Kids are, well, strange creatures, and some are perhaps stranger than others (ever read the comic strip Lio? Now that’s a weird kid!).
Kids are curious creatures, but about things that an adult wouldn’t look at twice. Why else do kids stare at worms on the sidewalk or muse about why the ground has dirt?
I was a strange child in some ways. I loved cemeteries. Yep, I enjoyed reading headstones, the older the better. My favorite cemetery as a child was the nearby Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, Va., which boasted a church with original Tiffany stained glass windows—truly beautiful works of art, especially when the sunshine turned the glass into brilliant shades of vibrant colors. It’s the second-largest cemetery in Virginia (Arlington National Cemetery is the largest), and has veterans of every American war interred there, including 30,000 Confederate soldiers killed during the Siege of Petersburg.
My mom would often take me there and let me wander around in the old section, where graves dated back to the early 1700s. I read the names of those who had died so long ago usually at such young ages, along with the epitaphs that recounted the tragedies and loves of the person. Those tantalizing bits of information fired my imagination. Who were they? Where had they lived? What were their dreams and hopes?
I was lucky that my mom indulged my rather eccentric taste for tombstones in my youth, which made me wonder if I was doing the same with my kids. None of them have particular strange predilections, but am I providing a safe and welcome place for them to be weird as only a kid can be?
Here are two simple questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to encourage or restrict our children’s strange ideas or passions.
- Will it cause true bodily harm to the child or others? Be careful not to think too apocalyptically on this score. Remember there’s a world of difference between a scrapped knee and a broken leg. Also, the child needs to have a care for the harm of others as well.
- Will it damage property? Again, we need to think about the real possibilities of this happening, not a low percentage risk. For example, toss a baseball in the backyard might, as a result of a wild throw, break a neighbor’s window, but that’s probably highly unlikely to happen. Playing catch across the road when cars drive by has a higher probability of hitting a vehicle’s windshield, and should be forbidden. (And yes, I have personal experience of the latter incident….)
Other than those two questions, a child should be able to engage in his or her interests, even though we with our adult eyes and ears might find those odd or outlandish. Allowing our children to have eccentricities can be very freeing for a child. Many inventors, for example, had childhoods spent exploring or focusing on what society deemed abnormal or bizarre things.
So if you have a weird kid, take heart! You might just be raising the adult who will cure cancer or find an alternative fuel or write a beautiful symphony.
Until next time,