The trouble with children

I once heard that having a child is like adopting a dog that slowly learns how to talk (also a child can open the fridge and fetch you things without slobbering all over them). At the time it sounded like the greatest idea ever, because we all love dogs and wouldn't we love them all the more if they could chat with us?

The analogy certainly seems to be accurate. At the most basic level dogs and children perform the same essential functions: they eat, sleep and crap. Beyond that they are generally adorable and a wonder to interact with (at least until they bite, which at certain stages in their lives, both are want to do).

The trouble with the idea is that children, like dogs, are not the brightest animals out there.

How dare I say such a thing, after all everyone's child is the smartest child that has ever lived. I'll admit that both have a certain degree of cleverness, that through trial and error they figure out approaches to get their needs met and a certain allotment of treats. Serenity has certainly mastered the basic conversational arts enough to get what she wants (and seems satisfied to stay at that level), but mostly it's like watching a bear trying to ride a unicycle for the first time.

Dr. Doolittle nonsense aside, can you picture having a conversation with an animal?

We like to project a lot of feelings and thoughts onto our pets, imagining that they have these rich inner lives (in part to justify dressing them up in little sailor outfits) like we do when we're younger to dolls and other imaginary beings. If our film, television and childcare industries are to be believed we do much the same to children (that while they're babbling and wetting themselves, they're secretly geniuses).

The truth, I imagine, is somewhat less charming. Trying to have a conversation with a small child, while amusing, isn't going to be insightful to the human condition in the same way talking to your dog won't tell you any more that he's hungry and your butt smells delightful. Thankfully children will grow out of this stage (at least we hope that they will, some adults don't show that they've gone beyond it).

Of course, I mention this by way of recently starting to help potty train my niece and having to mop up some rather unfortunate puddles she's left behind since someone decided to take her out of diapers at the start of the process. It reminded me that as adorable as she is (and she does say the darndest things), there's still a long way to go before she's all grown up.

Which, in the end, is a rather pleasant thought.