According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "free will" is defined as
a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.
I am currently defining "free will" as
a particularly irritating stage of early childhood development which becomes overwhelmingly problematic around the 16th month of life.
I'm telling you folks, he's no longer as short and barely qualifies as fat - but these days, the Dictator is really coming into his own.
Gone are the days when my sweet little baby Snoodie could be propped, much like a lovable potato, in his infant swing and left to stare contentedly at a mobile while I cooked a meal or, perhaps, indulged in a "Real Housewives" marathon, salty snacks in hand.
Gone, too, are the only marginally less blissful days when a leisurely dinner could be enjoyed while the crawling Snood remained happily contained behind a well-placed baby gate.
Nowadays the Snood is a one-man walking, squawking, free-will machine. His morning peeps, which used to gently alert us to the fact that he was awake, have been replaced by demanding shrieks and a rattling of the crib bars so severe that we occasionally find the entire apparatus has moved by several inches by the time we manage to scramble out of bed to collect him.
Then, there's mealtime.
Snoodie's contented devouring of whatever mushed up goo we saw fit to spoon into his compliant maw has also gone the way of the Dodo. Now that he's realized he is the master of his culinary destiny, his demands are relentless.
He's learned the sign for "HUNGRY" but, sadly, not the sign for "Thanks, mom, for making me such a nice lunch - but I think I'll eschew the broccoli at present." Instead, he expresses his displeasure with my culinary efforts by tossing them in the general direction of my head.
But all of this is nothing when compared to the walking.
Oh, the walking! While I fully accept, on the one hand, that you are an essential part of the growing process, on the other hand - BITE ME THE WALKING!
Snoodie LOVES to walk. Each morning we begin with the following exchange
Mommy: Good morning, Snoodie Butt! Did you have a good sleep?
Snoodie: (in baby sign language) HUNGRY! HUNGRY! HUNGRY!
Mommy: OK! OK! I'll get you something to eat.
Snoodie: (signing) HUNGRY! HUNGRY! HUNGRY!
*Brief interlude for the frantic feeding of the Snood.*
Mommy: Are you enjoying your breakfast, Snoodie Bear?
Snoodie: (signing) ALL DONE! OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE!
So, I let him down from his high-chair and then frantically search for my keys, as Snoodie bangs on the front door like a refugee from Attica. We eventually make it outside and walk around the neighborhood, wherever the Snoodie may lead. We stop to see the guys at the Smog Check place next door, irritate several neighborhood dogs and generally have a ball. UNTIL - - -Snoodie does something, like, let's say for example, attempting to open the front door of one of the neighboring houses and wander inside, and I have to tell him, "NO."
And then......IT IS ON!
Snoodie flings himself to the pavement and cries out in a heartbroken wail:
SNOOD: (loosely translated) NOOOOO! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!! I AM MERELY AN INNOCENT LITTLE SNOOD!! WHY WOULD ANYONE BE SO CRUEL??? SOMEONE HELP ME!!! SAVE ME!!! PLEEEAAASE!!!!
Concerned neighbors gather at their windows, wondering whether or not to dial Child Protective Services, as I smile and weakly wave towards them while trying to gather the furious Snood in my arms and slink away towards home.
When we finally arrive back at the house I shut the door and inevitably look up to see El Snoodo standing anxiously at the door of the kitchen:
SNOOD: (signing) HUNGRY! HUNGRY! HUNGRY!
Basically, the kid's got me on my toes. He's making the choices these days and it's all I can do to keep my feet underneath me and attempt to meet his incessant demands in a timely manner.
I comfort myself with the fact that a brand new Dictator arrives in May, and I get to start all over again with those blissful days before he or she will have any will of his or her own.
I'm planning to enjoy every minute of it.