Parenting Perspectives: Having odd children is a good thing

There's a phrase I use to describe my 8-year-old twin daughters: "delightfully strange." You may sometimes hear me say "delightfully weird." Quirky. Offbeat. Different. They're just odd little humans.

Shane Mercer

There's a phrase I use to describe my 8-year-old twin daughters: "delightfully strange." You may sometimes hear me say "delightfully weird." Quirky. Offbeat. Different. They're just odd little humans.

And I love it.

To illustrate, let's talk about the Maybuddy. Ariana described the Maybuddy as a "ship that can turn into any vehicle." It looks like a "half rocket, half box," Talia added.

Their "buddies" ride around in the Maybuddy, a word that is a combination of "buddy" and "Mayflower" (yeah, like the Pilgrims sailed in). Their buddies are their stuffed animals of various kinds who ride around to different adventures in the Maybuddy. These adventures can be more concrete (as when they're using a cardboard box loaded up with stuffed animals) or more imaginary (as when they write Maybuddy stories).

Imaginative, but not so odd, you say? OK, there's also a Maybuddy song . Here are the (slightly insane) lyrics (more or less):


"Dun-dun-nuh-duh-dun-duh; Dun-dah-nun-dun-dun-duh; Dun-nuh-nuh-duh-nuh-nuh; (I originally had left out three syllables, which Talia caught in proofreading); The Maybuddy, the Maybuddy; It's the plane you've always wanted to ride - WEEEE! So it's the Maybuddy; And if you were going on it, and if you were a buddy, it would be very fast (sung as fa-ah-wah-ast)!"

The Maybuddy isn't their only imaginary crew. There's "The Electric Eyes," Ariana's group of three characters that look like eyeballs with arms, legs and plug-ins. They go around saving people using their ability to shock bad guys.

Then there's Talia's "Color World," in which the bad guys, Black and White, try to turn things - what else? - black and white. Rosy Red and her colorful friends try to stop them.

It's a little sad that some of their insanity is fading. They just don't say and do as many out-of-the-blue crazy things as they used to. Like the time I was walking in the mall with Ariana and she just started flipping out for no particularly evident reason. I was perplexed as to how best to respond to a child going not-so-quietly bonkers in a public place.

Finally, she explained that her foot felt like "prickly air." I guess it was the first time she'd had a body part fall asleep quite so soundly.

Another time as I was buckling her into her booster seat she said, "Dad, you don't smell very good. You smell like hot, spicy snow." I had showered.

But by no means does Ariana have the corner on their sisterly eccentricity. I recall a conversation with Talia after supper one night.

Me: "Why is there bacon in your water?"


Talia: "I wanted to see if it would float."

On another day, as fall was beginning to settle in, Talia got out of the car to go to school, put her hands in the air and said enthusiastically, "It smells like excitement!"

Of course, at an immediate level, their quirky strangeness is endlessly entertaining. The straight-faced, deadpan honesty with which their peculiarity is sometimes expressed would have all the dry, comedic genius of a Bob Newhart or Steven Wright if they were trying to be funny. Often enough, however, they're just being them.

But the fatherly joy is more than entertainment. My hope is that their quirks speak to something deeper. Originality and creativity of thought? Of course. But, more importantly, my prayer is that it speaks to an individuality of character, a capacity to be different, a willingness to be counted for their convictions even when they stand at odds with the stagnancy of tradition, the whims of the avant-garde or the pressures of adolescent society.

So fly on, Maybuddy; fight valiantly, Rosy Red! Someday soon my little girls will grow up and trade these playtime adventures for real ones.

Shane Mercer is the community content coordinator at The Forum and lives in Fargo with his wife, twin 8-year-old daughters and 4-year-old son.

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