I remember when it first hit me that my little boys weren’t like other kids. We were enjoying a picnic lunch with one of those Is This Fattening? mommy groups I joined in order to get away from Oprah. I noticed, with a healthy dose of fear and pride, that my sons were the only toddlers listening to grownup conversations. Perhaps this was when I ruined them forever. While other mommies comfortably traded tips on what to do when their offspring threw temper tantrums in public, I stuck out like a sore thumb, trying to find someone who could discuss foreign policy and the shit going on in Iraq.
I couldn’t relate to other moms for many reasons and always found frustration when they wanted to discuss issues that simply didn’t relate to us. For instance, Jacob and Zachary never threw tantrums in public. When they didn’t get their way, they preferred to debate or argue logically.
Don’t get me wrong – mine aren’t perfect children. Once they argued with me for a solid hour over why six year-olds should be allowed to ride bikes without helmets. They didn’t win this argument, but after enduring logic that would make a law professor proud, I put them in front of PBS and called my mom.
“What happened?” she asked, alarmed. “Did they refuse to eat your cooking again?”
“No,” I replied. “I’m devastated because I wanted our boys to be like their father, easy-going and delightful. Instead, they’re a lot like me: bold and opinionated, with what appears to be curly hair and rather large foreheads.”
“Oh,” my mother sighed, calm and sympathetic. “Don’t worry, Katie. They’re not like you. You and your hair were much worse.”
Thankfully, my boys are not obnoxious or overbearing. They are sweet and polite kids with just the right mix of intelligence, humor, and self-awareness.
But they are not normal. That’s for sure. When they were finishing elementary school, I became acutely aware of everything that set them apart from other preteens.
For instance, my children –
Left the room to blow their nose.
Got along with each other. This confounded their classmates to no end. Apparently brothers and sisters are supposed to hate each other.
Laughed during Monty Python & The Holy Grail. The fart jokes were a huge hit, so maybe we should give them one point for normal.
Never called people “gay” or “retarded.”
Rarely interrupted or annoyed the shit out of me.
Consistently said “thank-you,” “please,” and “What is John Boehner crying about today?”
Parents don’t typically admit when their kids are different. Oh sure, lofty moms proudly announce when the fifth gifted test they paid thousands of dollars to privately administer finally comes back positive. Their precious darlings can’t properly aim into a toilet or make eye contact with adults, but totally understand the ramblings of Nietzsche. That kind of different is okay, but most want their kids to fit in with other kids.
There’s no other way to explain all those grown-ups trying to score Justin Bieber concert tickets.
To a certain extent, I’m the same way. I’m not worried that my children will be ostracized because they’ve never seen the inside of a McDonald’s.
I’m worried they’ll be ostracized because they don’t even want to.
My sons never fit any particular style. Even in their Jewish day school, they stood out because they played football without shrieking. One day, we watched a video of a young girl singing a pop song about Fridays, with lyrics my two year-old niece could have written. (My niece isn’t normal, either.) Zachary watched for a few moments and said, “This is what the kids in my class listen to. They make fun of me for liking The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Beastie Boys.”
Jacob shrugged his shoulders. “Twenty-first century music stinks. Who wants to play a game of Texas Hold ‘Em?”
I looked at my precious boys and smiled.
“Do you mind being unusual?”
“No,” they both said. “We don’t want to be like everyone else.”
Good thing, I thought, with that same healthy dose of fear and pride.