Some kids always seem so put together. There’s not a hair out of place on their heads, they always wear the cutest outfits, they’re perfectly and abundantly accessorized and their shoes are never, EVER on the wrong feet. If you walk into their houses, you wouldn’t know children live there. All of their toys are neatly tucked away exactly where they belong in their beautiful, pristine Pottery Barn Kids bedrooms. The toys themselves are equally perfect and naturally, named only after characters from classic literature. These kids are well-behaved, quiet and polite. They know well to avoid germs and dirt and worst of all, the dreaded sandbox!
Raising children like this isn’t everyone’s style, but honestly, it sort of appealed to me. I hate dirt and sand and germs! I love decorating and accessorizing and picking out cute kids’ clothes! Plus, after spending my own childhood dressing in the style of “t-shirt from a place my grandma visited and floral leggings,” I wanted my own children to look composed and fashionable. About a year and a half into actual parenting, however, reality set in. This was not going to happen — not a single part of this dream.
Parents, I tell you this with a healthy amount of frustration, broken will and failed negotiations under my belt: IT’S NOT WORTH IT. Kids are filthy, persistent little weirdos by nature and there’s no point resisting. Outwardly perfect children are nearly impossible to maintain. You basically have to take every inherent kid tendency and squelch it! Who has the time and energy for that? No one in my house.
For me, it started with Ava-Caillou. My older daughter, Ava, was in the habit of naming every doll and stuffed animal after herself, which led to some confusion. I proposed many fine alternative names and finally, after days of negotiations, she settled on re-naming one stuffed elephant “Ava-Caillou.” Sigh, but we were making progress! Until she wanted all the other Avas to also be Ava-Caillous. And at that… I gave up. Halloween costume in April? Fine. St. Patrick’s Day “coffee mug” (that is technically a shot glass) necklace in December? Eh. Winter boots on a warm Spring day AND a backwards dress? Whatever. My kid slept in a crib full of Ava-Caillous and I never felt more free of all my burdens!
You know what else? Once I started to embrace the weirdness, I began to enjoy it. Aren’t everyone’s favorite parent social media posts about the weird stuff kids say or do or wear? Mine are! I still regret failing to take a picture of the “Christmas tree” my daughter made for her Kindergarten teacher out of a sharp piece of wood broken off our train table, a scrap of mermaid tail fabric, and googly eyes. I was probably too busy worrying about her bringing a mermaid dagger to school to see the Instagram potential. Luckily, there are plenty of other opportunities.
Now, although my kids are still very young, I’ve already begun to dread the day when they stop being weird and start worrying about what other people think. I was sad when my daughter stopped wearing an ugly stocking cap everywhere she went, even to bed, and when her sister did the same with her cat tail. I will miss the very smelly Thomas rain boots that my son insists on wearing every day (usually on the wrong feet) and telling people, “You can never be too prepared for an unexpected puddle!”
I know there are parents out there who don’t have to deal with mud and sand in their cars or slime in their child’s hair. I’m sure they don’t have to tell their kids to at least put on a long-sleeved shirt underneath their sleeveless tutu dress when it’s 15° outside. I’m sure their furniture is in immaculate condition from not being jumped on and that their floors are sparkling from not being rolled across by a fleet of muddy dump trucks. As a hand-sanitizer-toting germaphobe, I still think that sounds great! But I can suppress those tendencies to allow my kids to be kids. I can let them swim in mud, bury themselves in sandboxes, walk up slides, run around barefoot, mix every flavor into their shaved ice until it’s a cough-syrup-flavored brown mush. Because maybe it’s the put-together children who are the weird ones? Maybe my Dollywood t-shirts with floral leggings weren’t that weird after— No? No. That’s still weird.
How about you? Share your stories of your kids being perfectly, normally weird!