Making an Evil Mastermind

Baby Z is in the process of morphing into Little Boy Z. He’s almost walking, kinda talking, and definitely exhibits a distinct personality with his own opinions and desires. For example, today he pointed at his nose and said, “Nosz.” Then at library story time, he stood next to me while I sat on the floor, his hand on my shoulder, and waved at some of the puppets. That’s some pretty cool stuff.

On the other hand, his developing personality is starting to show some disturbing trends.

I know that young children have to experiment and try things out as a way to learn about themselves and the world around them. On top of that, it’s easy to read too much into any single incident at this early age. Just because your little boy always points at pictures of a guitar doesn’t mean he’s going to be the next Johnny Cash any more than the fact that your little girl’s habit of constantly pulling her clothes off indicates a future career as a stripper. I know this.

Nevertheless, I’m starting to worry that I may be raising a future diabolical mastermind.

Take last night’s bath time for example, when I caught Z practicing his evil laugh. He was leaning forward, watching his reflection in the tub’s faucet, while saying, “Ha, ha, HA! Ha, ha, HA! Heh, heh, HEH!” I’m pretty sure he was rubbing his hands together, too. Seriously, for a kid who’s never watched a single James Bond movie, he was doing a pretty good impersonation of Ernst Stravo Blofeld. (A little hammy, but not full-on Dr. Evil.)

Am I being an alarmist? Making a mountain out of a molehill? Reading too much into his obsession with Lex Luthor?

Perhaps. But let me relate the incident that got my thoughts started down this track.

I had been sitting on the couch with Z in my lap, trying to read to him. Meanwhile, his sister, MeToo, had ridden up on her popper and started playing with some toys on the far side of the coffee table. Soon, though, she was drawn in by the book and climbed up beside me. At that point, Z slid down out of my lap, grabbed onto the edge of the coffee table, and began to slo-o-o-o-o-wly head over to MeToo’s toys.

(These are paid actors re-enacting the scene.)
(These are paid actors re-enacting the scene.)

Z was just starting to work his way around the corner of the coffee table when MeToo realized what was up. Her brother was about to play with toys! Toys that she’d been playing with a minute ago but had abandoned to go do something else! To a kid, of course, that’s the same as yanking it right out of her hands. MeToo took off like a shot, but she had to go the long way around the corner, circumnavigating the corn popper-mobile.

That’s when Z’s sinister genius revealed itself. He reached out to the popper, casually as if he were going to hold onto it for support, and pushed it into his sister’s path just in time for her to collide with it. MeToo tripped, and while she was wailing on the ground, Z calmly finished getting around the corner of the coffee table and reached the toys.

(Re-enactment)
(Re-enactment)

That was probably the moment when he realized that he needed to figure out how to laugh evilly.

It would have been easy to write the Corn Popper Incident off as mere happenstance if it wasn’t so perfect. Z’s canny use of his environment to thwart his big sister was executed with precise timing. You may scoff — it does sound awfully sophisticated for a mere twelve-month old — but I saw it with my own eyes.

I can only hope that his mother and I can guide Z to use his nefarious cunning for wholesome, worthwhile pursuits. But, honestly, have you ever used the words “cunning” and “respectable” to describe the same person?

Maybe instead I’ll just try to make sure that when he grows up and successfully holds the world’s nuclear stockpile for ransom he’ll remember to use his ill-gotten gains to set his dear, old Dad up someplace nice.