December 19, 2006

Uncorrected Personality Traits

Uncorrected personality traits
That seem whimsical in a child
May prove to be ugly in
A fully grown adult
- Uncorrected Personality Traits by Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn, whilst remaining an exceptionally talented but odd man, is correct. My observations from dadhood thus far have led me to confirm his belief and go one step further. I hereby reveal the results of the Rude Cactus Infant-Toddler Behavioral Study: all kids are insanely obsessive compulsive.

In the not so distant past, a fly was stuck in the transom over our front door, bashing itself against the glass in a vain attempt to fly towards the light and escape the Cactus-Fish abode. Mia was severely disturbed, pointing at the fly over and over. It's unclear what she wanted exactly. Did she want to see the fly? Was she concerned over the fly's health and well-being? Or did she just want it to go away? Like I said, unclear. Eventually, while she took a fly-break in the kitchen, I bashed the damn thing with an old copy of Rolling Stone (the issue with Justin Timberlake on the front so, in my mind, you know, right tool for the job), found the fly carcass and pitched it outside. Mia came rushing back in looking for the fly. No matter how many times Beth and I told her that the fly was gone, that it went back to its family, that it was with Jesus, she still aimed her index finger at the transom looking for the thing. That was months ago. Yesterday? We had to explain once again that the fly was with Jesus.

(This also leads me to a more critical issue - how does a parent explain to a child that something is dead and gone without spewing inappropriate religious sarcasm?)

Combine this with the ball games I described yesterday. There are actual rules applied to these games. It doesn't help that I don't know these rules or that the rules change with no warning whatsoever. Like I said - you've gotta stay flexible, adapt. Then there's the tidiness, the fact that no eating can possibly be done on a high-chair tray that has spilled food on it. And clean hands. Can't forget the clean hands. Oh, and locked doors. Very important, those locked doors. Buckles. Yes, the damn buckles. You take all these things (the good, the bad, and there you have the facts of life), put them together and you have a totally OCD-riddled little person who can't quite express herself. Which has to be frustrating.

So I've revised my opinion of parenting, at least partially.

I used to think that it was my job as a parent to teach our child manners, verse her in the ways of the world and keep her on the right path, Buddha-like, as best we can and prepare her for being an adult, for moving out into the world. I still think that crap's important. But what is equally as important is breaking her of the obsessive compulsive tendencies lest she grow up buying antibacterial soap by the truckload, brushing her teeth in an always-clockwise motion twelve times a day facing the general direction of the orbiting international space station and locking the front door 312 times - precisely - before heading to work.

Now, I don't want to leave you with the opinion that I'm at all bitter or frustrated by this behavior. I'm not. I think it's fucking adorable. Nor am I unsympathetic to the OCDers of the world...since I've always kinda been one. As a matter of fact, I'm off to get another cup of coffee. After I hit "submit" on this post 23 times while hopping on one leg reciting Robert Frost's Mending Wall backwards I'm going to go wash my hands. Three times.

What odd traits did you have as a kid? And what odd traits do you have now?

Posted by Chris at December 19, 2006 07:19 AM | TrackBack

We re-arranged our small townhouse yesterday to make one big playrrom in the basement. Now the basement is just toys, toys, toys, instead of toys on every floor. You'd think it was kid heaven. Michael is acting like we blew the toys up, instead of just moving them.

Posted by: jodi at December 19, 2006 07:53 AM

A better question to ask would be what are my normal traits. There are too many strange ones to name methinks!

Posted by: E :) at December 19, 2006 08:01 AM

We live in a small house. Like, under 1,000 square feet small. So there isn't much space, and my 2 boys have lots of toys. I'm a little obsessive about cleaning up and putting away and organizing--I always have been, but I didn't realize how bad it had gotten until my boys got some $$ for their birthday as well as some toys. When I asked them what I thought they might like to buy my year old said "Mom, I think we might need to buy some more organize bins with our birthday money. We're running out of space in the Power Rangers bin and the Vehicles bin, and we got some new ones for our birthday".

Yeah. What have I done to my children?

Posted by: Alissa at December 19, 2006 08:02 AM

That's "my FIVE year old".

I can't type this morning...

Posted by: Alissa at December 19, 2006 08:03 AM

You got me laughing at the part about Rolling Stone.

And I'm trying to think of some odd traits I had as a kid. I'm stymied. This is not to say that I didn't have any. I just might have to ask my dad.

Now? I can't seem to clip my fingernails like a normal person. I use my teeth to trim them, THEN I'll get the clippers and even them out. Is that odd? I like to pick my nose. And I take great pleasure in -- wait a minute! Duh! The teeth clippers and the nose picking? Yeah. Leftovers from childhood.

Good thing I picked up the coffee habit in college. I need some. Can you tell I haven't had much yet today?

Posted by: Alison at December 19, 2006 08:06 AM

I was an incredibly fussy child when it came to food. Had to have my apples peeled - and my grapes!! - crusts cut off my sandwiches... I would hardly eat anything. At one point when I was about 5 I believe I was surviving on tomato ketchup sandwiches (no crusts) and cucumber.

I pretty much grew out of it, now all I won't eat is peas, sweetcorn, bananas and onion.

Posted by: starrynite at December 19, 2006 08:08 AM

As a kid, whenever I hit my head, no matter how hard or soft, I would pass out. I am glad this was not passed on to my kids.

Posted by: William at December 19, 2006 08:18 AM

"It doesn't help that I don't know these rules or that the rules change with no warning whatsoever."
That makes me think of the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy, where him and the kid are playing cards and the kid keeps saying "I win", which of course was the name of the game as well. Oh can't you just wait until those days?? (But I'm sure it's frustrating now without so many words coming from Mia) Good luck!

Posted by: Michelle at December 19, 2006 08:20 AM

I had a lot of weird traits.

Posted by: raine at December 19, 2006 09:10 AM

The rituals I had to perform to function on a daily basis when I was a kid were many, many, many. Too many and too strange to go into here. But I am mostly fine now. I swear.

Other general things have lingered--when I was a baby, I didn't like to be touched/cuddled/held, and I still am quite selective about who I will touch. I know my first word was kitty, and I'm still very cat crazy. I also talked CONSTANTLY. And I still do that. :)

Posted by: kara marie at December 19, 2006 09:16 AM

When I was 6 or 7 years old and my family would take a roadtrip, I would obsessively count (to myself) the number of road signs we passed. The weird thing is that I remember being totally pissed off because I couldn't stop doing it, and no matter how hard I tried not to look out the window to count, I just HAD to.

Posted by: Jenn Benn at December 19, 2006 09:20 AM

But I meant to say, Mia sounds like some of the kids I've encountered. Not so much OCD as curious and bright. And liking certain things to be familiar. She's learning so much. It's awesome.

Posted by: kara marie at December 19, 2006 09:21 AM

I cannot and will not walk on grates on sidewalks. I just don't trust them.

Posted by: carrster at December 19, 2006 09:27 AM

Now - doors must be completely shut that are supposed to be shut. Not just kind of shut, but latched. I knew my ex and I were through the day I walked into the bathroom and ALL the doors were open or ajar - closet doors, toilet cubbie door, shower door, medicine cabinet door, sink cabinet doors, linen cabinet doors.

Posted by: Heather at December 19, 2006 09:29 AM

Odd traits as a kid? What do you mean? I'm still odd now. :)

I had a nanny, that was what odd. I didn't really learn to feed myself or tying my own shoes until pre-school when I had to hang out with other kids. Nanny would feed me while I read my book over the dinner plate. Oh yeah. Spoiled rotten I was...

Posted by: oakley at December 19, 2006 09:29 AM

my kids are all over the OCD thing.
but sometimes i think it's more about control, as in, they want to control me.
"no mommy, my blanket must be in this.exact. position. and you're not leaving until it is."
"no mommy, i need my water filled 3/4 of the way up, and it MUST be in this cup."
"no mommy, the french fries CAN'T touch the hot dog!!!"

Posted by: ali at December 19, 2006 09:34 AM

I need to learn what the word "transom" means.

I don't think this is all that odd, but I guess others might disagree. I won't eat anything that's purple. I hate grape-flavored ANYTHING, so I automatically associate purple with gross. Even if it were purple frosting on a cake and I know it's only food coloring and that the frosting just tastes like plain old frosting. Or even if an M&M, god forbid, was purple in color -- I know it just tastes like a delicious M&M but I still won't eat it.

It's definitely tricky if you ever want to eat candy at the movie theater in the dark. I have to study what I'm eating very carefully to make sure none of the purples sneak their way through the sorting process.

By the way, I love the color purple, so I don't discriminate there. I just won't eat it.

Posted by: angela at December 19, 2006 09:35 AM

Got yer compulsive handwashing thing going on over here.

Posted by: Jen at December 19, 2006 09:36 AM

Oh, and I thought of one more OCD behavior. I once was in a client meeting about a year ago and we were chatting away about random stuff with them before the meeting got started. For some reason we were talking about hand washing (I don't have a clue how that topic came up), and one person said she heard you were supposed to wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing happy birthday. So now I can't wash my hands without singing happy birthday to myself in my head.

And now in the spirit of giving, I pass that neurotic behavior on to you.

Posted by: angela at December 19, 2006 09:39 AM

Ummm...i think most of my weird traits have been with me most of my life, like my overactive imagination and my tendancies towards hypocondriacism. But I think all kids are a little bit OCD...

Posted by: suze at December 19, 2006 09:55 AM

I'll get back to you on the weird traits, but before I run off to work I wanted to tell you to let me know when you figure out how to talk about death sans religious sarcasm... it'll definitely be something I'll have to deal with :P

Posted by: kate at December 19, 2006 10:13 AM

Uhm, I hate to break it to you, but I revealed this incredible finding in your wife's comments ages ago. This is why, when people start to say something ridiculous like "all children are crazy people who love chaos" i rudely interrupt them and inform them of just how wrong they are. as you already stated, children are the most obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive order-loving people on the planet. if you can wrap your head around that astonishing little fact, man, your world is golden. use it to your advantage i say. i did and i'm convinced it saved my sanity a time or two.

Posted by: pea at December 19, 2006 10:32 AM

I don't remember many from being a kid. I have more now. Nothing of consequence.

Posted by: Brad at December 19, 2006 10:41 AM

"I still think that crap's important." So.Freaking.Funny.

Annoying habits I had as a child -- obsessively scanning a room as soon as I entered it and then rescanning it approximately every 3 minutes. I still do the first scan now it's just very subtle and no one notices it.

Posted by: Polichick at December 19, 2006 10:43 AM

I used to be afraid to climb on anything higher than a Sears Roebuck catalog. Used to be? Still am.

Have you ever seen Bang the Drum Slowly? One of the best scenes is a neverending card game called TEGWAR. The exciting game without any rules. I'm sure Mia would be a champion.

Great movie, by the way. At least I think so.

Posted by: ann adams at December 19, 2006 10:46 AM

As a kid, it was nearly impossible for me to select a "favorite color" because I feared picking one that would leave me out of other color groups. You know...I'd pick yellow and then find out that all the cool people really liked purple. I was so unable to decide (even though yellow was always my real favorite) that I used to say "clear" was my favorite color. I realize that clear is not a color, but I was referring to a prism. A prism which, when light passes through it, is shown to contain the entire rainbow of colors. I thought that this was an easy out.

I don't do this now, but I do insist on getting at least five pieces of fruit into a bag when I'm at the store. To buy only four would be to somehow leave someone out of our family and this is bad luck. More than five is okay, but less than five is never okay.

You can call the psychiatrist now.

Posted by: wordgirl at December 19, 2006 10:48 AM

should i be telling you this? i, too, pick my nose. first i shove my finger up there then i wipe in on a tissue. why not cover said finger with tissue then shove up nose? i do not know.

i also have OCD issues by the wheelbarrow load. i've already taught the boy to put away his crayons and markers by grouping the warm colors in one container and cool colors in the other. that's normal, right? what about all my cds being in alphabetical order by artist and then by release date? or underwear folded carefully before being placed in the drawer (hey, you try folding thongs!)? children's books on shelves by height. adult books on shelves by author and release. light switches all in order... down if off and up if on. i'll go through the house multiple times playing with the lights controlled by 2-3 switches to get it right. i've re-wired switches to get it right. oh, the list goes on...

Posted by: monique at December 19, 2006 11:10 AM

I wiggle my ears, which doesn't sound that strange until you find out that I'll do it until my ears get sore and then numb.

I also "pop" my wrists and elbows until they swell up and it's painful to use my arms.

I have to always put my right shoe on first, and, when I was learning to ride a bike, I had to always start with the right pedal up.

But I've gotten a lot better since I had Cole. Now I have no time to dedicate to REAL neuroses.

Posted by: heels at December 19, 2006 12:05 PM

At Mia's age, you can just say "all gone", and not worry about getting into where it went. She's going to be so freaked out because something changed that she really won't care about your explanation, sarcastic or otherwise.

I used to anthropomorphize my stuff, and I could never throw any of it away, because then its feelings would be hurt.

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at December 19, 2006 12:40 PM

there is nothing odd about me. i was a perfectly normal child.

Posted by: jodi at December 19, 2006 12:43 PM

First off I think it's more they want to control everything than OCD and eventually it does get easier. Mostly when they learn to speak. Second, at her age and even mostly with my kids now, we say things went bye bye or to take a nap or they went home or in the case of a dying person, they went to be an angel to watch over you. Best I can do at this point. And while in reality angels may be a religious symbol, we're not religious, so it doesn't really matter.

I used to bite my nails and I actually gave it up one day about six months or so ago....and I wouldn't have even noticed, except I ahd to start cutting them, which sucks by the way. As a kid I also sucked my thumb, but I stopped doing that at around seven or something. I wasn't that OCD, but I've known kids that were. My daughter has lists for everything. And she has issues with tags and long sleeves and shoes that aren't pretty, although that last one is probably my fault.

Posted by: Melissa at December 19, 2006 01:44 PM

I have one major OCD it is food in the fridge once food hits the fridge I'm done. We had this awesome 12 lb. prime rib for thanksgiving that I never got to eat anymore of because I refuse to eat anything that has been refridgerated after it has been prepared. So basically I won't eat leftovers that get reheated. They just have this funky ass taste and smell! Also say my boyfriend opens a coke drinks half decides he doesn't want the other half he puts it in the fridge for later. This drives me insane because the coke doesn't stay fresh! It gets this funky fridge taste and it goes flat So whenever we have dinner and we mix our cokes up somehow it pisses me off its not like were poor and he can't aford to throw it away and open a new one no! oh and pickles I have to eat the entire jar while they are fresh I can't let then sit in the fridge or I'll throw them away before touching them again.

Posted by: Sunshine at December 19, 2006 02:02 PM

Oh, kids and their OCD tendancies....what to say? Kids thrive on consistency and routine. I'm not too sure when they start to grow out of this, but I can tell you, it won't be for a while for little Mia (love that name, btw). I taught Kindergarten before I became a Mommy. This "OCD" thing, or what I rather call "need for routine" is normal and appears more like OCD in some than others.
I had weird things as a kid and unfortunately still have a few weird "ocdish" things about me. When I was a kid, I had to straighten the fringes on the ends of carpets before I could leave the room. I also liked to eat coloured paper while hiding under my desk (okay, now I sound like a complete freak--I'm not, really, I'm not!--just ask JEFF ( Hehe!

Posted by: Amanda at December 19, 2006 02:37 PM

I always put my left skate first... left shoe first... why? I find it amusing and wonder if anybody will ever notice in my lifetime.

Posted by: DavidR at December 19, 2006 02:52 PM

You really are awesome! I never really thought about kids & "OCD-ness," but it really is SO true! Some of these other people have/had some really strange things, so I feel silly for sharing mine... but, it's chapstick. I started "using" when I was 4 or 5. Now, I can't go ANYWHERE without it! I apply at least 5 times a day (some days probabably as many as 20). I also used to (as in for the past several years, but not for the past 6 months) count my steps. It wasn't like I HAD to count, I just did.

Posted by: Celina at December 19, 2006 04:00 PM

When I was little, if I fell over and ended up with scabs on my knees and hands, I couldn't bring myself to look at them. I had to go around with fingerless gloves on, and one particularly severe time, tea towels tied round my knees.

Fortunately this phase didn't last too long (more for my mum than me) but my weird thing now is that when I am in bed, the duvet cover fastenings have to be at the foot of the bed, if they work their way round to the side or (yikes!) the top, I have to rearrange the duvet.

Posted by: Katherine at December 19, 2006 04:46 PM

First comment, Sunshine, they make stoppers now that do NOT let the soda go flat or give it a funny taste. Just don't forget to remove them before you toss the bottle.

Rude, I had a few OCD problems(?) growing up. The first one was, at around 9-10 months (yes I was walking then) I potty trained myself. Apparently I could NOT stand poop in my pants. I also washed my hands quite a bit. As I got older (late teens/early 20's) I counted. Drove me absolutely NUTS, don't know how it started, but I did get it to stop, not sure how. And if someone starts counting, I tell them to stop. In my 20/30/40's I was clean but not so obsessed with washing my hands/touching objects as I am now. I got invisiline last year and having to put my hands in my mouth, well, washing hands and using disenfecting wipes has become a norm. I could go on and on....suffice it to say, I think she'll live a fairly normal life with her OCDness. Did I say normal? LOL

Posted by: Not using my real name, oh NO! at December 19, 2006 06:15 PM

The toilet roll's open end has to be over on top and not from underneath.
All the doors in the house have to be closed(even the pantry and bathroom doors)
There has to be symmetry in EVERYTHING. If there is one on the left of a mentally drawn median there HAS to be one on the right.
Is that crazy enough for you? No idea what my habits as a child were.

Posted by: Dee at December 19, 2006 07:29 PM

I had to use every color of the rainbow in any pictures I drew. I figured if I had all of those colors in the pack that I should at least use them. Plus, it ensured that the colors wore down at the same rate. Also, I used to eat my spaghetti by hanging it over my head and lowering it into my mouth so as to not break any of the long noodles. Luckily, I'm over that now!

Posted by: Beth in StL at December 19, 2006 08:07 PM

oy...where to start. I have to laugh that so many others have the same oddities as myself, so now I don't feel so bad. Now really, doesn't everyone find meaning in numbers?--When we had babysitters for our kids when they were young, I'd write out a note for her that included the name of the restaurant and the phone number of where we were going...unless the number had a 7 in the last four digits and I'd have to find another place to eat (bad luck).

Yep, the cans are in alpha order by grouping (veggies, fruits, sauces, baking, etc.) in the pantry. Yep, the fringe on the rugs have to be smooth and even. Yep, the marks from my vacuuming must be in 90 degrees (north to south or east to west). Yep, the clothes in the closet are grouped by clothing type and then subgroups of color. Yep, the left shoe then the right, and the left eye mascara then the right, and the shirt goes on with left sleeve first then right.

None of those started until I had my first child.

As a kid, well when I was in elementary school, if I made a mistake on my homework and had to erase something, I'd throw the paper away and start all over again (too messy looking). My next door neighbor told all of us in the 3rd grade that she couldn't drink milk because it gave her strep throat.

When my daughter was little she wouldn't wear pants because they "hurt" her legs. My son said he couldn't wear tidy-whities because they made him cough, so all he wears is boxers.

Hmm. wonder where they get it.

Posted by: kristen at December 19, 2006 09:38 PM

I was a packrat as a kid. In my defense, I learned from Depression Era parents that could do things with junk and garbage that would astound McGyver.

Now however, I am... well come to think of it, I am still a bit of a packrat. Thank Flying Spaghetti Monster my wife forces me to "choose" what I keep every so often.

Posted by: Latte Man at December 19, 2006 10:21 PM

At least Mia likes the clean little dude won't eat unless he dumps everything out of the bowl/off the plate and creates the biggest mess me, clean is better in this case ;)

And when you figure out the whole death/child thing without throwing in religious sarcasm...let me know :)

I can't remember any odd traits from childhood....nor do I have any odd traits now, I'm perfect ;) Bwahahahahaha

Posted by: Nanette at December 20, 2006 06:33 AM

I'm a bit compulsive about how I do things.

My son picked up this habit and takes it to a different extreme. He has to get dressed in a certain order and nothing will change his mind.

We've squabbled over this many times as his underwear isn't the first thing he puts on and he occasionally is butt naked running around the house while he gets dressed. Given that he's now eleven, it drives me nuts.

Posted by: Diane at December 20, 2006 11:09 AM

Dude, I love that song!

Posted by: mr. lady at December 20, 2006 05:18 PM

So how about:

- Arranging colors by their rainbow order in the 96 crayon box?
- Still being grossed out by the word "p&^s", let alone the actually seeing the vegetable?
- Ensuring that the glue part of the one-a-day calendar is completely in line with that day, whether it's my calendar or not?

Honestly, I'm pretty un-OCD. But nearly any little kid is 1,000,000 happier knowing exactly what's coming next. Just ask a kid whose parents have recently gotten divorced.

Posted by: alektra at December 21, 2006 10:58 PM
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