I often hear about how funny and ‘quirky’ my daughter is.
“She has such a sense of comedic timing.”
“She loves to perform.”
“She is so expressive, she’s never afraid of being herself, and she has so many friends!”
Those are the days I feel like the universe is giving me some kind of Good Parenting High Five.
I feel great predominantly because my kid is feeling great.
But I know the flipside to my kid.
She might be the life of the party, but she also has anxiety.
Vee is a sensitive, creative, kid. An empathic kid who picks up on everything at home like a sweet, 4-year-old seismograph.
There are times when Vee wilts. There are times that she hides. That she screams. There are times where I cannot pry her off my leg and my heart is ripping as big, perfect tear drops spill over from her brown eyes onto little swollen red cheeks. Swollen because she’s been crying and rubbing from a Defcon 5 kiddie panic attack/tantrum that’s lasted over an hour.
“Please Mummy, I just want you. I just need no school. I just need time. Please Mummy, I need to just be with you.”
And those are the times I have to dig deep for creative distractions, for the most original and outlandish stories to inspire and motivate, and sometimes for the hardest no-guff follow through to make a point —because if my kid throws a tantrum on the sidewalk, I will keep walking while she lies there. True story.
And while those tactics might work, and might make her giggle, and might give her the funny stories to tell that she tells so well with her impeccable slapstick and delivery, they are still just a front to the anxiety she was feeling an hour before.
Her quirk is just the anecdotal language of her sensitive heart.
And I know that because I’m exactly the same.
There are days when my face to the world is brave, and my insides are a jumble of overwhelm. There are days when I feel broken and lost but it doesn’t hurt so much when I laugh. There are days when I am wistful and longing to be with my child —when I have no armour and yearn to hide, and there are days when I know everything I need to live in the moment, and life feels like a joyful, reflexive narrative.
As for quirk, we all have it. We all have those funny, unique, learned attributes that candy coat our anxiety, and that help us deal with our fears on a daily basis.
Whether born out of our brightest imaginations, stress, fear, or intense joy, quirkiness is an intimate and insightful language of resilience, strength, mixed with a dash of superstition and an ideal of how things should be.
So now, when I see my kid asks for chicken noodle soup and popsicles for breakfast, when she chooses her Darth Vader shirt and her ballet tutu combo to wear to school, when she wants her face painted like a kitty, when she walks in karate chops, when she insists that it’s a ‘Backwards Day,' I know what she’s really saying. I know how scared she is. I know she’s having a shy day. I know that something is making her sweet soul quake and she doesn’t have the words to express it, or the tools to deal with it. I know that she has gathered all her symbols of power and strength and put them on display for everyone to see because that’s what helps her.
Her quirk is her invincibility.
What are your quirks? What are your everyday shields? What are the learned habits and rituals that you repeat out of comfort or superstition? What are your fears, secrets, and stressors?
Here are 27 of mine.
Stay positive… and quirky.
I spent some time in the hospital at the end of 2013, and although it wasn’t serious, it was enough to get me thinking about a part 2 for the 50 Things I Need To Tell My Kid article that I posted more than a year ago.
I’ve had Crohn’s for years, but I’ve been lucky enough to manage it with basic treatment (5-ASA drugs) and a few non-admittance visits to the hospital. This year, I wasn’t as lucky.
Or was I?
During my stays my thoughts flew from panic to enlightenment, to engulfing sadness, to Hannibalesque (A-Team not Lecter) cigar-chomping-life-planning, and then back again. I missed my kid so much it hurt. Her sticky sweet face loomed in my heart, my mind, and my hazy drug-misted dreams.
When she’d come and visit she’d sit there looking far too wise for her three years, asking me questions about the doctors and machines and the I.V. tubes in a kind of detached objective curiosity. A few minutes later she would wiggle onto my bed, burrow into my side, and hold my hand as I kissed the top of her lovely, static-y fine hair.
Those moments of warmth were the most potent treatment. I breathed her in, and her tiny voice would be all but lost as she pressed her face in my side and said:
“Mummy, I’m never letting you go. Never.”
I’m never letting go either, Vee.
Here are a few more things for that list I wrote for you. I know we’ll keep adding to it together as the years go by.
And just so you know, there will always be enough room to hold you close, no matter how small the bed, and no matter how big you get.