OK, folks. I have a really important parenting subject to tackle today, one I haven’t seen addressed much elsewhere in the parenting mags and whatnot, so I hope you are paying attention. And the important subject I am addressing is: wormholes.
You are probably thinking I mean “pinworms,” which is that awful kid sickness where worms come out of your beloved progeny’s bottom. I am not thinking of that.
I am thinking of wormholes, which is what I am calling things like the following. When I was a kid, if you had asked me to show you the art in my bedroom, I would have refrained from pointing to the framed picture on the wall, which was familiar but not interesting to me. I would have showed you the cover of my favorite book about Florence Nightingale, which had an image of Florence in her spotless nurse’s uniform, lifting a lamp in her right hand, tending to a bandaged solider in a row of bandaged soldiers in what looked like a mountain cave where black bears were also lurking. And I would have shown you my art. I had a period where I obsessively drew a female figure in a tight bun wearing a purple 18th century dress and black boots.
I would not have shown you the wormhole, which was located in my closet. By that I mean, it was in the woodgrain of the closet door. It was in the wood-whorl pattern there. Those whorls, so meaningless during the day, took on another dimension in the 8 PM light of my bedroom, and came alive, shimmying and swirling, threatening to leap out of their two dimensional space and swallow me. To look towards those whorls in the half dark of my bedroom was an act of tremendous courage. At night they were as terrible as
I want to talk to you about this, because I think every kid has some version of this, and adults almost always miss it.
I am reminded of one of my son’s very sweet and wonderful kindergarten friends, who had this habit of coming into school every day, and literally throwing his jacket and back pack in the general direction of his cubby before flying upstairs to his classroom. The child came on the bus, so he had no parent to correct this, and the upshot was that other little boys in his class, often including my son, began to imitate this delightful, early morning, chucking of stuff, and then tearing off, so that the cubby area was always a giant chaotic mess.
Teachers and parents did what you would imagine: insist that the child put his stuff in his cubby properly, march him back down stairs to do so, etc, and that worked fine as long as a grown up did that. But a grown up didn’t always do that. And so months went by and finally it was February, and the piles of coats and missed mittens were getting really annoying, so I finally asked my son, why the heck does Bill do that? Why can’t he put his stuff away nicely?
My son’s reply was straightforward: he thinks there is a monster in the toilet.
The toilet was located six feet from the cubbies.
This makes perfect sense. Why can’t you put your backpack away properly? Because if I stop at my cubby a monster from the toilet will come out and eat me.
Why do you have to sleep in that particular position on your bed? Because if I face the other direction I will have to look at the terrifying, murderous patterns in the cheap woodgrain of my closet.
I believe that these sensitivities, particular to childhood, are amazing and wonderful, and I would like, as a start to this column, to invite readers to submit the wormholes of their childhoods, if they have them and remember them, so that we may have a “Wormhole of the Month,” or perhaps, “Wormhole of the Year” award, and in that way, as parents, remember a little bit about the differences in perception of the small creatures in our care.
Please click on my name and submit to me. Thank you.