When you think of the weird kid, you typically think of the socially awkward kid, the one with big glasses and no friends, who picks his nose and eats bugs on the playground for money. Everyone teases him. He doesn’t get stuff every other kid knows about, the popular TV shows and music and games. But he has a vast knowledge of things odd and strange: bugs or Triassic-era sea life, old baseball cards, or railroads. He will talk to you about this particular thing until you can manage to extricate yourself. He lives it, he breathes it. He devotes himself to learning all he can about it. He probably dreams about it.
The stereotypical weird kid.
I am the proud parent of three weird kids.
I don’t mean that my kids are socially awkward. They don’t eat bugs either. It’s true they have a limited knowledge of contemporary pop culture. Instead, they have the luxury of a deep passion for the things they love. That’s the crux of being weird and different: Instead of swimming with the contemporary tide of Pokémon and SpongeBob SquarePants, my kids can step out of the mainstream and pursue their own unique interests.
Don’t get me wrong. All kids have their own special talent. All kids have something they love. But most weird kids, well, they get obsessed. And while everyone else is off pop culturin’ it up, the weird kid is doing their own thing, perfectly happy, oblivious that anyone might think there’s something wrong with them, with their interests, or with the depth of their passion.
Weird kids learn to focus. My sons have ADHD, and I’m constantly gratified by the time and energy they spend on their passions. My oldest will read books, play games, and build things about the Revolutionary War from dawn ’til dusk. We caught him giving his same-age cousin a lecture about why they were fighting the pretend British soldiers in their grandparents’ yard.
Then there’s my 5-year-old. All kids are obsessed with dinosaurs, but August is obsessed with one particular dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. It lived some 19 bazillion years ago and ate sawfish, which he’s also obsessed with because Spinosaurus ate them, to the point that we bought him a black Lego sawfish. He sleeps with it. He would like to tell you all about Spinosaurus. Because Spinosaurus is so wonderful, how could you not care to hear all about it? He spends hours “reading” dinosaur books of all stripes (mostly the Spinosaurus section) and arranging his vast collection of plastic Spinosauruses.
This focus will help them when they get older.
Weird kids also get to love something so deeply that it blocks out everything else. I mean, all kids love things. But they don’t necessary love something they randomly stumbled upon, and they don’t love it with the same depth and obsession. My oldest treats Alexander Hamilton the way ’60s teens treated Paul McCartney. He sings Hamilton lyrics while arranging his plastic soldiers to attack the British at Yorktown.
My middle son is becoming obsessed with Elasmosaurus, a large seagoing reptile from the Mesozoic. It’s a wonderful thing to watch: He reads books and always seeks out the Elasmosaurus. He begs us to read about it. He wants to start a collection, much like the aforementioned Spinosauraus.
Sure, they play Legos and watch Star Wars (they’re not totally pop-culture ignorant). But they always come back to their obsessions which they want to tell us about all the time. They forget they already told us. We listen, again and again.
Singing Hamilton and obsessing over a dead marine reptile is something most kids would look askance at. But my kids don’t care — because my kids don’t know. They have no internal coolness sensor. They like what they like because they like it, and that’s it — no one told them to like it. This is the best part of the weird kid, and the reason their weirdness spills over into everything else. They just don’t know, or don’t care, what’s cool. When they learn to actively not care, we call that confidence. Being a tiny weirdo is the first step in that direction: to do their own thing, to march to the beat of their own drum.
My kids might be weirdos right now, but they will be supremely cool in college.
They’ll outgrow their current obsessions. I did. I went from space to horses to The X-Files to college and boys. My husband went from space to biology and paleontology, and he’s never left them, really. I live in a house full of fossils with a man who can identify every errant insect. Most people would think this is weird as fuck, but we’re perfectly happy.
I’m currently obsessed with Twin Peaks. I watch the show. I have multiple T-shirts and a photo signed by the star. If you get me drunk enough, I might admit to reading a little bit of fanfic. I really do not care how cool or uncool you think this is. It makes me happy. My kids will grow up into this, into adults who choose their own interests and do not give a fuck what other people think. And that will make me one proud mother.
So yeah, my kids are weird. And I wouldn’t change a thing. After all, from that weirdness will come something wonderful.