Kindergarten, well all of elementary school, really, is a pastiche of personality archetypes. This makes sense because all of the little pre-people haven’t really developed fully-rounded personalities, so they’re still modeling behaviors, and the most readily observed behaviors are the not-subtle ones. And so, every class has at least one of the following characters (and you’ll recognize them immediately):
- The bully;
- The bullied;
- The rich kid (this one is the most relative of the lot; growing up in a rural county, the rich kid was the kid whose parents had the newest tractor);
- The smelly kid;
- The fat kid;
- The kid who does ANYTHING on a dare;
- And, of course, the weird kid.
We all know the weird kid. He’s that kid that speaks differently, about unusual topics, at length. He wears clothes that may or may not coordinate/look good together/make sense for the season or weather. He’s not especially interested what interests other kids. He’s just…different. Note that none of this is a judgement. I was the weird kid. I still remember a particularly cringe-worthy report I made to my seventh-grade class on Star Trek. In uniform. I know whereof I speak.
I don’t think any parents actively decide to raise a weird kid. “Pariah” is a tough sell on a college application. It just sort of happens. Jen and I recently concluded that we are raising the weird kid. Joshua, at five years old, is a weirdo. He’s our weirdo, so back off, but he’s still a weird kid. Let’s examine the evidence.
His favorite topic of discussion in all the world is letters. The alphabet in all its permutations fills a gigantic portion of his waking thoughts, and probably his dreams, too. He gets himself to sleep by singing* the ABC song a couple of times through before passing out for the evening. We talk about what letters do — not so much the sounds they make (we’re well past that in his world) as the activities they go about in their lives. The letters go to the zoo, they climb trees, and (my favorite), they hatch from eggs as lowercase letters. Of course. Joshua will spend a significant part of his day drawing letters doing Things. As I write this, Joshua has nearly completed a picture of Mom and Dad letters watching their eggs hatch. If this kid isn’t competing at Scripp’s in six or seven years, it won’t be for a lack of interest.
We formerly allowed him to get up to five time-outs in a day before being sent to bed early. Of his own initiative and without any prompting, he informed us that he should have fewer timeouts before running into this consequence. He and we have held that line ever since. He has yet to exceed it.
His bed is populated with stuffed animals. This is not, in itself, weird for a five-year old. What’s a bit weirder is the population density of Clifford the Big Red Dog. Joshua has seven Cliffords, and that’s not counting two that he gave to Jack. He has assigned descriptors to each in order to identify them: Big Clifford, Floppy Clifford, Tiny Clifford, Puppy Clifford (formerly Teeny-Tiny Clifford), Baby Clifford (also formerly called Teeny-Tiny Clifford**), Tiny Big Red Dog, and Teeny-Tiny Big Red Dog. These animals are, by his own admission and in point of fact, his best friends. But so numerous are they that, despite their lofty status in the pantheon of his friends, he routinely goes to bed with at least one of them missing, unbeknownst to him. In addition to these friends, he also has a stuffed zebra called Murray. Murray, from time-to-time and without provocation, changes his gender and goes by “Mary.” Joshua’s bed is an interesting place.
Despite being fully potty-trained, Joshua insists that someone stand outside the door to the bathroom in the house, even though he cannot observe that anyone is standing there, and does not make any attempt to verify it. But woe be unto you should you step away and not make it back by the time he comes out. The righteous fury of the five-year old is an awesome sight.
His conversational style is difficult to describe. The best word that I can come up with for it is, “Continual.” From the time he wakes up until the time he goes to sleep, he spews a more or less constant stream of chatter. This chatter is mostly in the form of proclamations made up of facts that Joshua knows about one thing or another. I’m told that, when intoxicated, I offer up lectures on everything from the Kings of England to the Fights Historical***, so I believe that Joshua comes by his particular brand of dialogue honestly. For example, when observing some geese and their goslings in our yard a few days ago, Joshua announced that goslings grow up to be geese but that they don’t start off as geese and instead hatch from eggs and turn into goslings before becoming geese and geese can also fly and swim and walk so they can go anywhere they want but no one knows what geese eat**** and is it snack time yet?
Speaking of snacks, his diet is, frankly, appalling. The time since he last ate a piece of fresh fruit or a vegetable can now be measured in years. I’m not counting french fries because they’re vegetables in the same way that pornography is television. His favorite food that’s actually food and not a kind of snack cracker is noodles. But should a noodle be called by its proper name, such as spaghetti or ramen or rigatoni, he will refuse to eat it until it is called by the name he has given it. Spaghetti is “long, straight noodles,” ramen goes by “long, curly noodles,” and rigatoni recently became “tubey noodles.” With the exception of ramen, all of these noodles are eaten with a heavy application of parmesan cheese and nothing else. There’s nothing especially weird about a kid being picky. There is, however, some weirdness about not eating something if you don’t like its name, even if you’ve eaten it many times before.
So yeah, Joshua’s weird. But it is an absolute delight to see his personality emerge from the haze of toddlerhood where one’s personality is basically defined as either preferring to build with blocks or to knock them over. Watching his personality crystallize has been the highlight of my adult life, right after getting married. And as Golly-Shucks as it sounds, I’m truly excited to see it continue to grow. And I’m at least a little curious to see how much weirder it will get.
*Even his “singing” is weird. He doesn’t put any vocalization behind it. He just whispers it in rhythm. When it isn’t weird, it’s a little creepy. Actually, come to think of it, it’s just both all the time.
**I don’t remember exactly when or how, but at some point the confusion surrounding two Cliffords sharing the same name became simply too much to handle for the boy.
***In order categorical, of course.
****This is un-true, but I was unable to penetrate Joshua’s verbal shield in order to provide him with this information.