Each child possesses their own idiosyncrasy. When revealed, some eccentric or peculiar behaviors persist for a lifetime while others are short-lived and memorable.
Sometimes we as parents find our children’s decisions amusing and charming, but other times they give us pause and afford us an opportunity to lavish them with compassion and understanding.
The emergence of these quirks in our children can offer endearing insights into their developing character or demonstrate how they are handling or responding to anxieties, fears or other preoccupations.
I believe that the latter motivated my son to turn to dragons when he was around 4 years old.
Not dragons as stuffed animals, figurines, characters in a book or participants in some sort of imaginative play, but dragons as something unexpected.
A few weeks before Halloween, Joseph and I were in a store perusing the many scary decorations for sale. We had amassed quite a collection of spiders, skeletons and other spooky items over the years, but we were always on the lookout for any décor that could enhance the haunted appeal of our home.
Eventually, we turned a corner and found the costumes arranged by sex and age hanging on both sides of a long aisle. Once we located the boys’ section, Joseph proceeded to explore the various options, discussing with me what he was looking for.
“Armor? Yes! Swords? Yes! Spears? Yes!”
I assumed he would choose some sort of warrior ensemble, but his little hand settled on a costume I did not expect — a green one with a tail.
“Mom, I want this one! I want to be a dragon!”
The costume was big enough for him to walk, run and twist with ease and thick enough to be warm and cozy for trick-or-treating during the chilly October evening. Unfortunately, I can’t find a photo of him in the costume.
Transformation at bedtime
When we returned home that evening, Joseph decided he wanted to wear the costume to bed.
Slipping his legs into the pants, his arms into the sleeves and his head into the hood, he was transformed into an adorable dragon. I zipped up the front, helped him adjust his tail so he could lie comfortably and he dozed off to sleep.
From that day forward for an entire year, Joseph wore this costume to bed over pajamas every night. It amazes me to this day that its material and structure could withstand the tossing and turning of his sleep, but it did.
To this day, neither Joseph nor I know the reason for him wearing this costume. I can only surmise that it made him feel safe and warm even though it could be cumbersome to negotiate at times and cause him to sweat under his covers.
His life at that time was not entirely his own.
For five days a week, while I worked, he attended daycare where other people dictated the structure of the day and he had to engage with children he liked and those he didn’t.
He also had to visit with his father. The evening dinners posed little problem because he enjoyed the meals at the restaurants his father selected. However, the alternating weekend visits filled him with tremendous anxiety and eventually anger over being separated from his home and me.
Perhaps this costume was his way of exerting some control over his little life, but we will never know for certain.
Children’s sense of humor
Children constantly amaze us through their ways of interacting with the world around them and responding to their own particular needs.
This column, the fifth installment in a seven-part series, explores more of the hilarious and sweet situations single parents confront with their children. Following are some of their responses:
“My son, for a good few months, wore his Batman costume everywhere. If we let him wear it to school, he would have. He still wears it and goes out as Batman. He has a Batman voice too.”
“My son wanted me to come to bed with him, and I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, give me a minute.’ He ran to the Google home pod thingy and said, ‘Hey, Google, set a timer for one minute.’ This kid … he is not playing.”
“I woke up to my daughter sitting in my bed when she was about 2 years old. She looked me dead in the face and said, ‘Don’t worry, Mommy, I’m not gonna bite you.’ Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.”
“My son said he had something on his penis. He was 6, by the way. I was scared and said, ‘Well, let me see.’ He showed me and a little tiny sticker with numbers was on there. Those stickers are sometimes in the clothes and he had it on him, poor baby! It probably came from his new underwear. I said, ‘It’s just a sticker. You can take it off.’ He said, ‘No, I’m scared!’ So I had to take it off. It was on there pretty good!”
“The other day my son said his pits and nipples were sweating!”
“We were in Walmart one day shopping. My son was 5 — he’s 14 now — and he ran off down the aisle while I was looking at stuff in the makeup aisle. There was this big box in the aisle of big bags of cotton balls. I could see him out of the corner of my eye one minute, but the next minute he was gone. I walked toward the end of the aisle and heard giggling coming from the cotton ball box. He was in the box, popping out as people walked by, yelling ‘Rawwwr!’, and then diving back in. I just watched thinking it was hysterical until he jumped out at a little old lady. She was so surprised that she lost her balance and fell over the edge of the box, nearly on top of my son. Her husband and I ran over to help her get up off the box. She was laughing as she said it was the most fun she’s had in years.”
“My oldest one, 10 at the time, would put his underwear on his head, come out of his room and dance to a song called ‘Booty’ that he made up. My 8-year-old and 3-year-old at the time would join. There was lots of underwear on the boys’ heads.”
“I have custody of my 13-year-old grandson who has developmental disabilities. We were in Walmart not long ago and an older lady was in line in front of us. My grandson tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, I really like your man bun!’”
“In my house, we talk about everything. My kids know nothing is too inappropriate and I’ll always answer questions. Yesterday I was with my 16-year-old son playing Pokémon Go when he told me his friends call this Pokémon ‘the creepy fleshlight.’ While I’m glad he feels comfortable telling me stuff, maybe some things he should keep to himself.”
“My little man loves hearing the story of his birth. He cracks up laughing every time I get to the part where he screamed and sprayed all over the nurse and she yelled, ‘He peed on me!’”
Please feel free to email me your stories and enjoy the laughter these and upcoming memories are sure to produce.
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every fourth Thursday, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send any comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @parentsonurown and can be found by searching #singleparentandstrong.