It’s Monday morning and I’m in the kitchen packing lunches for summer camp when I notice Charlie in the living room. He’s got himself into this position between the coffee table and the couch that only a 2-year-old hopped up on the day’s first shot of apple juice could possibly get in. His butt is slung down towards the ground, his feet on the table, his elbows holding him up on the couch.
What the *!#$?
I stare at him for a second or two and wonder what I’m even supposed to be thinking. Do I tell him to get down? Do I race to hoist him up so that he doesn’t snap his spine?
Do I laugh?
Do I let him do his thing?
My kids are so weird, y’all. They just are.
I have three: Violet, who’s 7; Henry, 5; and Charlie Hustle here. Each of them stops me in my tracks 50 times a day with the epic weirdness.
A perfectly good shirt feels horrible.
“I can’t wear this! It feels like mini sharks are munching my skin and killing me!”
Something I’ve fed them since practically the day they were born is suddenly the worst. food. ever.
“The syrup on these pancakes is making my throat choke itself!”
Sweeping battle breaks out over stuff so mundane and trivial that it takes me days just to actually believe that it happened!
“Violet kept staring at my knees from her car seat and I told her to stop but she kept doing it so I stuck my fingers into her mouth and tried to pull her tongue out!”
For years now, the only time they haven’t been getting ultra strange on me is when they’re all sound asleep.
And even then they manage sometimes.
Sleeping with a jar of coins they demanded to sleep with out of the blue. One kid’s foot all splayed out on another one’s chin in the middle of the night.
This morning, Charlie’s been awake since 6 AM, since BEFORE DAWN (or B.D. as we say in the parenting world). In that period of time, he hasn’t stopped asking the exact same question over and over again. I’m not lying. In just over an hour, dude has repeated the following sentence at least 2,000 times.
“Dad, where’s my fire truck?”
I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about.
I’ve handed him every toy fire truck we own.
What am I supposed to say here?
My eyes roll back in my head somewhere around 6:25 AM, when he fires off a volley of the same question, rapid-fire, like 80 times in a row. He doesn’t even wait for my answer! He’s possessed!
Does he have a real fire truck parked uptown that I don’t know about?
That would be the only rational explanation for any of this.
I think I get it, though. I have to laugh at the utter madness of my kids and their crazy ways; at their unpredictable temperaments; at their ridiculously fickle taste buds; at their ability to push each others’ buttons, and their COMPLETE WILLINGNESS to do so even when it makes no sense.
Could that be the real secret to parenting in the end?
It’s so exhausting. It’s so draining. It’s so much give for such a small amount of take for so long, but when I break it all down and I’m standing there in the morning, looking at my 2-year-old almost levitating between two pieces of living room furniture, well, that’s right about the time when I kind of understand the magic.
See, the magic of being a mom or dad all lies in that indescribable connection that you have with your own child. No one else except the other parent can ever touch it. It’s all ours. Seeing my kid do stupid, crazy, senseless stuff can make me go off the deep end. That’s perfectly understandable.
But I keep trying to see it all differently. More and more, I simply start smiling and laughing right in front of them, at this moment we’re both living through, a moment, it turns out, that reminds me to the tunnels of my bones that they are me.
And I am them.
I’m as weird as they come, man. I’m 44 going on 4. I know I am. I can own that. Maybe you are, too? (Let’s be real, you probably are.) We all are, as a matter of fact. We’re just walking potato sacks of emotion and reaction, of bad ideas and terrible mistakes and saying stuff wrong and trying to express ourselves in all the wrong ways all the time, even when we’re sure we can’t be wrong this time around.
We’re all human. You, me, these kids. Our quirks and our idiosyncrasies, our very own brand of weird, that’s what separates us from the guy down the block, from the lady next door. It’s that very strangeness that often makes us so worth knowing, I think.
Especially when it comes to our own kids.
Especially early in the morning, their tiny butt all hanging out there in the space between the table and the couch, ready to fight each other over who gets to eat a piece of week-old popcorn they found down on the carpet.
Kids are so freakin’ weird.
And we’re so freakin’ lucky to have them.More On