Kids are weird. Especially your kids. That’s right, I’m talking to all you parents out there who send their kids to school every day armed with all the weirdness the world can handle. I’m qualified to make the call, because I’ve got kids of my own – but I’m positive about the fact that yours take the cake, evidenced by the chat I had recently while subbing in my fourth grade daughter’s classroom. Sure, my kid had her sweatshirt on backwards, but this other kid, Dougie, and I had the following conversation after I noticed him yawning and rubbing his eyes for the better part of the first hour of the school day.
Me: Sleepy, Dougie?
Dougie: Yeah, really sleepy.
Me: Didn’t sleep well last night?
Dougie: No, me and my dad went hunting. We were up all night.
To better understand what I was going through at that moment, imagine a split screen, showing what the two halves of my brain were trying to do simultaneously: form an acceptable reply. One side of the mental jumbo-screen flashed something along the lines of, “You went hunting and were up all night?” while the other half read, “What kind of hillbilly, redneck parent lets a nine year old stay out hunting all night on a school night?” Since the latter mental query contained its own answer, I went with the former:
Me: You stayed up all night hunting?
Dougie: “Yeah!” said Dougie, suddenly all fired up. I mean, I could tell this kid was a miniature version of his highly agitated dad, whom I’d never even met. “We got back to the gate too late and got locked in! We drove around and around to other gates and couldn’t get out!”
I pictured a really pissed off guy in camo-gear, which is scary, with a Remington or Ducks Unlimited cap perched crookedly on his head as a result of scratching it while he stared at the lock on the gate(s). Then I visualized Dougie and his dad sleeping in the truck. A big truck with a gun rack in the back window, maybe an ice chest bungee-corded in the bed and a “Nuke Iraq” bumper sticker on the tailgate. To be fair, it wasn’t exactly terrible parenting. They got trapped on a locked ranch. I got it.
Me: “Soooo, what did you do?”
Dougie: “Well, we had to call my mom.”
My mind conjured the image of a sleepy good ‘ol gal in her sweats, t-shirt and socks, sound asleep, being awakened by the sound of a phone and feeling that horrible surge of adrenaline that only parents feel when the phone rings in the dead of night while family members are out somewhere. Especially when dads, guns, ice chests and sons are involved. I pictured her looking at the clock. I asked Dougie for more information:
Me: “What time was it when you called her?” I asked
The familiar feeling of my one brain working on two realities hit me again. I only had a few seconds before I’d need to reply. Dougie was anticipating a reaction. A correct reaction. The kid needed some validation and I wasn’t about to let him down – especially after the night he had, which I was failing on a grand scale at understanding. I quickly recalled that yes, Dougie had been in his seat at 8:00 a.m., so how could he have called his mom at 8:18 a.m.? Better yet, why would Pa wait until morning to call? I decided to go with something vague to cover up the fact I was not computing.
Me: “Then what?”
Dougie: “She brought the extra key and I didn’t get home and get into bed ‘til 9:22.”
More eye rubbing and yawning. This time it was me. It was 9:22 right now.
Judging by the look on the kid sitting next to Dougie, whom I’ll call Mugsy, I had company. Mugsy’s mouth hung open. His brow was furrowed and eyes were turned straight up toward the ceiling as he crunched the numbers. My light bulb, on the other hand, shone brightly.
Me: “So, you went to bed last night at 9:22?” I said, with the building intensity of a trial attorney about to pounce on an unsuspecting witness. I had Dougie’s number, and it was 1-800-WEIRD.
Dougie: “Yes. It was like 9:22 or 9:23,” Dougie reiterated very matter-of-factly, while I tried to keep a straight face.
Me: “What time do you usually go to bed, Dougie?” I asked, expecting an answer of, like, 5:30 p.m.
Dougie: “Like, EIGHT O’ CLOCK!” he said with the dramatic flair of a highly offended Lawrence Olivier.
Clearly, Dougie needs his twelve hours or he’s just no good. I dismissed my witness, satisfied that I had solved The Mystery of Dougie and the Locked Gate(s).
I pictured my own kids subjecting the other adults in their life to stories such as the one Dougie had shared with me. Are there adults, like teachers and grocery store clerks who think my kid is weird? Do my kids have stories like this? If so, what would they be called? Sadly, it took only four seconds before I had a list going. Perhaps one would be “Why I Like to Smell My Sister’s Dirty Feet” or “Ketchup on Scrambled Eggs: Is There Ever Enough?” I stared dejectedly at the still-yawning Dougie.
Maybe your kids don’t have the market cornered on weird after all.