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.


Glenda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenda said...

I think stupid kids would be much less stupider if they left the house for 8-10 hours a day. ;-)

Cathy said...

Thank you so much for shining the light on Childhood Stupidity. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it! My husband and I have always had an inkling of something like this, but we never thought to ask a professional about it. Many times we have looked at each other after our kids have done something stupid, and wondered together, Is it just us, or he/she stupid? So I am stunned and overwhelmed with relief--just to know we're not imagining all this. We're still in the middle of it, but from our experience so far, there is a good news, and a bad news part. First the bad news: C.S. does not end when your child reaches age 14, or 16, or even 18 years old. The good news: Your children eventually grow up, marry, and have children of their own, and you get to watch as they deal with the C.S. in their own children. Huge amounts of joy for you--you get to be the grandparent who affirms the children and tells them how wonderful they are. So although it's a long, rough road, facing C.S.head on, and living through it has been worth it for us. And to parents of large families, I sympathize. Because it's a numbers game. My husband and I were two semi-normal adults, completely outnumbered and surrounded by eleven children, all of which, except one, I think, suffered from Childhood Stupidity. Thanks again.

Leah said...

Hm, I once knew a lady named Leiah with kids like that. Frankly, I didn't know what to tell her. I was so busy trying to help this other lady named Lee, with something much worse than CS... AS. (Or is that with two S's?)

Rebekah said...

Glenda, you smart.

Cathy, I am really looking forward to that good news part. :D

Leah, you're right. It's Adult Stupidity Syndrome. I know this tragic moron named Bekah . . . it just breaks my heart to watch her in action.

Katy said...

See, it's genetic. Every day I leave the kids to amuse themselves while I get the housework done, and every day some monstrous mess occurs (these days it's usually pee or dry oatmeal, or a combination--or toothpaste and floss). Almost five years of this, and I still haven't learned.

I was better at stealing (good) food in the house when I was little. Sometimes I want to sit a certain kid down and tell him how to be sneaky, because he's soooo bad at it. HA!

Marie said...

I. Love. This. Blog. Period.

Jane said...

When said children collaborate and carry out ideas together, then it really gets fun for mother. "It was not our fault the two year old wanted to do it first"

Truly the blind leading the blind.

Reb. Mary said...

The fact that so many of these incidents involve things being ingested, together with the fact that so many of our kids survive their childhood, is credit to the divine design of the digestive system.

I "have a friend" whose almost-four-year-old, despite deceptive moments of lucidity, is wont to grab any items off the counter and stuff them in his mouth regardless of comestibility. He also goes without underwear whenever he can get away with it.

C.S. and A.S.(S.) can be fatal, unless a sense of humor is preserved by all parties.

The Rev. BT Ball said...

Thank you for not attributing the childhood stupidity to the paternal genes received. It could certainly be attributed to that; I mean I've been known to pick up a poisonous snake from time to time.

Rhonda said...

I laughed out loud when I read this.I have 5 adult children, one six year old and 7 grand children. I am sad to say they all suffer at times. So glad it's just not us.

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes I want to sit a certain kid down and tell him how to be sneaky, because he's soooo bad at it. HA!"

Ha! Indeed!

Louise said...

So, I shouldn't think it strange that a certain toddler I know goes down the slide face first only to plow her face into the ground OVER AND OVER AGAIN...?

BTW - I love the closing statement of the post: "For infant and childhood stupidity support in your area, talk to the first parent you see."

Leah said...

Strawberry milk with ketchup!! Hahahaha! I'll be laughing for days!

Melrose said...

Today one of my boys pooped in the potty while his little brother unrolled and stuffed an entire roll of tp down into the toilet. When I asked him why he let his brother do it he shrugged. I told the boys to use the downstairs potty until the upstairs one was plunged. Well two min later another son was pooping on top of the heap of tp. I incredulously asked if he had seen the clog before he went. He assured me he had but figured it was better to go in an already clogged toilet rather than clog a second toilet?! Aaaaarrrrgh