Every Man Has His Price


Did you know that in the Thai language, there’s no word for “corruption?”

Like some African languages don’t differentiate between “sing” and “dance,” and New Jerseyan dialects have no word for “shame,” corruption in Thai culture is so commonplace, so intrinsic to getting anything done that they don’t have a word for it.

This is a concept I ponder as I fill my backpack with illicit substances intended for coercion and bribery.

Yes, I’m a mule. I’m a play doh mule.

Toddlers, like cats, are generally inclined to do some things and not so inclined towards others. And, like cats, getting toddlers to do anything they’re not otherwise inclined towards involves creativity.

To get a toddler to run around, all you have to do is wait for two minutes (or two seconds, if it’s my Little Man we’re talking about). But to get them to eat vegetables, or wash their hair or use a kleenex or go to the dentist or any of the million little feats of courtesy and hygiene that comprise our days – to get them to do these things requires…persuasion.

And you try to go the high road. You start early with them, you build these things into routines, you lead by example, you just plain tell them to do it ten times a day every day for a year and a half, you try. Because it’s better in the long run if they wash their hair expecting only cleanliness as a reward.

This, after all, is the foundation of those higher principles of fairness and justice and all those lofty ideals embodied and enforced by Chuck Norris and Karma. The institutions of civilization itself are based on the idea that there is a “right thing to do” and that there is a morality both collective and objective.

Of course, all this socio-philosophical peacockery is worth as much as a full diaper pail when it comes to getting a Little Man’s hair washed.

We could hold him down. And we could also force feed him green veggies. But something tells me this might backfire in the long term. A neuroses-free adult this would not make. Better to try DeCartes on him.

Or you could promise play doh after he’s done.

Not the most noble of approaches, but as Thailand can historically attest to, it is remarkably effective. And parenting, at times, is a dirty business. Just ask pampers. Leave the contemplation of morality to theologians and the individual’s social responsibility to the guys who wrote The Wire, I’ve got a toddler who’s head smells like last week’s milk. I didn’t see nothing. I don’t know nothing. I wasn’t there, and if I was, I was asleep.



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