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.
- I am genuinely sad at the thought that the last roll of toilet paper won’t get its chance to shine on the holder before fresh inventory squashes it to the bottom of the heap.
- The same goes for printer paper.
- I feel compelled to wear an eyeshadow colour called ‘Dark Horse’ (Urban Decay, Naked palette) when I know I’m going to the comic shop.
- Before I leave for any vacation or trip, I have to clean the house top to bottom so when I come home, it’s just as inviting as the place I left it for—other wise I’ll feel like I cheated on it.
- I don’t like sharing my food but I pretend that I do because judgment about how much I love edible things (especially burgers, cookies, and burritos) scares me more.
- As soon as I get an invitation to any event, I feel boiling-kettle-steam-whistle type stress and want to hide under my covers. I often do.
- I have trouble sleeping because I think that my kid will have a bad dream and if I wasn’t awake to wake her up, I could never forgive myself.
- If I am able to fall asleep while watching a movie, it instantly becomes endearing and comforting to me. Friday the 13th Part 7, Flight of Dragons, Princess Diaries, and Little Bear are all there.
- The first sex scene I ever saw was a pre-battle orgy in a comic book called Elf Quest. I was 8 years old. I have been a little confused and anxious about sex ever since.
- If you deliver food, I will act defensively in proportion to the amount of cutlery or chopsticks I receive with my ‘just me’ order. (see No. 5)
- I might over-share at times, but it balances out with all those times I desperately need to be quiet, still, calm, and reclusive. Which is a lot.
- I am scared to go to the bathroom sometimes —I’ll hold it for hours—because I think I’ll see something terrifying in the toilet after I go (like blood, a fetus, a parasite, or some creepy robot millipede that was implanted without my knowing).
- I have to work through panic at the thought of having to put my clean wet feet on dirty tiles, or any kind of dirty bath mat with plush pile.
- Mildew and grime make me tense every single muscle of my body in revulsion, as does thinking of the cleaning habits of people who contribute to it.
- I have secretly always wanted to be an actor or a singer but am so frightened to even admit that, that I couldn’t type this properly.
- The smallest sounds (like my dog’s nails clackity-clacking on the floor, dishes being put away, or cross-talk) drive me into a Hulk Smash rage when I need quiet.
- I sometimes fantasize about getting in the car with my kid, leaving everyone and everything behind, and starting over under a different name. Like Ester Quinn, or Bridget Something. I’ve always liked the name Bridget.
- I constantly struggle to figure out which side of me is my alter ego —the outgoing, fun, extroverted, bubbly Me; or the quiet, shy, terrified, wallflower Me.
- I am constantly bracing myself for the judgment of those around me. That means I’m always ready for a fight. Always. Just try me. Grr.
- I am terrified of poverty, and equally terrified of not being able to do what I love in life; a psychological tug of war that leads to complete productivity paralysis, debilitating confusion, and the ability to engage in some stellar emotional eating.
- When I drive by any school I’ve been to, or any building I’ve worked in, I am haunted by the feeling that I have some piece of homework to hand in or a looming deadline that I’ve managed to forget.
- I cry a lot, sometimes screaming into pillows as loud as I can, and just as long as no one can see me do it, I’m ok with it.
- My whole life I’ve felt fiercely guarded and independent. My heart aches to be part of something beautiful, but for some reason I always feel like the outsider, or the one that doesn’t quite fit.
- I’d rather think something was my fault because I can’t stand the thought of other people in emotional or physical pain, or grappling with guilt.
- I have a fear that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. No matter what I’m doing or why. All the time.
- I secretly think that everyone is embarrassed to be seen in public with me.
- I’m so disturbed by the non-5-times-interval of this post (27 points?!) that I just spent 44 minutes trying to come up with enough to bring us up to number 30. My inability to do that has me picking incessantly at my nail-beds and twirling my hair.
Stay positive… and quirky.