Flashing and Other Talents

On a mildly cool winter night 25 some-odd years ago, my family and I attended a Christmas music program at our church. I was going to be singing a few songs with my preschool class, so I arrived dressed to the nines in a pretty red dress, white pantyhose, and black patent shoes.

I was ready for action.

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Once my tiny classmates and I were neatly lined up on the sanctuary steps, the pianist took her seat and began playing the accompaniment. Under the direction of our teachers, my class and I sang the first of our Jesus-related songs. I don’t remember what song it was, but I’m sure we butchered it, because preschoolers are terrible but hilarious performers. I’m sure there was lots of fidgeting, blank staring, and nose-picking going on. Nevertheless, we made it through our first song, and then the music began for the second one.

And that’s when things got weird.

No, that’s not true. Things didn’t passively get weird. I made them weird.

Those of you who read my blog regularly might have gotten a slightly inaccurate impression of me. In my writing, particularly on a blog where I’m unidentifiable to the majority of readers, I’m free to get a little … goofy. Theatrical. Totes inapprops.  On here, I use language and make jokes that I wouldn’t typically make in person, except in the presence of my closest friends. In a way, y’all know me better than many of the people I see on a regular basis. In real life, I’m a bit more reserved and professional until I’m comfortable with you. Then I unleash the crazy.

I was just as quiet and well-mannered as a little bitty girl. I was no one’s definition of a wild child. I want to make sure you fully understand just how much of a goody-goody I was, because it makes my behavior that evening that much more bizarre.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe I zoned out and thought I was at home. Maybe I was bored and thought the music program needed a little spicing up. We will never know what was going through my warped little brain.

Okay, enough stalling. Let’s get down to it.

Pop Quiz: What did Amanda do in the middle of her conservative Baptist Christmas music program, attended by her pastor and lots of impressionable children?

A. Barked at the audience
B. Punched a kid next to me
C. Lifted my dress up above my head
D. Muttered “red rum” in a demonic voice
E. Both A and C

If you chose A, B, or D, you probably didn’t pay much attention to the title of this post. The answer, my friends, is E. While my classmates sweetly sang songs about angels and mangers, I decided to take the performance in a different direction. I began by unleashing some ferocious barks at the audience, and when that didn’t seem quite “spicy” enough, I lifted the skirt of my dress right above my head, exposing my panty-hosed little tummy and bare chest to the world.

I turned every adult in that audience into accidental and unwilling pedophiles.

Here’s a photo that my parents were kind enough to snap before they hunched down in the pews and pretended not to know me. As you can see, my teachers are frantically motioning for me to put my dress down, while my pilgrim classmates stare at me with either judgment or jealousy.

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Admirably, I was undeterred by my protestors. I didn’t let their negativity hold me back. I cared not about my family’s embarrassment, and my barking noises intimidated others from trying to remove me from the stage.

Like the determined creature I am, I continued my peepshow-slash-animal-impersonation act until my class’s performance was complete.  As the audience awkwardly applauded my religious striptease, I like to think that I took a confident bow and strutted off the stage. I also like to think that I then made a full transformation into a werewolf and began climbing on the furniture.

But I probably just stood there, unblinking, until one of my teachers hurriedly pulled me away.

We all know that the Christmas season is all about peace, joy, and junk food, but I think it should probably also be about making amends with people you’ve wronged. I’m willing to be the one to get this fad started, so here are some holiday-themed apology notes I will be writing this year:

Dear preschool classmates,
I apologize for overshadowing you in the Christmas program. I’m pretty certain NO ONE in the audience, including your own parents, was watching you be adorable and well-behaved when there was a disaster to behold two feet away. If it makes you feel any better, I’m sure your moms and dads were thanking their lucky stars that they were going home with you, and not me.

Dear preschool teachers,
I apologize for my artistic, but nonetheless unauthorized, change to your fine program. Training toddlers to memorize and perform songs is a maddening task, I’m sure. I’m certain that you wish I hadn’t chosen that particular venue to unveil my new talent, and I’m sure Jesus wishes that as well. I’m also sorry if you later had to apologize to traumatized church-goers for my skanky behavior.

Dear parents,
You probably deserve an apology for the immense embarrassment I caused, but heck – you’re the ones who raised me in the first place. You should just feel lucky that I didn’t do that shit more often.

Does anyone else have a history of flashing or streaking? What other things did you do as children that embarrassed your parents?

 

 

Hell Cats and Hives

Even though Halloween and the season of scary stories ended a few weeks ago, I was recently reminded of a terrifying, monster-filled anecdote that happened in my own life. I’ve told a story over MS Paint illustrations before, and I thought it might be fun to bring it back again.

Behold, the scariest story of all:

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I know this story has a somewhat abrupt ending, but I didn’t want to leave you all feeling tense and terrorized for too long. The quick ending was for your sake. You’re welcome.

This story has a happy ending because after a shower and a few days of cortisone cream, I was good as new. Happy ending #2 – I later found a nice little desk job that didn’t involve being pelted with rocks by a couple of little hellions.

What’s the shortest amount of time you’ve ever worked at a particular job? What lead up to you quitting? Do you have any regrets for leaving so soon?

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?

 

Maybe I Don’t Want Kids

I decided I wanted to do something a bit different for this post, so it’s both longer and seriouser than what I usually write. Fair warning.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m really not sure that I ever want to have kids.

I have liked children and enjoyed being around them pretty much my entire life. I was still in elementary school when I started baby-sitting younger children in my neighborhood, and by middle school, I was watching babies.

(Now that I’m an adult, I seriously question the sanity of any parent who would leave an infant with an untrained eleven-year-old, but that’s beside the point.)

For a few summers in a row, I even held “mini camps,” where all the children in my neighborhood could descend on my house for a few hours for snacks, art projects, and outdoor activities.

The camps were lots of fun – and also probably illegal, once you took the child-to-caregiver ratio into account.

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It’s a bit tricky to explain my line of thinking in regards to having kids. I think most people hear about others not wanting children, and assume it’s because they either dislike them, or because they have circumstances that get in the way of child-rearing, such as fancy, high-powered jobs.

Neither of those is true for me. I have worked at daycares, I have worked in foster care, and I currently work as a child and adolescent counselor. I’m also quite close with my niece and nephew. I very much do like children.

But I still don’t know that I want my kids of my own.

Through all the baby-sitting, child care, and counseling, I have experienced many amazing moments with kids. I have rocked sleepy babies, I have witnessed toddlers’ awe at discovering new things, I have giggled with preschoolers, and I have had fascinating conversations with older children and teens.

I have felt total elation at being a part of so many “firsts” – first steps, first days of school, first time swimming without floaties. I have played dress-up, acted as a tickle monster, made up songs, painted tiny fingernails, and cooked pancakes in the shape of hearts – all while genuinely enjoying myself.

However, I have also experienced what it’s like to hold a screaming baby in one arm, stir dinner with the other, and shout at the toddlers in the next room to share their toys. I have changed diapers, only for them to be dirtied again with seconds. I have been in public with bloodshot eyes, a pale face, uncombed hair, and spit-up on my shoulder.

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I have known the bewilderment and frustration of having a child throw a temper tantrum for reasons I don’t understand, and can therefore do nothing about. And I have, at times, dare I say, been annoyed by the antics of overexcited kids.

Gasp. Better notify the church elders.

If you’re a parent, or have provided childcare in some way, you’re probably thinking, “But everyone gets annoyed with kids sometimes! Everyone has days where they want to pull their hair out!”And you would be absolutely right.

But the difference is, on the days that I feel annoyed and stressed out, I am still being PAID for my services. Big difference.

Also, at the end of a long day, I can go home to a quiet apartment, take a hot shower without little hands banging on the door, and go to sleep in a bed not covered in cheerios. Parents don’t have those luxuries.

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Maybe this is selfish, but I find the idea of having to cater to a tiny person’s needs, 24/7, with NO time for myself, terrifying. Props to all of you who do it.

One thing I’ve learned through countless discussions with parents, whether in my role as a children’s counselor, or simply with friends and family, is this:

Parenting is hard, y’all.

It is a never-ending job in a company that you have no hope of moving “up” in. There are no lunch breaks, no sick days, and the boss is not at all understanding if you find the work overwhelming. There are many, many “thankless” jobs out there, where employees don’t receive much positive feedback from customers (or employers) – but parents have it way worse.

Children actually don’t say things like, “Thank you for prohibiting me from skateboarding in the street, Mommy. I understand now you were trying to protect me from being run over and killed, and I appreciate your concern for my safety, and your desire to see me live. Let’s have some tea.”

Paradoxically, even though everyone seems to understand and agree that parenting is difficult, everyone on the planet LOVES to criticize parents – especially other parents!

We shake our fingers at those who we perceive as being too harsh, and roll our eyes at those we see as being too lenient. We turn up our noses at the sight of toddlers tantruming at Walmart, disregarding the times that our own children (or baby-sitting charges) did the same thing.

We conveniently forget what it feels like to be that stressed, confused, embarrassed parent, in favor of judging them so we can feel better about our own skills.

 

Is it really so odd that I might want to spare myself from these types of challenges?

For me, the advantages of having children are about equal with the disadvantages. The one thing that may very well push me over the edge is fear – if I don’t have kids, I think there’s a very real possibility of reaching old age and regretting my decision. To be fair, it’s also possible that I’d reach old age and feel perfectly content with my choices, but the fear of maybe being regretful and sad just might be enough to convince me.

We’ll see what happens.

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