10 Signs You Have A Feral Child

by Annie Reneau
Shutterstock / Purino

Our first child was the most civilized kid you’ve ever met. From the get-go, she was polite, demure, and calm. She could sit with a bucket of board books for hours, loved to have dainty tea parties, and would quietly color or play with toys while I cooked dinner or got some work done.

Our second child? Not so much.

This kid is our wild child, literally. It was like she arrived from a completely different planet than our first — a planet where the inhabitants roam like the beasts of the field and have no use for things like etiquette or shoes or soap. Despite all of our stellar parenting tricks, she seems determined to remain feral for as long as possible.

Here are 10 signs you might have a feral child too:

1. They prefer not to walk on two feet.

I’m pretty sure our middle child has spent more time galloping on all fours than walking as a biped. It’s an impressive feat, actually, as she can literally gallop like a horse (or run like a cheetah, depending on the day) on her hands and feet. Feral kids would rather crawl, climb, or hop than walk like people.

2. Utensils are a nuisance.

Forks and spoons? Those are for the birds. Or rather, for the humans. Our kid would eat every meal without utensils if she could. She might use her hands if she had to, but she’d prefer to pick up her food with her mouth like a bird of prey. Remember that scene in A Christmas Story? “Show Mommy how the piggies eat!” That’s my kid.

3. They revel in being dirty.

You wouldn’t believe the delight in my child’s eyes when she comes in from outside smeared with dirt. She loves to play in the yard barefooted, and the filthier she gets, the better.

4. There’s no such thing as a 5-second rule

Along with preferring not to use flatware, feral children are known to eat anything they drop on any surface. Our first kid is a germaphobe — if any food touches anything but a sterilized plate, she won’t eat it. Our wild child will pick up a piece of pizza she dropped on the ground, pick off any hairs, and chow down without a second thought.

5. They would rather not do anything to their hair — ever.

Speaking of hair, getting my child to brush her hair has been a years-long battle. Cutting it, too. If she had her druthers, she’d let it grow rattier and rattier until she looked like she just stepped out of a forest after having been raised by wolves her whole life.

Incidentally, she’d also like to have been raised in the forest by wolves her whole life. #feralchildgoals

6. Their clothes always have holes and/or stains.

The going around on all fours thing comes at a cost. Our daughter likes to wear stretchy pants (so that she can run and gallop and climb without hindrance), but stretchy material is not generally strong material. And along with flatware, napkins appear to be verboten in the feral child’s world. I can’t count how many times I’ve asked my daughter not to wipe her hands on her shirt.

7. Their bed is some kind of nest/den combo.

I’m not sure if our feral child has ever slept in her bed normally. She’s always pushed all of her blankets and pillows into a circle to create a nest of sorts. She even saved up her allowance and bought herself a big dog bed when she was nine. Yes, I’m serious. We’ve never even owned a dog, but we own a dog bed. Go figure.

8. When you can’t find them, you check the trees first.

If I call my kid’s name and she doesn’t answer, the first thing I do is look in the yard. More often than not, she’s perched in our plum tree reading a book or playing some imaginary game. I love that she loves nature so much and that she gets a lot of outdoor time. (It’s the bringing the outdoors in on her bare feet that gets old.)

9. You sometimes wonder if they really are part animal.

When our daughter was 3, we gave her a baby doll, which she promptly — and seriously — named “Horse.” Everything from then on was about wildlife. Her animal toys have gotten more use than any other toy we’ve ever owned. More than once, she has lamented the fact that she was born a human and not a cat or an eagle. As she’s gotten older, her love of wildlife has morphed into a passionate defense of the environment and animal welfare, which is great. But she’s kept some of the animal mannerisms of her younger years, which is…well…let’s call it great too.

10. You have a new understanding of the term “free spirit.”

Our feral children embody the idea of “free spirit,” unencumbered as they are by the traditional norms and expectations of society. While we do our best to tame them to socially acceptable levels, we also recognize the beauty and unique wonder of their natural tendencies. These kids are at one with the earth in a way that most of us never will be, which is pretty awesome.

It may not be the way I am — or even want to be — but I can honor that that’s who my kid is.