Relax… your kids are normal!
Until yesterday, I kept a closely guarded secret about my children. I thought my kids were a little…well, abnormal. Quite frankly, I knew they were abnormal. When we visit the Zoo, are my children fascinated with the unique Red Panda? Are they in awe of the wild Cheetah that roams close enough to almost touch? As the crowds of guests gather around the zoo keeper to watch the demonstration of the only known Siberian Simian to breed in captivity while she feeds her young, where are my own offspring? I will invariably find them gathered in a circle, their 4 little heads bent closely together, intently studying something on the ground. What is so intriguing as to lure my children from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom? That irresistible attraction would be………..poop. Yes, poop. My kids will invariably stop to examine every form of poop left by every genus,species, class and category of animal.
“Look, it’s green!”
“Oooh, another one! This one’s blue and white!”
“No, you kick it!”
“Mom, David said my face looks like green poop!”
I also admit that my kids play games differently (“I don’t think your little sister is supposed to become airborne when you play Ring-Around-the-Rosy.”), eat differently (“I can’t eat this bologna. I said I wanted it cut into the shape of the Red Ranger. This looks like the Green Ranger!” ) and sleep differently (“But, Mom, I hafta sleep in the bathtub. The Slime Monster is afraid of water!”)
The same phenomenon holds true for my children’s computer behaviors. We have $500 worth of educational and gaming software that includes two CD ROM encyclopedias, three museum of fine art programs, two dinosaur applications, two ocean exploration programs, three paint/creative arts programs, a math application, a creative writing application and a historical role-playing CD ROM of the old west. My children’s friends come over and beg to play Oregon Trail, Kid Pix Studio or Oceans Below. My kids respond, “O.K., but first let me show you what happens when you click the mouse 25 times really fast on Sticky Bear while he’s reading. The screen turns red and flashes white dots and Sticky Bearfreezes up and dies !” Often, when I finally haul my kids off of my computer so I can get some work done, my desktop is littered with Key Caps, the Calculator, Chooser and the Sound Control panel; the Kid Pix Studio CD ROM is lying untouched in its case.
I’ve carried this dark little secret close to my heart, wary of letting other parents know that my kids aren’t quite like those kids on the computer commercials, oooh-ing and aaah-ing over a quicktime movie of our solar system. (My kids are more likely to oooh and aaah over the intriguing patterns they can draw in the dust on the monitor screen.) Until yesterday. Yesterday, one of my sisters called with a question about her Mac. Well, it was actually a question about her little boy and the Mac. What did she say that prompted me to come out of the closet with my private misgivings about my children?
My sister was concerned about her son and how he spends his time on the computer. Her question,“Carolyn, do your kids play with Key Caps a lot?”
Hallelujah! I could hear the chorus of angels singing in affirmation! My kids are not weird! I no longer have to worry whether or not running the mouse off the mouse pad and up the side of the desk is standard kid behavior! Whew, what a relief! I don’t have to start that 12 Step program for Parents Who’s Kids Play With Their Mashed Potatoes and Eat Their Play Doh. I am free to reveal that my son once ate half a tube of Ben Gay because it smelled like toothpaste, yet he won’t eat one of my casseroles because “there might be something I don’t like in there.” So relax, your kids are probably normal, too!
Yet, I don’t know where they acquired this type of response to their environment. Could it be hereditary? It’s not like I haven’t broken out all the bricks in the 7.5 Secret About Box. I have been seen holding down obscure key combinations just to hear ResEdit launch into Pig Mode. I most recently spent 15 minutes whipping the Iguana flag back and forth with my mouse in an effort to make it break off when I was supposed to be writing this column (sorry, Tim, now you know why it was late…) Come to think of it, the last time I was at the Zoo, I skipped the Rain Forests of the World presentation so I could corner a Zoo intern and ask her where she got her cute little safari shorts with all the spiffy pockets…..hmmmm. Maybe it’s time I faced facts; my kids aren’t normal.
No, my kids probably aren’t normal. They’re like, well, they’re like….me!