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In kid terms, ‘normal’ not a part of speech

By Jason Offutt

The Boy hates reading. No, I think “hate” might be too mild a word. He Darth Vaders reading.
Any activity that resembles something he does in school, besides eating lunch, makes him want to blow things up. Much like Darth Vader. Hmm. I wonder how Darth did in elementary school.
That’s why, when the Boy’s mother brought home the kung fu soccer movie “Shaolin Soccer” (they make movies like that in Hong Kong), his reading skills took us by surprise.
“Hey, guys,” he called from the family room. “I put in the movie. It says ‘language.’ Do I pick English or Mandarin?”
Really? The kid who balks at reading a book with more words than pictures on a page just read “Mandarin?” OK, take two points off for not knowing to pick English (give him a break; he’s in second grade), but add several dozen points for a second grader reading, and correctly pronouncing “Mandarin.”
This is just an example of Number 1 on the Top 10 Rules of Childhood that Drive Parents Crazy:
1. I hate school. No, seriously. I hate school. Not going to go today. Can’t make me. I’m sick. Can I stay home? Why do I have to go? Stupid compulsory education laws. OK, I’ll go, but I won’t like it. How was school? Fine.
2. If there’s dirt I will find it, and roll in it, and it is good.
3. I may eat indescribable meat-like substances served at McDonald’s, enough sugar to fell a rhinoceros, and the occasional spider, but I will not under any circumstance eat peas.
4. Parental bewilderment is one of the three keys to childhood happiness, along with Pop-Tarts and a sufficient stash of Legos.
5. I do not like talk radio. I do, however, love to sing in the car. Out loud. Out very, very loud.
6. Dad, the cat’s out of food.
7. Homework, chores, taking a family walk and talking about my day is exhausting. Playing outside with my friends for an entire day is not.
8. I can’t remember to bring home my spelling word list for the week, but I can name the primary, secondary, and one-time only characters in every Star Wars movie – ever. Jek Tono Porkins, I’m talking about you.
9. Dad, seriously, the cat’s out of food.
10. Pokémon.
A few days later, we went to a Chinese restaurant. The Girl pushed her paper placemat covered with the Chinese zodiac in front of me.
“Which one am I?” she asked.
I scanned the text and matched their birth year with an animal.
“Well, your brother’s a monkey,” I said. “Hey. This thing’s pretty accurate. And you’re a dog.”
Of course she’s a dog. Ever since she’s been old enough to talk she’s pretended to be a dog. She’s six and has been everything from a Chihuahua to “you know that dog. B-I-N-G-O? Yeah, I’m that dog.” Being a dog made sense.
“No,” she said, pointing to a different animal. “I’m this horse.”
Which leads us to rule number 11: a normal day is when nothing is normal.

Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.

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