Your Kids’ Super Weird Behavior Is Actually Pretty Normal

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The pediatrician finally asked me if I was a special education teacher, after my list of odd things my 15-month-old had been doing. I sheepishly said no but realized why she asked.  I may have been arriving for each visit with a lot of notes…organized…sometimes typed…with dates…No big deal or anything.

“All these things are normal.  If he’s still doing the ear pulling when he’s 13, then we need to talk.” Wise words from a patient, patient doctor. But what about the refusal to drink milk from a cup? And the tub pooping? And the obsession with the theme music from Alias?

That’s the problem with being a first time mom, right? It is all new. How’s a woman supposed to know it is ok for some people in the world to be obsessed with licking their aunt’s toes? Bless the nurses and assistants and doctors who deal with all of us confused, earnest, hormonal people.

With my second kid, our pediatrician had twins a few months earlier. It was/is fabulous: Dr. Awesome is going through all the same stages as me, just a little ahead of time. We can commiserate about what they eat or don’t eat, how they are growing, their futures, pretty much everything. She’s given me such perspective about how important mom happiness is, not just how your child is developing. Well kid checkups are basically therapy for me…and the kid gets his shots too, of course.

My oldest son is nine now—all in one piece, thank you very much. His teeth did eventually come in, though I doubted it for a time. The doctor told me that there wasn’t any concern unless he was still bare gummed in kindergarten. She was right. The younger one? He’s small. But so are the kids of the pediatrician. How great is that?

When all the other moms talk about their kids’ normalcy, I’ve felt so alone, and mean for noticing that my two kids do weird-ass stuff a lot of the time. Is it just me? Does everyone else have Mom Blinders on?

I’ve finally come to realize that we’re all in the same boat, wondering if there’s a big problem or if the saving of dead bugs is normal. (I hear that it is.) I might be more open about my confusion and concerns than other people, but most every mom is wondering if something is wrong with their kids. So here’s some help from the trenches of a worrier mama.

No Cause for Alarm Behaviors (that I’ve seen firsthand):

  • Acting like a cat (or mouse or snake)…as long as human bathroom habits are maintained.
  • Speaking both sides of a conversation.
  • Painful looking stretching of the male genitals (probably girls too but I have no recollection of this myself and am the only girl in my house).
  • Licking…objects, people, self, board books, furniture, animals.
  • Giving hickeys to self (hopefully ends before high school)
  • Evil laughs/cackles.
  • Selective deafness…may carry over into adulthood.
  • Fear of water/grapes/clouds/hair brushing/dirt/leaves/milk/pickles.
  • Talks to you in the bathroom (while child or parent using facilities).
  • Defiant at bedtime.
  • Walks into walls.
  • Acting like a dog.
  • Eating board books.
  • Wakes up screaming in middle of night.
  • Doesn’t believe your explanations of things.

Albert Einstein is famous for some of his ‘quirky’ childhood actions—late talking, getting kicked out of school, even not tying his shoes. Those poor parents. By the time he made something of himself, Mr. and Mrs. Einstein senior must have given up on normal a long time ago.

This is not hugely comforting for a parent today.  It takes a lot of years to get perspective.  I don’t want more kids, but there are definitely benefits to when #5 or #6 come along: you’ve seen a lot of the development spectrum and it takes more to freak you out.

That early childhood development chart hanging on walls everywhere you go with your stroller bound kid? Sure it has the basics, like when a baby should be able to roll over, but it leaves out the really important stuff: kid can understand a pun, chew with mouth closed.  It should really give ideas of weird behavior so parents everywhere can see that vaguely creepy kid stuff doesn’t just happen in their house. Such a revelation could be life changing, really. Then childless aunts around the world would be less grossed out when the nephew tries to lick their toes.