My last post brought to mind an article I published some years back, about... well... you'll see. Bear in mind it was written before Toddler was born. She's so totally whack she makes the others look like characters from Little House On The Prairie.
Sara, a little girl I know, insists on drinking out of a three- by two-inch shot glass. If you give her a drink in a regular cup, she pours it into the shot glass and drinks it mouthful by mouthful. Sara speaks with a broad Hungarian accent, despite the fact that she was born in Australia and has no living Hungarian relatives. She also responds only when addressed by the name ‘Pinkela’, a term she bestowed upon herself.
Okay, Sara is not her real name, and she is, in fact, my very own daughter. But she is rather an odd child, and if people knew that, well… what would they think of me?
I have always enjoyed blaming my parents for my own peculiarities. If I’m neurotic, histrionic, and overanxious, well, it’s clearly because of them (and all their typically neurotic, histrionic, and overanxious Jewish ancestors). But I am gradually learning that there is a flip side to that coin – that if my own children turn out to be a little strange, then it’s going to reflect directly on me.
I remember that when my son spent much of his second two years engaged in obsessive behaviour, meticulously organising his possessions into neatly ordered rows, the most common feedback I had was ‘Well, given his parents, it’s hardly surprising!’
Of course, I’m just as judgemental as the next person. When Jake chose the bridal gown in the dress-up corner every day for his first year at kindy, I raised my eyebrows knowingly. When four-year-old Nadia starting greeting adults with “Hello, are you going to die soon?” I was full of speculation. And when three-year-old Rosie began offering my son naked lap dances, I had a field day (though it did bring me tremendous joy to see my little boy so happy).
We all know that kids are born with their own personalities, that they are more than just the sum of their parents’ parts. But when it’s your own little Mikey or Lara who’s thrown themselves on the floor in the middle of a birthday party, howling that their piece of cake is ‘all wrong’ (because it is slightly asymmetrical), that knowledge is poor consolation.
The only comfort for people like me is to mix with the parents of other weird children. That’s partly why I love spending time with my friend Lily, who herself has exquisite dress sense, but whose daughter opened the door the other day wearing an orange t-shirt two sizes too small, a pastel frock with shoestring straps, a fluffy purple jacket, green woollen tights, and clear plastic sandals with rosettes.
It is also reassuring to spend time with other adults who were once odd children themselves, Josh, for example, who spent a year of his childhood wearing a balaclava everywhere – even in the sweltering heat of Surfers Paradise, where it looked particularly fetching teamed with his Donald Duck swimsuit.
Josh has since grown into a fine, upstanding citizen, and appears to be fairly normal on the surface. Still, you never know what goes on behind closed doors, and only his wife can tell us whether he still whips out the balaclava from time to time.
Of course, there is no guarantee that my odd children will turn into odd adults. But if they do, you can be sure of one thing - that everyone will nod and say gleefully “Well no wonder they’re weird. Have you seen the parents?”