Cutie, Crying, and the Weirding Way

I was just laying in bed with Sarah and our youngest child. He’s just a little bit over one year old.

little bug

Codename: Cutie Snoo. (Because I don’t like using my kid’s real names online.)

I don’t know how it works in other households, but in ours, a lot of the day-to-day kid activities end up happening on the bed. Sarah has a huge king-sized mattress that just rests on the floor. Partly because she likes it that way, and partly because low-to-the ground beds are easier and safer for kids.

Anyway, I’m laying in bed with Cutie. I’d come in to hang play with him when I heard him wake up from his nap.  A little later, mom joined us, because she has the boobs, and boobs make everything better.

Cutie was laying between us, nursing (on Sarah) while she and I were talking.

Then, unexpectedly, Cutie rolled over and pushed a little baby spoon he carries around with him at my mouth.

It surprised me. It bounced off my lip a little bit, and hit my teeth. It hurt just a little, about as much as it would if you poked me in the mouth with your fingernail. We’re talking… like… half a newton of force, tops.  Not enough to crack an egg.

Still, it surprised me. And it hurt just a little.

So I looked at him, and I said, “Ow.”

Didn’t shout it, didn’t bark it. Didn’t even do my disappointed dad voice.

I mention this because over the years I’ve learned my voice is a powerful thing. Where my kids are concerned, I’m one of the Bene Gesserit. I’m the Kwisatz Paterach. I’m Black Bolt.

I’m not sure why this is, exactly. I’ve got a pretty good baritone, but it’s not earthshaking by itself. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been a teacher. That I’ve been a singer. That I was a performer who never really liked using a mic until the crowds started topping 100 people and I was forced to go electric.

Maybe it’s all of those things together. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I discovered early on in my parenting career that if I wasn’t careful with my voice, I would terrify my children. Once, back when he was about 16 months old, I barked Oot’s name at him from the top of a stairway and he went into fetal crouch, trembling with animal fear.

I felt like king asshole of the universe at the time. I still do. As a parent, you slowly build a portfolio of memories. Things your children will never remember, things that you will never forget.

Standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at my terrified boy, I thought to myself, “You need to get this shit under control right now, Rothfuss…”

So I did. Slowly. Over many years.

All of this is to say that I’m very careful with my voice these days. I don’t bark. I rarely even snap or get a little sharp in my tone. There’s no need, just a little disapproval in my voice is like iron to these tiny little faen creatures I have flitting around in my life.

So. Remember where we were? Bed. Cutie. Spoon.

I looked at him and said, “Ow.” Not because he hurt me, but because I want him to know that he *can* hurt someone. He needs to learn to be careful.

“Ow,” I said. Softly.

Hearing me, Cutie turned away, facing back toward mom.

“He was trying to give you a bite,” she explained to me.

I nodded, only understanding then what he’d been trying to do with the spoon. It’s a game I’d seen Cutie play with her, but he’d never done it with me before.

Looking down at him, Sarah’s face goes concerned, then she looks up at me. “He feels bad,” she says.

Then Cutie gave a little sob. It was tiny, but it was one of those deep ones. One of the ones that comes out of you in a lump: “Uh-huh.”

When you’re a parent, you learn the different types of crying. You learn to recognize the panicked cry of a baby that’s hurt. There’s the “I can’t believe you took that away from me” cry. There’s the “I’m tired and can’t hold my shit together” cry. There’s the rare, furious red-faced rage rage rage cry. There’s the “Where’s Mom?” cry.

This wasn’t any of those. It went, “Ah-huh” and it was nothing but sadness. One sob. Pause. Then another. Then he was really crying.

He felt bad. He was sad that he’d hurt me.

I read something somewhere that said children start to develop empathy when they’re 3 years old.

I’d like to officially go on the record as saying that is bullshit.

Cutie is 13 months old. He can speak about 10 words, and those he speaks badly. He can’t run, or jump, or eat with a spoon.

But he feels bad when he hurts someone. This is something some adults have yet to learn.

He’s is my boy. My sweet boy. I am so proud of him.


This entry was posted in babies, Cutie Snoo, How to be a Worthwhile Human Being, musings, Oot. By Pat30 Responses


  1. Tridonus
    Posted February 24, 2015 at 11:56 PM | Permalink

    I might be seeing things as I’m checking this on my way to bed but I think you posted Cutie Snoo’s real name in paragraph 8, right before you said “Ow”. Might be seeing things but I know how you like to keep your kids names off the interwebs.

    • morning
      Posted February 24, 2015 at 11:59 PM | Permalink

      You beat me to it.. I think there’s a chance it’s an garbled version of another word, but yes…. I hope Pat notices this before more people do.

      • Posted February 25, 2015 at 9:56 AM | Permalink

        Whoops. Wasn’t his name, but a typo nonetheless. Fixed now.

  2. trattman
    Posted February 24, 2015 at 11:57 PM | Permalink

    Hi pat – nice story.
    It just looks like you might have used his name by accident. If you want to edit it.

    • trattman
      Posted February 24, 2015 at 11:58 PM | Permalink

      Looks like I got beaten to post … :)

  3. SporkTastic
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 12:17 AM | Permalink

    “Kwisatz Paterach” may be my new favourite Pat Title. The empathy of Cutie Snoo is also awesome. :-)

    • Posted February 25, 2015 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

      I should probably get business cards that say that…

      • nushenka
        Posted February 25, 2015 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

        Hi, Pat, perhaps there still is one clue or typo or another code name remaining – “little bug” …

        • nushenka
          Posted February 25, 2015 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

          Um, I replied to the wrong comment – just hope you see it soon. All the best from Slovenia!

      • SporkTastic
        Posted February 25, 2015 at 5:27 PM | Permalink

        Yes. This is a thing you should do. Other nerd titles, too.
        …and if I’d gotten enough sleep, I feel like I could provide more witty things. They’re out there, though.

        • SporkTastic
          Posted February 26, 2015 at 12:38 AM | Permalink

          PATPATPAT! OMG! PAT!

          You should get blue-in-blue contacts and do a “Kwisatz Paterach” photo shoot. Because reasons. Glorious reasons.

  4. Posted February 25, 2015 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

    Lake Woebegone gots nothin’ on Stevens Point! Cutie has 10 words at 13 months?

    Yeah, that’s above average. Not like I’m surprised.

    It is actually special for a toddler to understand that another person is, well, another person and that they can be hurt. I’m frequently reassuring parents that their baby is not a future sociopath because they hit or bite or whatever, and then laugh. Most babies really don’t “get” that.

    My own theory is that some toddler tantrums come about when the child realizes that not only are they their own individual person, they are actualy a rather small and inconsequential person. This leads to a mighty desire to impact their surroundings.

  5. Gunner
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 9:23 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for this… didn’t know you were a singer, but it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve got one of those big boomy voices despite being a tiny little man and your post made me realize that although my boys don’t get so visibly frightened when I raise it, I probably do overuse it when I’m angry and need to learn to dial it back. I want my voice to be a comfort, not a weapon.

  6. justajenjen
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

    Oh yes, the Power of Voice on small children. I perfected my Mom Voice and my husband is compleatly amazed when I use a particular tone and the child just drops whatever he was doing. Husband asks me how I do that and I remind him I’m a witch. :)

    It does suck though when your kid is crying because of something you did, even though it’s for a good reason. He’ll learn the right way to share soon. It’s a good lesson to learn. You guys are doing a great job, so don’t worry too much about it. The kids are just beautiful and every time we get to hear these little stories, it makes me hope that I’m as good a parent as you guys are.

  7. Aminar
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

    That’s a poignant story. It’s good to hear, from my end, that there are still kids learning to care. And fast. I know, having an exceedingly early memory, that I cared to. But I wonder if the study misses something. Specifically that at that age babies ee their parents as a part of themself. So they may very well, if given the linguistic understanding of what they do, have almost super empathy towards their family.
    Off topic, Any thoughts on the Finnish Band Nightwish doing a song called Edema Ruh. It isn’t out yet, but it sounds exciting from the reviews.

  8. Celt42
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

    I waited tables for years and I’m familiar with the power of the mama voice. It works on drunks as well as my kids. Powerful tool, one to be used sparingly.

    Cutie Snoo sounds as adorable as his code name suggests. =-)

  9. Posted February 25, 2015 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

    Well, Paul Bloom gives a pretty good account of babies and morality inthis article. I took his amazing course “Moralities of Everyday Life on Coursera last year and it was pretty amazing in the baby morality area. Hadn’t had time to read the book yet, but it’s on my reading list. However, I recommend auditing the course to all (if you don’t really have the time to go through the readings) it gives you some good insight on a number of topics on human behavior.

  10. urimeir
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 10:37 AM | Permalink

    When my elder son, who is now almost ten, was about eighteen months old, I was once a little sad and lying next to him, with a tear rolling on my cheek.
    He wiped it away.
    Just saying…

  11. Valarya
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Permalink

    “As a parent, you slowly build a portfolio of memories. Things your children will never remember, things that you will never forget.”

    Well said. As someone who now has a 14 year old, that guilt never goes away. In fact, the more you see your child’s personality emerge, the more you wonder if that-one-thing-all-those-years-ago had any lasting affect, whether they remember or not. I’d like to tell you it gets better with Time, but it doesn’t. Those memories haunt you forever. At least they help shape us into better parents, eh?

  12. Tubusy
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Permalink

    Beautiful as ever. Yes, I think people get kids so wrong. I have a couple of memories of being about one year old – which is another thing people assume is impossible. I knew so much at that age, about my family, just couldn’t articulate much.

  13. Posted February 25, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    Oh LOL, that is adorable. Maybe I’m a horrible person, but I think it’s ridiculously cute when my baby starts crying for any reason other than being hurt. She has a perfectly dramatic pouty face that goes with it.
    We also do a lot on the bed, I think it’s just an easy and comfortable place we can all be together and still be getting face to face time.

  14. spinozajd
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

    Looks like Cutie’s real-life name is also accidentally in the first image’s file name.

  15. theEvanD
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

    As per usual, you’ve hit the nail on the head quite beautifully. As a fellow father (and former performer*) to kids who are similar in age, I can attest to the scary voice thing. “King asshole of the universe” is an apt description for how it feels to unintentionally make your kid cower. Sometimes my boys need a bit of a shout to snap them out of their misdeeds, but it’s something that I’ve tried to be more conscious of as well. I applaud you for fighting the good fight, because it isn’t always easy.

    On a slightly unrelated but no less important note, you may want to check the file name on the embiggened photo of Cutie. I remembered a similar thing happening with a photo of Oot a while back so I wanted to give you a heads up.

    *I apologize for not finding a better way to say this. Former Performer sounds like a band name.

  16. JJLeggo
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

    Damn you Rothfuss – it’s far too early in the day for me to have tears in my eyes

  17. Posted February 25, 2015 at 3:21 PM | Permalink

    Thank you, Pat, for treating your children like human beings. So many parents behave as though they are annoyances, little demons set to bedevil them, or as though they are just not important at all. Some parents yell at their kids from day one, though I couldn’t say why, perhaps because they can. Perhaps because they were also yelled at and now it’s their turn.

    Thank you, Pat, for understanding children are tiny people who can’t speak the language yet and aren’t too good on the physical dexterity side of things either.

    Because when you treat them like people, they are allowed to be themselves free of the bullshit that haunts so many people for the rest of their lives, and sometimes carries on to the next generation, and the next, and the next.

    You are full of awesome, and your faen kids are mondo-cool. ^_^

    Much love,

    Another Bene Gesserit parent.

    <3 <3 <3

  18. cynrtst
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 7:57 PM | Permalink

    I snapped at my daughter once at another child’s birthday party. She cringed and the other kids looked at me like I was an abuser. She had jumped on a settee that had plates on it and bobbled a bunch of stuff onto the floor. I. Felt. Horrible. I’ll never forget that. It happens to the best of us. I don’t think one time is going to hurt, Pat. You do so many other things right.

  19. RSThrowaway
    Posted February 26, 2015 at 8:29 AM | Permalink

    Having grown up with an abusive father, and having been the one to convince my mother to divorce him after watching him turn the abuse to my younger siblings, I can honestly say that you’re probably right about this.

    Kids know empathy very early, and they understand emotions through the tone of a persons voice. It registers to them, and it’s how they communicate back to you. Emotions.

    I don’t really have a point here, but I can say having been raised on the opposite side of the spectrum of parenting… there is a severe change that takes place in a child depending on how he or she is raised. It changes them.

    Thanks for being nice to your kids.

  20. ross2075
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 9:47 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this Pat.

    I feel like crap when I have to “talk” to my daughter and she starts crying in fear and misery. So you made me feel a little less crappy.

    Also, helps me realize I should be just as careful on how I say things as I am about what I say.

  21. Anna
    Posted March 2, 2015 at 10:11 PM | Permalink

    I love it when you post about your kids, it sound like you and Sarah are doing a great job raising little people. You made me laugh right at the beginning with “because she has the boobs, and boobs make everything better.” This is very much my life. I often joke that my family only loves me for my boobs. (Two little nurselings and one husband who was quite fond of them before they served a practical function.)

  22. magda
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 9:37 AM | Permalink

    Yes, that irreprimible “ah-huh” sigh, its very deep and irrepressible. Our little faen creatures.

    I was also told that just born babys doesn’t laugh… what a nonsense. My both babys smiled since the beggining! “Nooooo, is some kind of rictus” told me someone. Rictus??? RICTUS??? COME ON!!!

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