Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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My Son is a Spaz: A lesson in heredity (Part II)

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I once found an old video of myself. It was taken at a 4th of July horse race in Beaver, a small town in Southern Utah. My stepdad’s parents lived there. This was back when Mike and my mother were dating. Mom, Mike, and I were visiting. I want to say it was the first time I met Mike’s parents, but I am not sure.
Anyway, I must have been 10 or 11 years old. One of Mike relatives was filming. He was asking me questions about the horse race, and I was answering them, loudly. I seemed to do everything loudly back then. My voice had two volumes: silent and obnoxious. I was wearing a matching button up shirt and cargo shorts combo with abstract colors, reds, blacks, yellows, and blues. I had matching sunglasses. If army camouflage was intended to help keep someone hidden, the print on this shirt and shorts combo was intended to make me stand out. I was a short stocky little boy, with pasty skin, large chubby cheeks, and a dirty blond bowl cut.

The shorts looked a lot like this. Only with cargo pockets and a matching button up shirt

“What did you think of the race?” The camera man asked.
“I thought it was amazing!” I cried, loudly, my face a little red, not from embarrassment, but from yelling.
 “Horses have huge balls! And they smell like pooooooooo.” I said proudly, my hands before me, fingers extended. “And you smell like pooo! Everything smells like poooo! Even I smell like pooo!”
My younger self cradled his stomach and started laughing.
Then, and I shit you not, I conducted the rest of the interview in my own poo-poo language, repeating the word, “poo” over and over, with various changes in tone. It was eerily similar to Tristan’s Burrito language, only louder, and grosser.
While watching that video, I assumed that I was supposed to laugh at my younger self. To look backwards and think forwards. To become reflective, and realize how much I had matured in the 20 or so years since that video was taken.
But I didn’t.
I became really self-conscious. I became embarrassed. And most importantly, I looked at my younger self, and I wanted to kick my own ass. When I compare that video with Tristan’s Burrito language, and then I think about how I didn’t have a lot of friends at that age, I get nervous. I wonder if he is turning into the kind of kid who talks in a poo language, and wears flamboyant matching outfits. And I wonder if I need to take steps to stop his progression towards becoming a full blown spaz like his father.

Now bear in mind that I am crazy for Tristan. I think he is smart. In fact, he reads very well for a six-year-old. I often have to turn out his light long after his bedtime because he is in his room reading. And even after I do, I still find him an hour or so later, under the blankets, reading with a flashlight. He picks up things fast. And yes, I think he is funny. There are times that he will come up with something that is very witty, well said, and far beyond his years. He is perceptive. In fact, I have to be really carful about what I say when he is around because he understands more than I give him credit for. And he often asks questions. This I completely love because it shows that he has an inquisitive mind.
From what I can tell, he is good at making friends. I often watch him at church, and he seems to always be making someone laugh. And girls, there is something about the little guy that helps him get girls. I can think of three girls from church that clearly have a crush on him. One girl, Katy, was once following her mother into our chapel with her arms folded. She couldn’t stop gazing at Tristan. On her face was the sliest little grin. And, get this, she was so busy eyeing Tristan, that she walked right into a pew. I couldn’t help but laugh. And, in true man fashion, Tristan had no idea that any of it was going on. 
In fact, as I read over this list of Tristan’s qualities, I get less anxious about his future.

Side note: I suppose now would be a good time to let you, the reader, know that most of the time these essays are much more beneficial for me to write than they are for you to read. I’ve been meaning to say this for a while, so bear with me. I get a lot out of writing about my family. It helps me gather my thoughts, and begin to understand and overcome my own fears. This list I just wrote about Tristan, made me feel a little better. But I don’t feel all the way better, so I am going to keep writing.

I love attention. I love to make people laugh. It’s an addiction. There is a certain rush of satisfaction that I feel from attention. I crave it. I always have. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve had to learn that there are times to make people laugh, and there are times to be focused. I’m not sure when this hunger for attention started, but I know that I can see it in Tristan’s eyes. And once again, I can’t help but compare myself to Tristan.
When I was six, I had a lot of friends. Lot’s of people found my spazzyness really funny, because I was young and it was expected. But around junior high, that all seemed to stop. I remember the day it happened. 
Tristan throwing a snowball at himself

I was in pre-algebra. It was the second day of junior high. Mr. Brinkerhoff, a tall, slender, and sweaty man with thinning hair and orange spots along his forearms and face (a skin condition of some kind), was writing on the chalkboard. His back was to us, so I saw this as my opportunity to make some new friends. I started making noises. Strange fart sounds and beeping sounds, which were unprompted and irritating and intended to get a laugh. But no one laughed. Kids just looked at me like I was crazy. This sort of humor was a hit in elementary school, but on this new stage, I was clearly going to have to bring out the big guns.
I started making louder noises. Then I started shaking in my desk, jetting out my legs and such. Still, no one laughed.
This whole time Mr. Brinkerhoff had been asking me to please be quiet. Eventually he walked up to me, crouched down, looked me in the eyes and said, “Are you okay son? I can’t tell if you are doing this on purpose or if you are having a seizure.”
It was then that the class laughed.
My humor, my flamboyant personality, my poo language, everything that had made me popular in the 6th grade, suddenly made me very un-popular in junior high. Clearly I’d stopped maturing, and had gone from the funny kid, to the spazzy kid. It was then that my peers started to ask me to shut my mouth, to calm down, and to stop hassling people for attention. But my hunger for attention, my hunger to make others laugh, made it very difficult for me to figure out how to calm down and focus in a classroom.
I often see Tristan do very similar gyrations, and I often hear him make very similar sounds to what I made that day in class. He does it for attention. His six-year-old friends find it hilarious, but for how long?
I went though a lot of embarrassment before I figured out that spazzy humor was irritating (I was probably in my late teens before I finally stopped) and what I want is to spare Tristan that embarrassment. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage has been featured in Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.