I recently ran into a parent of one of the children at the older one’s school.
Oh your boy is so cute!
Oh, well Thank You, luckily he takes after his Mother! (Standard line)
I can’t believe he licked that slug!
Oh? I hadn’t heard of this… but I believe it.
I salvaged what I could of my pride as a parent, bid her goodbye, and walked away.
Every school has those kids, most likely suffering from any number of, now overly diagnosable things. Back then; it all just came under the flag of “special needs.” I myself was put into a small, dark and strange smelling room with another silent kid every afternoon for a couple of years. Their concern with me was my spelling. I couldn’t write or tell the difference between “b” and “d” and was, perhaps, a little excitable on top of it. (There is an entire drug empire based off of this diagnosis currently) I remember a kindly old woman, holding up lined index cards with a “b” made out of a hand drawn bat and a baseball, and a “d” made of drums and drum sticks. She would hold one up, and I would take a guess as to which one it was (I knew I had a good 50/50 chance) however, being both rhythmically and athletically challenged this kind gesture most likely slowed my progress. Nonetheless, I would practice tracing the lines over and over while she listed all the wonderful things that started with each letter.
But the licking.
To be fair, it had been something of concern for some time. I know that it is normal for a 5 year old to take their natural curiosities about the world around them and explore with reckless abandon. The older one had just been exploring too much nature with his tongue for normal tastes. It started as normal scolding:
Don’t suck on your shirt
Please don’t lick your hamburger
Keep your face off the windows
These however escalated into a pint-sized version of some beer fueled frat party contest. And my biggest problem with that, he’s not playing against anyone else.
There was another boy in school when I grew up. I will just call him Nate. From what I can remember, he was smaller than average, and stringy with a big head. Most of the time he was nice, quiet even. But every so often he would have a fit, and hit someone. He was too much even for the special class I was in. But we still played with him at recess, he would be just a little off, louder than most, or have a weird look in his eye. I remember him biting the teacher one day, and not much else after that. I am assuming his family moved away, the burden of raising “that kid” in a small town too much for anyone to take.
After months of escalating conversation about not licking things like (but not limited to) furniture, the bus stop pole, the windows or seats on the bus, or various walls in town, the boy crossed the line.
We had just gotten to the coveted stainless steel elevator in the underground train station, and after we started the speedy ascent to the surface I looked over and was horrified to see him make a large broad tongue stroke up the center of the button panel. I could hear the excitement on the microscopic level as all manner of bacteria poured into his mouth.
I felt my stomach lurch.
After several cups of water for the both of us, a lecture on antibiotics, and several more rinse outs, I made him promise never to do it again.
After some time in afternoon special class, I must have passed the tests required as I suddenly was in regular class again. I went about as a normal learner once more. This mainly consisted of dioramas, memorizing facts, and being tested by filling in dots on a strangely long shaped piece of paper with a series of black lines running up the side of it.
I was standardized.
Looking back, the oddest thing was how normal I felt the special class experience was. Like it was something that all kids had to do. I don’t remember my core of friends treating me any differently, but maybe that had more to do with the fact that they were much smarter than normal, which presented it’s own challenges (or so I’m told).
So I asked the older one
You licked a slug?
He turned beet red. A broad embarrassed smile creeped across his face.
Son, you can’t do that. It’s so gross.
But everyone thought it was funny!
Yes son, they did. You know why? Because you did it, and they did not. Keep your tongue in your head. Ok?
So I have to be resigned to be the parent of “that kid.” As long as he’s nice, I’m fine with whatever “that” ends up being. Because in the end, you never know what the kids will turn out like. Maybe the boy who couldn’t write “b” or “d” will learn to love to write. Maybe Nate got the help he needed, heck he probably works for NASA. Or maybe the kid that licked the slug will one day turn out to be a Nobel winner.
For his work with the CDC.