5 Silly Childhood Rituals (That Explain Adult Behaviors)
Still, the beauty of childhood is that it's not all head lice and literal nit picking. The glory of youth is that idiocy is not only expected, it's adorable. Even in a state of age/syphilis induced dementia, you will never again get the leeway you got as a child. A kid can hump a retarded turtle and adults will laugh like hyenas who've lost their moral compasses. If you don't believe me, spend five minutes on Youtube.
Here are 5 illogical things every kid can get away with, plus the adult behaviors we try to pull off once we're too old for the fun stuff.
Recite Stupid Rhymes While Seizing to a Beat
When I was a kid I collected hand clap rhymes like other kids collected scratch-n-sniff stickers or friends. Which was hard to do in a pre-Internet world. And the stupider the rhymes, the better. HEY! You know what rhymes with 'stupider?' Jupiter. As in, where boys go.
"Conversely, this is where girls get their candy bars."
The magic is that all over the country kids learned the same claptrap gibberish. Songs with almost cussing....
and songs that were nothing more than hate crimes (crhymes?) in chant form...
Along with the hate crhymes were gestures so elaborate you could easily mistake them for American Sign Language, but for people who had no interest in dignity. You didn't just do the left-palm-down-right palm-up-clap-together-clap-alone-combo, you flailed, snapped, mimed and froze like statues. I once saw one that followed a karate chop to the neck bone with a rousing phantom egg cracking on the back. If I saw two kids knifing each other while singing Down Down Baby I'd probably just smile and keep on walking.
Why do kids clamor to memorize the verbal equivalent of a Dada painting? Even in the 80s there were plenty of other cool things to do, like spreading rumors about how you can get AIDS through Swatch Watches and Saturday morning Where's the Beefing. And believe it or not, today's kids are no different. I've secretly watched them, so I should know. They do the same rhymes, with the same silly-ass body spasms that I used to do, as if there were a secret Stupid Fairy passing the rhymes down to each new generation.
The Adult Equivalent
And then I figured it out.
They're memes. In the same ridiculous way that adults laugh at, improve on and congratulate themselves for getting these jokes we keep evoking on the Internet, the younger versions of ourselves were doing the same thing, just unironically. Performing a song with hand motions required two things; a lack of self-regard, and a partner who also knew the words, ergo a friend. Sharing rhymes meant sharing culture, and if "Chinese Japanese, Dirty knees, Look at these (Christmas trees!)" taught us anything at all, besides how messed up our boobs were going to turn out, it's that people are inherently different. But people who know your jokes, who laugh at the same things you laugh at, who can do hand claps at triple speed -- well, those are your people. You're the same. Your own mother may have birthed you but she doesn't get Rickrolling so she's obviously not one of us.
Run Everywhere Like You're on Fire
Deep down in every kid is a cheetah with a coke habit and a constant urge to go to the bathroom. Better yet, there's a capped soda bottle that's been taken for a ride on the Parkinson's Express. Their insides are all a'fuzzin with sugary goodness and running all over tarnation is how they relieve the pressure. Every scientist, preschool teacher and chair will tell you that if you force a kid to sit still longer than five minutes he will explode like a suicide bomber who is, coincidentally, a pinata. Every scientist, preschool teacher and chair will also tell you that no matter how lethargic and lazy you are today, somewhere in your DNA is the ancient memory of getting chased by a hungry lion, like all the time.
How else do you explain kid speed? An ordinary kid in the 1940s or an abused kid in the 1980s would run to break off the the switch that he was going to get get beat with. They run to check the mail, to brush their teeth, to do their taxes, to take three steps forward. And if you actually request something from a child - forget it. Sir Prancelot is on a quest and you'll barely have time to scream "WAAAIIIIT!" before he's back with a box full of extra super tampons in a room full of your husband's coworkers.
Still, seeing kids run in your own house or outside at a playground is expected. If you really want to test the 'kids will run everywhere' hypothesis go to a funeral and call over a grieving child. I bet you donuts to more donuts that sad orphan will run until his new guardian chases you back to your windowless van.
The Adult Equivalent
And us? We're not so different. We may not physically run from room to room or from at all to anywhere, but we've still got that metaphorical shaken up Dr Pepper bottle deep down inside us. Which is why we scurry all over the Internet like roaches in the kitchen light. By this point in the article, my presumption is that you're no longer here reading this thing. You've moved on to porn, and I don't blame you. And that's the best case scenario; the worst case is that we're releasing that energy in all kinds of destructive behaviors, like abusing drugs or alcohol or porn, but the really weird kind.
Believe in Stupid Superstitions
You can't blame little kids for being superstitious. They've been taught from day one that a hairy old white man is responsible for their Christmas presents and a giant rabbit poops plastic eggs all over the lawn every Easter. At the same time that we teach kids about stranger danger, they're also expected to just sleep through a nighttime visit from a woman who allegedly collects children's teeth just for the fun of it. As if the act of losing teeth wasn't already horrifying enough.
So, obviously, this one is on us. It's our own fault kids walk like horse marionettes to avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks. The things kids will blow on to make a wish is appalling when you think about it. There are birthday candles, eyelashes, dandelions, Nintendo cartridges. The list of things girls will manipulate to find out who they're going to marry is even longer. I used to twist coke tabs, apple stems and straight up corner old gypsy ladies for the 411. I once spent an afternoon on my hands and knees hunting for a four leaf clover - at an age when the worst that could happen to me was that all the hot dog buns would be gone and I'd have to eat my hot dog with a slice of white bread like an idiot.
A kid will toss a coin in a fountain, double cross their fingers while crossing their legs, hold their breath while crossing a bridge, and slap their best friend on a jinx. And those are just the widely known superstitions. For every normal kid doing the stuff we've all heard of, there's a family of siblings quietly whispering "yee-haw" every time they cross a railroad track and doing ten jumping jacks every time they see a Japanese person.
Or reenacting Paradise Lost whenever you see three sixes
See a kid make a wish on the first star of the night, and you shed a solitary tear and thank your deity that the innocence of childhood is alive and well. See an adult make a wish on the first star and you look around for his minder and/or empty gin bottles. If you're a grownass man harboring childhood superstitions, you better either be a crime solving genius, a mentally disabled person, or a 12 year old kid in the body of Tom Hanks, because the rest of us don't have time for your bullhonkey.
The Adult Equivalent
What we do have time for, however, are sports. And all the superstitions that go along with them. I don't watch sports. If I were interested in competition, I'd throw a loaf of bread at some geese and watch what develops. But you guys. You love sports. I know because a few weeks ago you BLEW UP my social media feeds with talk about Mavericks and LeBron and something something 'No Michael Jordan.' And along with your insatiable love for sports are the ridiculous superstitions that you know don't do jack but you harbor anyway. You've traded wishing on stars for lucky jerseys, playoff beards and thinking the Madden curse is a thing, which is pretty adorable of you in the end.
Any baby can tell you that nothing is real until it's been French kissed. As far as toddlers are concerned, life itself is nothing more than a simulated reality computer program until its been thoroughly licked. Fingers, toes, pets, scissors, it's all fair game for babies. And if it were just a matter of brazenly stuffing their pie holes with non food, we'd probably just look the other way and quietly soak ourselves in Purel.
But mouth attacks are just the tip of the inappropriate iceberg when it comes to kid orifice stuffing. Because right around the time you're trying to enlighten your progeny on how not to defecate in the pants he's sitting in, those bastards discover they've got more mouths - two on the sides of the head and two more right in the middle of the face.
These new head mouths are just the right size for crayon nubs, beans, dog food, insects, batteries and other tiny things that have to be extracted by horrible measures. Try to imagine an adult going through life with the same stubborn insistence on stuffing every hole with whatever he finds laying around.
Actually, scratch that.
The Adult Equivalent
All obvious Freudian sexual parallels aside, the same insatiable curiosity that drove humans into the modern age is probably what compels the more inquisitive among us to plug our noses with nostril-sized objects. And in the same way that kids can't leave well enough alone, there are plenty of adults who feel the same way about the grown up version of their bodies. People who can't stop with a simple piercing or tattoo, people who are going to keep metaphorically shoving raisins into their skulls until a doctor or chronic infection metaphorically makes them stop. So every time you see a guy with earlobes gently scraping his clavicles, picture him as a kid shoving lit cigars into his ears, just to see what would happen.
Make up games
You know Helicopter Slap, right? It's that game where you spin around like Wonder Woman until you knock the face off of your sister or collapse in a dizzy faint, whichever comes first. What about Bathtub Ball? It's that one where you use your wash cloths to cover up your private parts so you can go to the Bathtub Ball with your prince, whose name is Richie Cunningham. Yes? No? How about Sunburn Peel Wars? Poot Party? Ballerina Girls Going to the Beach and Having a Tea Party While Mom is Taking a Nap? None of those? Of course not, they're made up. Kids have the fantastic luck of getting to make up the rules to made up games that wouldn't make sense if you got Rain Man to break them down for you. You know what else? They're awesome.
Once you get past the back scrapings.
When you're a child, you can invent games that have no other purpose than causing violence to others within a socially acceptable framework. You can invent games that are only about your personal glorification - totally ok. You can recruit friends to your messed up, made-up, self-promoting, ugly-kid-ostracizing sport, and they'll play along. At least until they come up with a better one. It all makes sense when you're little.
The Adult Equivalent
Does any of this sound familiar? Not just in the "Oh, I used to do that" sense, in the "Oh, I know adults who do that right now" sense. I don't know about you, but every time I try to follow party politics I get the sense that each side is recruiting players for their made up game. And that no matter how fair, cool or totally reasonable the other guys are in real life, they're always the bad guys in the context of the game. So instead of changing the rules of Three-Legged Kickball so your team is always kicking and the other team has to play while staring at the sun, partisan extremists won't sext her from the Congressional gym. Instead of name-calling, political adults...uh, name call. Stuff that isn't allowed in any other context is totally fine in the world of politics. Which is why I'm calling it here and now, if I see another politician try to pull off a round of Bathtub Ball via my cell phone, someone's going to get Helicopter Slapped in the mouth.
Kristi Harrison is not Daniel O'Brien. She's just as sorry about it as you are. You can follow her on Twitter