15 February 2012
The silent epidemic
(Names have been changed to protect privacy.)
"At first I just thought it was because he was a baby," remembers Rebecca. "He did the stupidest stuff. He poked himself with forks and ate cakes of soap. These weren't one-time things. I mean, how many cakes of soap does somebody have to eat before they realize it's completely disgusting?"
But Rebecca's son didn't outgrow these lapses in intelligence. Although he gave up on eating soap and injuring himself with pointy utensils, he developed new idiotic habits. He chewed his toenails. He looked deep into Rebecca's eyes and then wiped his mouth on his shirt. He asked her to look for his "lost" pajamas in the same drawer where he'd hidden fossilized Easter candy. "Finally, I knew," Rebecca says. "My kid was stupid."
Childhood stupidity isn't a fun topic. No one wants to admit that her son or daughter is stupid. The evidence is embarrassing, and stupidity is a stigmatized condition in our society. It's also hard not to assign blame--can child stupidity really be an accident? But the problem is more widespread than anyone wants to admit. It's not rare or isolated, and parents need to know that they are not alone in dealing with stupid kids.
Becky, a mother of three, confesses to being horrified when she realized all of her kids were stupid. "They were SO DUMB," she says. "I was terrified all the time that other people would find out. They would leave their shoes right next to the shoe organizer instead of putting them inside. They put clean shirts in the laundry and dirty shirts back in their drawers. They used my hand lotion even though I'd explained to them 75 times that I could smell it on them when they did it and they'd get in trouble. I was afraid to go out in public. There was no way I could hide how stupid they were."
Becky was also afraid to tell her doctor about her suspicions. As it turned out, she didn't have to. Her kids acted stupid everywhere, and the doctor's office was no exception. But although it was obvious the doctor had noticed how dumb Becky's kids were, he didn't have a suggestion, a prescription, or even a visible reaction. "At that point, I really didn't know what to do," she says. "My six-year-old licks her shoes in front of a medical professional and everybody acts like nothing is happening? I felt so alone."
Finally, Becky confided in a friend. "The floodgates just burst," she remembers. "My friend told me that she busted her kids for trying to make strawberry milk with ketchup three times in one week, and they had a spitting contest off the balcony while she was cleaning the floor below, and her baby consumed something so vile that she wouldn't even tell me what it was. It almost sounded like her kids were as dumb as mine."
"The key to living with childhood stupidity is having realistic expectations," says Dr. Timbo Blogworthy, a father of seven and leading researcher in the field of childhood stupidity. "If you have a dumb kid, you have to know that your kid is going to do dumb things all the time and there's nothing you can do about it. Sure, tell him what's going to happen today and practice how he should act. But don't expect it to go right, because with a stupid kid it just won't. That's the nature of stupidity. Your life is going to stink until your kid gets less stupid or moves out. What the **** is oozing out of my Aldens?"
Rebecca, like Becky, has also found comfort in camaraderie. "After my sister had a baby, she called me with a lot of questions. One of the first questions she had was, 'If he has to nurse to live, why can't he nurse?' I knew exactly what to tell her. It's hard to hear, but childhood stupidity is a lot easier to live with when you know you're not the only one."
For infant and childhood stupidity support in your area, talk to the first parent you see.