Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Promise and Danger of Small Children

Lectures and intellectual discourse are excellent means of conveying information in many settings. However, the many aspects of baby bear training are best accomplished through hands on activities and visual aids rather than exegesis. Drawing inspiration from an unlikely source, I crafted "cuddling dummies." [Note: Football coaches utilize tackling dummies in the course of practice. Our purpose is less violent, but just as hands on.]

A teddy bear's relationship with small children contains a complicated assortment of competing pressures. On the one hand, a bear's goal is to play with his or her person as much as possible in order to make the child happy. On the other hand, young children tend to destroy play things, until hitting age 25 or so. Self-preservation is not a teddy bear's primary concern. Indeed, bears are happy to fly through the air crashing into block houses, take ill advised swims in puddles, and share viscous meal-times in order to please the young child. However, the rapid demise and deterioration of a teddy bear brings negative utility to the child. The proper goal of each teddy bear is to find the appropriate equilibrium of (ab)use and maintenance that maximizes the long term happiness of the child. Such a delicate balance is a daunting task for a baby bear.

Lecturing on the danger of small boys
Tickle roughly here.
The cuddling dummy is a crude, but effective means of making the realities of interacting with a small child more concrete. Important anatomical features can be pointed out.
Ultimately the messy child will be your friend
Notice the smiling.
For instance, the nose and mouth are the source of many liquids that destroy the softness of fur. Bellies and the underside of chins are good places to tickle. The models also emphasize the dirtiness of young children, as depicted by the mold growing on the cuddling dummy.

Despite the mayhem and physical danger, the child will be your best friend and raison d'etre. In fact, the destructive episodes are precisely the moments that bring teddy bear and child closer together. No human looks back fondly on a toy he or she never used. Raising America's youth is a dangerous job, and it falls to noble teddy bears like Bear and Pi to rise to the challenge. I hope my cuddling dummy visual aids were marginally useful in preparing the two young pips for their upcoming duties.


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