kids.

    She learned to appreciate it. I’m sure you can too.

  • southerngirl

    2011/10/24 at 9:20 pm

    I want corporations to pay higher taxes, too, too!!!!

  • SeraSmiles

    2011/10/25 at 1:33 am

    Wow. This sounds eerily familiar with my childhood. In fact, I am your Marlo. Only the grown up version. I had to work on in talk therapy about cutting some of the similar habits. I still will chew another person’s (a person I know, not a stranger’s) chewed gum:

    Me: You have anymore gum?
    Person: The one in my mouth is my last.
    Me: Are you done with it?
    Person: Maybe. Why?
    Me: May I have it, TOO?( Taaa-hewwww)
    Person: Weird. But OK.

    I do not wish to scare you, but as a person like you and myself that suffer with maintaining our mental health, a lot of things your Little Marlo does even reminds my mother of your post. Myself and her found out I have Bipolar (opposite of you, ha ha) II disorder since I was 13 and I have been Borderline since I was a toddler. I was very clingy, would not take a nap as an infant unless I had grasp of my mother’s pinky. The minute I got up I’d be yelling “Mommy Mommy Mommy” even when she picked me up to quiet me. I would cry for hours when she had to leave to go run errands. I wouldn’t stop until she was back. She was a Shit Ass Hole Motherfucker ( Stay at home Mother. 😉 ) like yourself. If you would like to know more about how I am Marlo, just an adult now, then you can check my blog( I have a lot of articles on Bipolar and Borderline ) ( I link your site on my page–I have been a fan for since you first started in 2001. ) or email me @ Look forward to talking with you, Heather. Much Love, Peace and Happy Trees! Marlo may be broken like me, but I’m sure you wouldn’t ever try to sell her for goods. 😉

  • waitimaprincess

    2011/10/25 at 7:25 am

    I’m w/Erika above. I’ll chew it before, but I don’t wanna chew it after. Zaid is in repetitive land too:
    Mommy, see the dog?
    Mommy, see the dog?
    Mommy, you see the dog?
    Mommy, you see the dog?
    I see the dog, buddy.
    Mommy? Mommy. Mommy!
    See dog?
    Sure do (thinking: goddammit I see the damn dog. It’s the same damn dog. I see it every time you point to it).
    Woof woof.

  • lanea

    2011/10/25 at 8:26 am

    I don’t normally comment on parenting issues, but my Mom the nurse would throttle me if I didn’t point out that she’s far too young to safely chew gum. Seriously. The Heimlich maneuver often fails when something sticky like gum gets caught in a small child’s trachea, and tracheotomies from gum-choking incidents on toddlers are terrible, and they often fail.

  • LuckIsMyMiddleName

    2011/10/25 at 10:08 am

    Has Marlo been listening to Mitch Hedberg? “Every time I go and shave, I assume there’s someone else on the planet shaving. So I say, ‘I’m gonna go shave, too.'”

  • kidsmom

    2011/10/25 at 10:25 am

    Southern dipthongs are inherited.

  • utahbeach

    2011/10/25 at 10:56 am

    Daddy Scratches — my sons started doing this and I cured it by telling them to “land that sentence” while making a motion of a plane coming in for a landing. If they slip up now, I’ll say “Are you *asking* me or telling me this story?” That habit was nipped in the bud.

  • subjectivitis

    2011/10/25 at 11:01 am

    The beginning of gum is the best. That girl’s missing out on flavor!

  • NHMaman

    2011/10/25 at 12:12 pm

    For @Daddy Scratches, Gretchie, and others: Are you familiar with Taylor Mali and his “Totally, like, you know” video? He talks about ending sentences with a questioning rise in voice, and it’s great. Here’s the link:
    Also, watch his video “The Impotence of Proofreading,” which is also hilarious.
    I’m a huge fan.

  • patrice108

    2011/10/25 at 1:17 pm

    is it on purpose that these posts are exactly 4 years apart? (the blow pop and the gum)

  • acm

    2011/10/25 at 1:31 pm

    I’m the iPod Conduit — that is, she lights up and wants to play our 2-4 active iPod games RIGHT NOW and then it’s back to Spouse, the favored parent.


  • Junebugca

    2011/10/29 at 11:30 pm

    I remember loving gum from my mother’s mouth, it was always so warm and smooth – so different from what I could produce. I thought she was a superhero.

  • TwinTweets

    2011/10/30 at 8:39 pm

    We had our second child the same time as our first, or 5 minutes later. Twin boys, 22 months old. Funny, both their first words were “more”. And Andrew now says two, too. ALL THE TIME. But mostly, meaning “more”, not “also”. As in, “you can have one cookie.” “Two.” He doesn’t say, “no, two.” Just, “two”. It’s not an argument. It’s a decision.

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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