By J. Shane Mercer
Watching your children grow up is a wonderful thing.
And not in that syrupy sweet, slow-motion, fuzz filter way that they show you on commercials where they’re trying to tug at your heart strings to sell you really expensive kids clothes because childhood is a magical time, and one day they’ll be all grown up, and you’ll wonder, “Where did the time go?” and “Why didn’t I cherish the special moments more?” And so, somehow, that means I should buy them some new pants.
No, I’m talking about those growth milestones that make things better for you, the parent. Perhaps the most obvious is potty training. After years of cleaning up the business of other human beings, it’s really nice to reach a point where you only have to worry about your own—you know—business.
Less obvious, but still really nice, is the point at which the kids are old enough to pour their own cereal so you can sleep in on Saturday mornings. And then, of course, there’s the joy of having an heir to whom you can bequeath your lawn mowing duties.
But it’s not all freedom and sleeping in. There are some downsides to all this growing up. One real negative is the fact that children stop saying the insane, bizarre, ridiculous things they start saying around age 2 or so. For the first few years of their speaking lives, child conversations are just a delightful blend of gross oversimplification, brutal bluntness, and utter sincerity delivered via rudimentary speech skills, often without a hint of sarcasm or irony.
Once, my then 6-year-old son, Will, brought home information from school about a blood drive. He said to do the blood thing I might have to die so I may not want to do that.
Another time, Will had a good friend at school whose parents were, I think, separated or divorced. Perhaps that’s what prompted the conversation he had with Amy (i.e. his mom and my wife).
Will: “Mom, are you going to break up with Dad?”
Amy (perhaps a bit surprised by the question): “No, I love Dad. We’re not going to break up.”
Will: “Yeah, he is pretty funny.”
So, as long as I keep making with the jokes, I’m safe, I guess.
Another time he asked me, “Do you toot when you’re dead?”
To be sure, my son doesn’t have a monopoly on humorous quips. My wife and I also have twin daughters, who are now 11. Once, when Ariana was 4, she went potty, looked in the toilet, and said, “It looks like a camera on a stick.” Another time, she told me that she had changed her mind about wanting to be a rock star because she was concerned that people might miss seeing her when she was on television. She said that was worrying her.
Once at the mall, Ariana saw a man with a patch on his eye and said, “Does that guy need an eye patch or is he just trying to be cool?”
The genuineness is so wonderful. That’s why contrived cuteness on sitcoms is so obnoxious, while kids in real life are so endearing. On TV shows, some adult has written a line and said, “Wouldn’t it be cute if the kid said such and such?” In real life, the insanity just spews forth naturally from their little noggins. It’s real stuff.
One time, my other daughter, Talia, got out of the car to go to school and announced, “It smells like excitement!”
On another occasion, she said, “Right this minute, I feel like a professional rapper.”
They’re not always crazy. Sometimes, kidisms are just very true.
For example, Ariana once said, “Most of the time when I do something stupid, I don’t think before I do it.” Those are words to live by.
And sometimes they ask questions that are so big, so philosophic that you don’t know where to begin answering. Will once asked me, “How does air work?” Another time, he asked, “Is this my life or is it a dream?”
Other times, their comments are just really, really practical. Once, when I made soup, Will asked: “Does it have green beans in it?”
Will was relieved that he’d discovered nothing particularly healthy in the soup. And, when you’re 6, that’s a very practical concern.
J. Shane Mercer is the digital marketing specialist at The Village Family Service Center. He and his wife, Amy, live in Fargo with their three children, Ariana (11), Talia (11), and Will (7).
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