Diagnostic Manual of Annoying Child Behaviors

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Last week, I traveled to South Carolina to spend a few days at the beach with my parents, niece, and nephew. My brother and his family live in SC while I’m in Texas, so I only get to see them once or twice a year. Needless to say, I really look forward to these trips, and always have fun with my niece and nephew. They’re sweet, funny, and charming little children.

However, they’re also children. Meaning they do irritating things sometimes.

In a previous post, I’ve talked about the fact that I question whether or not I want to have kids of my own. Before you throw rocks and pitchforks at me, just know that I happen to love kids, and even work with them in my job. Willingly. But I haven’t yet decided whether I want to subject myself to the never-ending, 24/7 responsibility of raising kids of my own.

As much fun as  I truly had with my little look-alike minions, some events of our vacation last week further reminded me about my hesitance. From an academic (read: nerdy) viewpoint, I was sort of fascinated by some of their behaviors.

“Why are you doing that? It’s weird. Stop.” – Me, every few minutes.

Part of my role as a therapist is to make diagnoses, and I found myself wondering whether some of my niece’s and nephew’s “quirks” might fall under brand new disorders. Feeling intrigued by this idea, I decided to create some new disorders all on my own.

Again, before you throw rocks and pitchforks, this is all in good fun 😉

Selective Speed of Movement
This is similar to Selective Mutism, an actual diagnosis in which children are unable to speak in certain settings due to intense social anxiety. You may also have heard of “selective hearing,” a phrase typically assigned to middle-aged men who seem to hear only what they want to hear.

Selective Speed of Movement applies to children who (at times) can move very, very quickly, such as when you tell them, “Go change into your swimsuit so we can go to the pool.”

Other times, these same children appear to become like sloths in a vat of maple syrup: Every. Tiny. Movement. Seems. To. Take. A. Great. Deal. Of. Effort. This hasn’t yet been studied in a lab, so it’s possible that syrup-covered sloths are actually quicker than the children.

This phenomenon is most likely to be triggered when you say something like, “Go brush your teeth.”

Overwhelming Urge to Press Buttons
Children with this mental disorder have an extreme desire to press any kind of button – microwave, elevator, figurative, etc. If you come across a child with severe OUPD and happen to push a button before they got the chance, prepare for their wrath. There will be whining, there will be angry faces. There may even be dramatic proclamations that you’ve ruined their day.

Misunderstanding of What Constitutes Fun for Adults
Symptoms include:

  • Asking you to watch them play their video game
  • Wanting to poke you in the face with various objects
  • Farting on you
  • Using your body as their personal diving board in the swimming pool
  • Expressing disappointment when you turn down any of the above activities

 

Inappropriate Internal Clock
This is a seasonal disorder that applies to children who wake up on summer days at 6:32 a.m. for no reason.

Pointless Competitiveness
Sometimes it’s good to have a little competition – it fosters hard work and determination, and there are lessons to be learned about both winning and losing.

 

But Pointless Competitiveness applies to scenarios where it makes no sense to compete, and there’s no clear winner. Children exhibiting PC might do any of the following:

  • Ruthlessly fight their way to be out the door first, despite arriving to the destination no quicker than anyone else
  • Passionately argue about who is the better “shuffler” (of cards)
  • Loudly declare that they have the smelliest feet

 

 

For those of you who have kids, know kids, or were once kids yourselves, what do you think of these (fake) disorders? Did any of them ring a bell for you? What would you add to this list?

 

The Lie, the Guilt, and the Wardrobe

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For a couple of weeks, I’ve been participating in a Blogging U. course called “Everyday Inspiration.” For an assignment last week, I asked readers to visit my contact page and suggest ideas or questions for me to blog about in the future. Thanks to those of you who took the time to suggest prompts for me! Feel free to submit more as they come to you 🙂

For today’s assignment, WordPress recommended answering one of the questions or post ideas that I received. There were lots of funny, intriguing, and downright strange ideas, so this was a tough choice. Fortunately, I’ll have plenty of material in the future should I need some inspiration!

The post idea that I selected for today’s assignment is this:

 What is something weird you did as a kid?

I was a relatively well-behaved and normal kid, despite my penchant for playing in my closet and making up mildly concerning stories about my dolls.

And my tendency to stand next to my parents’ bed and stare at my mother as she slept.

Totally ordinary stuff.

Truth is, I definitely had my moments of teasing the line of normalcy. And by “teasing the line,” I really mean flying an airplane over the line, and laughing maniacally as I left it behind me.

Anyway, it wasn’t hard for me to think of a strange story, but I thought this anecdote could best be told through a series of pictures I crafted on MS Paint.

Think of it as being like a children’s story – with swear words and an inappropriate lesson at the end.

lie1lie2lie3lie4lie5.JPGlie6lie7lie8lie9lie10lie11.JPGlie12lie13lie14lie15lie16lie17lie18lie19lie20

Moral of the story: I was a weird child. Also, Moms can be tricky.

What were you like as a kid? Can you remember any strange things you might have done, or terrible lies you told? Did you get away with these things, or were you eventually caught?

 

‘Twas the Best of Lies, ‘Twas the Worst of Lies

When I was little, Christmas Day usually involved opening presents with my parents and brother at home, before making the long journey to my grandparents’ house. And by long journey, I mean two streets over from my house.

Every year, my family followed roughly the same routine. My cousin Lauren and I were elected to pass out everyone’s gifts like little servants elves, and then we all opened them at the same time. After presents, we’d eat a tasty lunch of warm ham, soft rolls, and Grandma’s baked “cheese and macaroni” (as she calls it.)

As respectable as lunch was, my true interest lied with the desserts. Each Christmas, Grandma’s laundry room would turn into a veritable museum of sweets, with her washer and dryer serving as a display table of brownies and candies and pies. (Oh, my!)

It was every kid’s dream.

desserts

Unfortunately, the adults limited us poor, inferior children to two desserts apiece. As an adult, I now understand why people might want to avoid herds of sugar-crazed, chocolate-covered children climbing the walls and swinging from the ceiling fans; as a little kid, a limit of two desserts was akin to cruel and unusual punishment.

And I was not going to stand for that kind of treatment any longer.

One year, after lunch, Lauren and I headed to one of the extra bedrooms to play. Once we were alone, we paced the floors, thinking. We wanted more dessert. We needed more dessert. We just weren’t sure how to get our hands on it.

We brainstormed our options.

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And then inspiration struck.

Lauren and I both had play strollers for our baby dolls, and we worked quickly to buckle our babies into their seats, even lovingly placing blankets over their laps. Then, we casually sauntered into the living room, meeting the glances of our family members as they paused in their conversations to admire us. We smiled sweetly, fully playing up the part of two cute little girls with their dolls.

“Just on a walk with our dollies!” we sang, oh-so-innocently.

We continued to stroll through the kitchen until we arrived safely, and unquestioned, in the laundry room. Like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory, we frantically grabbed at fudge and cookies and candy, stuffing them in the strollers, under baby dolls, probably even in our pockets – anywhere that they wouldn’t be seen.

Lucy-Chocolate-Factory

Then, just as nonchalantly as before, we wandered back through the living room, forcing ourselves to walk slowly. We smiled pleasantly, but not too excitedly, so as to not arouse suspicion. Soon, we were back in the bedroom. Our plan had worked. We were alone with the desserts.

And we scarfed it down like deranged animals. Or just deranged human children.

girlcake

Not satisfied by the first round (or pound) of chocolate, we repeated this process a few times. Each time, our “casual” behavior grew more and more erratic.

“Just on a walk with our dollies!” we screeched, our eyes wide-open and unblinking from a sugar rush. If an adult looked at us oddly, we grinned in a psychotic manner and gestured clumsily at our dolls. Nothing to see here, folks. Just some children taking their dolls on a walk!

It wasn’t until our fourth or fifth trip through the living room that our parents finally narrowed their eyes at us. “What are you girls up to?” they asked, their voices full of suspicion. “You’re not going in there to get sweets, are you?”

“Noooo!” we replied in fake, squeaky voices, because kids are terrible liars. With demented smiles still plastered on our faces, we made panicky U-turns with our strollers and veered back to the bedroom. Obviously, the grown-ups were on to us. Even in our chocolate-induced delirium, we knew better than to press our luck.

For our parents’ sakes, I’d like to say they figured us out and prevented us from doing this at future holiday gatherings. But that’d be a lie. We repeated this devious and greedy plot for a few years without ever being caught in the act.

Unfortunately, our grandparents did figure out our secret when they eventually rearranged the furniture in that bedroom and discovered a massive pile of empty candy wrappers under the bed. Basically, we were clever enough to secretly steal large amounts of food, but not smart enough to get rid of the evidence.

Dreamers and Dictators

Every once in a while, I like to pull out the giant, overstuffed container that holds all of my school papers from elementary to high school. I think of it as taking a journey back to my childhood – one writing assignment or incomprehensive doodle at a time.

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Sifting through the stuff brings up all sorts of feelings for me. Nostalgia over the drawings of horses and dolphins. Pride over the honor roll certificates. Amusement over the childish handwriting and nonsensical sentences.

…And utter confusion about the thoughts I held as a kid.

My elementary school had its own little magazine/booklet that came out a few times a year. They listed helpful information for parents, advertised upcoming school events, and included little brags and cute stories about the students.

The magazine had a paw print on the cover, and also happened to be called Paw Prints. Clever stuff.

Not long ago, I picked up one of the Paw Prints from my first year of elementary school and started thumbing through it, delighted to discover that the kindergarteners that year had been asked what they’d do if they were president. I grinned and settled in on the sofa, happy to begin what I assumed would be a fun and interesting read.

I wasn’t expecting to be completely dumbfounded.

Most of the kids’ responses fell in one of two camps: some (including my best friend) expressed sweet desires to help the less fortunate or make the world a safer place. Others got a little dictator-y and described plans for world domination.

It was a very cute microcosm of modern politics:

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Actual excerpt from Paw Prints

And which category did my response fall in, you ask?

Well, neither. My answer deserves a category of its very own. Because it’s just THAT strange.

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Umm…what?

I have so many questions for six-year-old me about that statement. Why did I think there was more than one President of the United States? Did I picture a herd of presidents all working together toward one common goal, or did we all have different tasks? Why did I assume that none of us would know each other’s names?

And why, at 6-years-old, was I thinking about nameplates?!

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I find it fascinating that while my classmates were worried about poverty and drugs at the tender age of six, I was preoccupied by pieces of wood with names engraved on them. Serious stuff right there.

Perhaps my answer for my hypothetical presidency was based on a feeling of sympathy for people who have trouble learning names. Maybe I imagined that one of the presidents (because apparently that’s plural) might be new to the job, and feeling a little unsure of himself. Maybe he’d be running down the hallway of the White House with urgent information for me, and suddenly realize that he couldn’t remember my name. He’d pause outside my doorway, feeling insecure and upset with himself.  Finally, he’d work up the nerve to open my door, only to discover that my name was prominently displayed on my desk for all to see.

Crisis averted, new guy.

Although I hope that the reasoning for my answer was compassionate, I’m guessing that the truth is, some twerp probably called me by the wrong name right before I was asked the question, and it really pissed me off.

angrygirl
I’m gonna get a nameplate so you have NO CHOICE but to learn my name, you bastard!

I’ll probably never know what I was thinking when I gave that answer. Either way, I’m inclined to blame my parents for this one. Clearly, this would have been a good life lesson to impart early on.

  • “This is how you use a fork.”
  • “This is how you tie your shoes.”
  • “By the way, there’s only ONE president. And he probably already has a nameplate.”

 

Forever 93

I think there may be an elderly woman trapped inside of me. No, I didn’t “resorb” my twin like Dwight Schrute from The Office did.

Not to my knowledge, anyway.

dwightmeme

Technically, chronologically, biologically, genetically, and in all the other ways,  I’m 27 years old. (I know what you’re thinking – I don’t look a day over 26 and a half.) But I’m convinced that the thoughts and feelings galloping around in my head seem to come from the brain of a much, much older person. Or, at times, a much younger person.

Now it sounds like I have an identity disorder. Let me back up and explain this in a different way.

I think my 27-year-old self is made up of all of the “selves” I’ve been at different ages. I still have a 22-year-old self, a 14-year-old self, a 9-year-old self, and so on. Probably even an infant self. All of the thoughts and experiences that occurred at each age have accumulated together to form my current self.

All of the ages are important, but for whatever reason, certain ages have taken precedence. I seem to mostly be made up of a 6-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 17-year-old, and, get ready for it – a 93-year-old.

Let’s take the 6-year-old me, for example.

At 6, I was smart and a bit bossy. I went back and forth between wearing my brother’s hand-me-downs and dressing up in sparkly princess gowns; I bounced from riding bikes to playing with my mother’s makeup. I never had good comebacks for my teasing older brother, so I often responded by just slapping him. I wanted to eat macaroni and cheese for every meal, and I was messy. I was happy.

That 6-year-old is still present in me. It’s not uncommon for me to have marker on my hands or food on my clothes. I’m still not good at generating witty comebacks when being teased – though, fortunately, I’ve stopped resorting to physical violence. I get excited about little things.

And when I’m getting ready for a night out, I can look at my new outfit and careful make-up –- and still feel like a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s things.

 

forever93-r

(And I still kind of want to eat macaroni and cheese for every meal.)

My 12-year-old self is also still part of my life, much to my chagrin. Years of braces, glasses, frizzy hair, and bad skin took their toll on me in middle school. I also had the long, clumsy legs of a baby deer, rendering me completely uncoordinated, with ill-fitting pants. I was so painfully insecure, and so desperate for someone to notice me.

Fifteen years later, my braces are gone, my skin has (sort of) cleared up, and I’ve traded glasses for contacts. I’ve grown into my legs, and almost never trip over my own feet. I’m more comfortable in my body, which I think is one of the upsides of growing up.

But put me in a dressing room, trying on jeans that are a smidge too short, and it’s amazing how quickly I can be catapulted back to sixth grade.

Back to a time when all of my pants fit awkwardly and I walked a little hunched over, as if that would make them less noticeable. (I’m telling you, if the school had ever flooded, my high-water pants and I would have been well-prepared.)

Back to a time when I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, to hide away from all the people I was just so sure were whispering about me. Now, anytime my face breaks out, or my just-straightened hair turns frizzy in humidity, or I fail miserably at something athletic, my brain remembers exactly how I felt at twelve. And it takes every ounce of willpower to not let it go there.

Seventeen-year-old me is equal parts idealism and sarcasm. Back then, I was hard-working and very ambitious; like all teens, I was just trying to find my way in the world. And I’m still trying to find it, to be honest. I still daydream about stumbling upon big successes, and I’m okay with it if that makes me seem a little naïve.

At 17, I also did not like to be told what to do. And I still don’t. Being micro-managed is just about my biggest pet peeve (second to slow walkers, that is). Not long ago, I dealt with an incredibly rude, sexist, and power-hungry person in a professional setting, and I could FEEL the 17-year-old in me dying to pop out with some sort of snarky, bratty response. She was clawing to get out, and it was not easy to stop her.

That snark will probably always be there. Sorry parents, you did the best you could.

And last but not least, the elderly me. I like to think of her as being about 93. I know that I technically haven’t reached that age yet, but I’ve always been a bit of an old soul, so I know a senior citizen is bound to be in there somewhere. Probably wearing a cardigan.

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The proof for my elderly side? To start, I like to crochet. I like it so much that it’s just a matter of time before I start making house shoes for everyone I know. I’m also semi-convinced that a lot of the world’s problems could be fixed with homemade cookies.

And when I put on a shirt that is slightly lower-cut than what I’m used to wearing, I’ll feel adult-y and confident for about 10 seconds before peering at myself in the mirror and thinking, you look a little trampy, dear.

Sometimes, these different versions of myself go really well together. For example, the bossiness of 6-year-old me goes nicely with the dislike of being pushed around in the 17-year-old me. (If I let those two take power more often, I’d probably turn into some sort of dictator.)

Also, the 93-year-old me thinks the 12-year-old me is adorable, even with all that acne and frizz. But that doesn’t mean much, because the elderly me thinks everyone is adorable.

But sometimes the different selves contradict each other, such as when the 6-year-old me wants to be playful and goofy, and the 12-year-old me holds back in fear of judgment. Also, the elderly me always thinks I should go to bed earlier, and cook more nutritious meals; that one’s especially difficult, because the 17-year-old me is a night owl, and 6-year-old me just wants macaroni and cheese all the time.

I try not to root for one particular age over another. Each version of me has its own limitations, but also its strengths. The 17-year-old encourages me to stand up for myself and take (healthy) risks. The high-waters-wearing 12-year-old reminds me how to hold my head up, even when I don’t feel very good about myself. And when the weight of adult responsibilities starts to drag me down a little, the 6-year-old keeps me fun-loving, optimistic, and ever-youthful.

Birdaphobia

There are a lot of things that I like in this world, but birds are not one of them. I actively dislike the winged monsters. They are terrible, and there’s a reason Alfred Hitchcock made an entire horror movie about them.

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My disdain probably began in middle or high school. A family of mockingbirds made a nest in the tree outside my bedroom window – adorable, right? WRONG. The jerks made a daily habit of pointlessly pecking the wall outside, which created a loud tapping noise in my bedroom at the crack of dawn.

Who knows why they were doing this. Why, birds why?! What were you trying to accomplish? They have tiny brains, so even they probably didn’t know why. I was even less happy when the mockingbirds apparently either procreated, or invited their long-lost cousins to live with them, because the tapping grew even louder and more persistent.

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At first, I attempted to solve the problem on my own. As soon as the birds woke me from my blissful sleep, I’d lunge across my bed in a fit of rage and bang my fist against the wall. Thankfully, the birds were perplexed and terrified by this noise, and scattered out of the tree. Mission accomplished!

…Until the fools eventually realized that their home was not spontaneously exploding. They appeared to start thinking of the bang as a sort of greeting; as soon as they heard it, they’d momentarily pause their tapping, only to resume it at an even louder volume.

My parents eventually got involved in the problem-solving, most likely just to make sure that I didn’t leave a fury-filled dent in the wall. On advice from my grandmother, they purchased cheap rubber snakes at the dollar store and planted them inside the bushes and trees outside my room. I was doubtful – I figured even the tiniest of bird brains would realize pretty quickly that their enemies never moved or blinked. (Technically, snakes never blink, but birds are stupid and probably don’t know that.)

It turns out, I was wrong. Bothered by the presence of the snakes, the mockingbird family packed up their things and moved on to another tree, never to disturb my sleep again.

No, that wasn’t some sort of happy ending to this story, because I have other reasons for hating the feathery bastards.

In elementary school, a couple of my teachers kept class pets – one of them, an African Grey Parrot named Murphy. I can’t speak for all Greys, but Murphy was basically the devil. He acted innocent and loving around my teacher, but anytime she stepped out of the room, Murphy would screech noisily and pace in his cage, glaring at us through the bars as though he were plotting our deaths.

Once, he managed to escape from his cage and chase us around the room. We all screamed and climbed on top of our desks, trying to avoid getting chunks of our flesh ripped out by Murphy’s big beak. The power-hungry dictator seemed pleased by his authority over us, and returned to his cage before our teacher ever knew he was gone.

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He’s pretending that cucumber is human flesh.

Another time, I was driving on an access road and noticed a giant bird perched on a speed limit sign up ahead of me. When I tell this story to people, I sometimes identify the bird as a balding eagle or a pterodactyl, which it probably wasn’t. Don’t really know for sure. But it was definitely some sort of bird of prey, like a falcon or a hawk. As soon as my car got close to the sign, the bird chose that moment to swoop down from its perch. I screamed and closed my eyes (which is a great thing to do when operating a motor vehicle), and slammed on my breaks. I heard a light “thunk” as the bird’s wing hit my windshield, but the beast continued on its path, seemingly undeterred.

Clearly, the feeling of hatred is mutual.

The only person (or animal) who has ever come close to understanding how I feel is my parents’ neighbors’ cat, Garfield, who is now sadly deceased. Admittedly, Garfield was the one who instigated HIS troubles with the mockingbirds in the first place, since he seemed to make it his life’s goal to attack and kill a lot of them. (Which is pretty bad ass, considering that’s illegal in Texas.)

Eventually, word of the bird murders got out, and the remaining mockingbirds joined together to form a Bird Mafia and avenge their friends’ deaths. After that, every single time Garfield set foot outside, they’d swoop down from the trees and peck at the poor cat’s head.

I don’t necessarily hate all species of bird. Every once in awhile, I can admire a pretty blue jay or cardinal in the yard. I also find ducks to be quite cute and charming, and I once fed potato chips to a stray chicken at a gas station in Corpus Christi. (It was fun until he tried to get in the car with me. I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment.) I also squeal and clap my hands in excitement when I see peacocks out in the real world – which has happened exactly three times.

Proof of my positive interactions with birds:

peacock        gas station chicken 3

But my favorite bird of all, who is totally exempt from all my bird-related disdain, was my childhood pet, Bogie. Bogie was a sweet little Quaker parrot, with beautiful green and blue feathers. He could say certain phrases (like “good boy” and “thank you”), and he’d step onto your finger if you held it out for him. He was pretty amazing.

Like Murphy, Bogie had a talent for escaping his cage; unlike Murphy, however, Bogie used his skills for good instead of evil. His cage was kept in the living room, and if the rest of the family was gone from the room for too long, he’d come search for us – like a tiny little stalker. He probably just wanted to make sure we were still alive. Or to beg for treats. Either way, it was adorable.

The great irony of all my bird hatred is that the décor in my office at work includes birds. I want to like birds. For most people, they’re beautiful symbols of freedom and hope. But for me, they’ll always be screeching, wall-pecking, car-diving little demons.

And with that – Happy Halloween 🙂

photo credit (top, black & white): high contrast power lines via photopin (license)