Saturday, January 29, 2011

Normal or Not?

HB said something to me last night that creeped me out so much I couldn’t fall asleep for a couple of hours. We were cuddling before he went to sleep and he said, “Sometimes I wonder if you and Daddy are actually evil and will kill me.” After I regained my speaking ability and tried to say the appropriate reassuring things, he said, “Yes, but … there’s a chance you could be lying to me right now.” I tried to talk him out of the notion with every argument I could think of, but he said, “I’m not saying there’s a BIG chance that you could be evil. Maybe ten percent. I’m just saying, you can never really know what someone else is truly thinking.” Then he went to sleep.

This morning I tried to bring it up again delicately, asking if it was just one of those scary thoughts that people sometimes have at night, and he said cheerfully, “No, it can occur to me whenever. It’s not that big a deal. And I know that you do want me; if you didn’t, you could have given me up for adoption.”

It reminds me of why I don’t smoke pot.

He’s always had a morbid streak; two years ago he told me that everyone dies alone, and when I tried to give him some platitudes, he just looked at me and shook his head. Last year he asked, “How do you know that this isn’t all a dream, and real life is something else?”

Also we’ve been reading a lot of Roald Dahl.

TH didn’t hear the actual conversation, but he’s not particularly concerned. “I sometimes thought my mom was evil,” he said. “But then, she actually was …”

HB has if anything seemed happier than ever lately; he often laughs and goofs around, something sadly rare for him in prior years.

So, normal or not?


Unknown said...

Maybe he's channeling Descartes? As long as it doesn't bother him then I would just say it was normal.

Anonymous said...

I have the exact same thoughts all the time, and manage to lead a happy life. (Amazingly, i even consider my marriage a very happy one, even though every few nights, i do wonder if my husband will sneak in and kill me.)

I guess it's like anything else, it's only a problem if it interferes with normal every day living. So far, in all my 33 years, it hasn't. I hope the same holds true for HB.


parodie said...

Woah, that's intense. Not sure I can comment on normal or not, but I can certainly understand why you had trouble sleeping!

Hopefully he's simply a budding philosopher.

I suppose if he truly thought you were evil, he wouldn't share the thought with you...

MFA Mama said...

I used to have those kinds of thoughts as a kid. Dunno if that's reassuring or not.

Green said...

Totally normal. If he'd had a sibling, they would have discussed this among themselves and only possibly presented it to you as a funny thing.

Absolutely, totally, 100% normal. Smart + creative + morbid = really weird-sounding shit.

I'd just something about how you won't kill him, and you love him, and even when he does things he shouldn't you may not like what he does but you will always LOVE him, and besides it's against the law to kill anyway.

(I'm not a parent, but was quite the morbid kid. Plus I've babysat for and worked at schools with, tons of kids and heard all sorts of wacked out shit. This doesn't even make the top ten list.)

zb said...

I'd work on the probabilities. It's true that you can't tell what someone else is thinking, and that they could indeed be lying. But, the probability that you are evil/lying is certainly a lot lower than 10%. Especially when you calculate the conditional probabilities.

(I'd blame Roald Dahl).

Pale said...

He just sounds smart and deep and creative and ... as you say, maybe a little morbidly inclined (some of us are.) The Roald Dahl ould easily play in. My deep thinker asks me things that stop me in my tracks. He can usually answer me when I say, Why do you ask? And it's never as ominious as I'm afraid it will be ... quite the opposite. Not sure, but I'm guessing this might be like physical symptoms ... as in ... it's not how high the fever, but rather their overall behavior that is the best indicator of what is or isn't going on? If he seems happy otherwise, all is well? I'm sure you have good instincts. These fellow Doctor Mamas (peds/family therapy) might be of help ... they have an "Ask The Mamas" feature ....

Jul said...

Totally normal. "The people in my life may NOT be what they seem!" is a common fear. As early as first grade, I had (horrible) daydreams about my parents peeling off their faces to reveal OTHER PEOPLE underneath.

And y'know, as far as concerns about one's existence go, it's actually pretty damned reasonable.

In elementary school and junior high, I was always stunned at how quickly other kids' allegiances could turn. The intervals between hand-on-your-shoulder and teeth-at-your-throat were incredibly brief.

And then there were my first two big heartbreaks... both of which involved men whom I'd previously trusted springing really awful secrets on me.

So... while stuff like that DOES sound incredibly disturbing coming from a young kid ("So WHY did I waste all that time trying to make you feel secure, you little shit?")... he may have a leg up on kids who assume "everything is as it seems to be and people are both unchanging and exactly as they portray themselves".

Anonymous said...

I remember going through a spell where I wondered if my image in the mirrow wasn't really me. I mean, how do we know what we look like? And maybe the mirrors had been changed and that wasn't really my face?

I'm betting if we think hard enough, we can all think of strange thoughts we had. I think Jul is a genious when she said he is figuring out that things aren't always as they seem. And what Green said about not having siblings- my kids are eleven years apart, so yeah, I hear all the ruminations and wild thoughts and questions as well. It's half the fun of being a parent, if you don't let 'em rattle you. I think he sounds like a neat kid. Jill

Anonymous said...

I bet he could write some really great fiction.
Has he read any sci fi by Bradbury? He might like it.

Linda said...

Normal. I had days like that as a kind...not all together but every once in a while I would sneak out into the kitchen and look at all the knives and think about what it would be like to commit suicide. That sounds supremely disturbing (and it was to my parents when they found out) but it was more of an intellectual curiosity than a desire to ACTUALLY hurt myself. It sounds like HB is in that same spot, working out logic and fitting in whatever he hears on the playground into (big, scary issues) a small person's perspective. Does that make sense?


Anonymous said...

That would freak me out, totally. BUT, having said that, i remember having the almost the exact same thought as a child. I would sometimes have a passing worry my day would turn into a monster and kill me!!

How could this be a "passing worry?" I have no idea. But it was. And my dad was (and is) a gentle, kind person.

He did lose it and yell, really loud and scary, but that was maybe every 6 months or so for all of 10 seconds. Looking back on it, I always assumed my fear was related to these yelling episodes. But, after reading all the comments here, maybe not.

I agree with all the other commenters, as long as HB seems generally happy and well, its probably just one of those things.

Patti (mamacrab)

Unknown said...

It sounds like the crux of his thinking is that you cannot ever really "know" what someone else is thinking. A deep thought and something that it's perfectly normal to grapple with around his age. Ditto to the wondering if things are real/not real. This is getting refracted through his own personal lens that might trend toward the Dahl-ian. There's nothing wrong with that (as a deep Dahl fan).

Annapolitan said...

It sounds like he's a bright kid who is trying on some odd thoughts for size, kind of test driving them as it were. And that he hasn't learned to censor himself about stuff that makes a parent's heart go thump. (Typical for his age.)

I guess the thing I find reassuring about this is that he's talking about this stuff with YOU. Meaning he sees you as someone he can confide in and who he can trust, no matter what. So the subject of his thoughts (his parents possibly being evil killers) takes a back seat to the fact that he's talking about it with you.

Anonymous said...

What Anna Politan said above. I'd rather my son test drive some bizarre thoughts/concerns on me first rather than keep them in. Of course it would take me off guard at first, too.

Kehla said...

Normal. Willingness to talk about them in such a smart way isn't normal, but it's not-normal in an awesome way. I relate, I was a morbid kid too.

Sara said...

I think normal. When I was a kid I couldn't recognize myself in a mirror, or when I saw myself, I was always surprised, and like, "Oh, that must be me." Now, think what a shrink could do with that...

Another thing - I guess that "theory of mind" - learning that other people really do have a different interior world - is part of child development and kinda scary.

Unknown said...

I had a similar fear when I was a kid. More specifically, I thought my parents and everyone I loved could potentially be monsters underneath and one day they would say a secret signal and their monster friends would come and kill me.
I also had a fear that my whole life is a dream and one day I would wake up and be an infant.
I knew these things weren't logical and only believed them a little (maybe 10%, as HB said).
Even with such an...interesting imagination, I turned into a fairly normal adult.

Anonymous said...

When I was about his age, I used to think everyone around me were robots. Because I was real and I made TONS of mistakes and I never saw anybody else making tons of mistakes.

Then I grew up and I realized everybody else makes tons of mistakes too, they're just focused on themselves so they're not paying attention to mine, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, etc etc.

Snickollet said...

I can easily imagine Maddie saying something similar.

Not sure if that makes it normal, but that's all I've got.

Unknown said...

Like Anon (poster #2) I have similar thoughts, and am happy enough - as long as I don't focus on "is this all there is/what is the meaning of life/is the meaning of life really just to show up at work every day until you die???"

I believe that you have been blessed and cursed with an intelligent child. Life for the dumb people seems so much easier (e.g., life doesn't need to have meaning, you just have to be really cute/ripped/have plenty of beer in the fridge).

Anonymous said...

What a great and fascinating child you have! Sounds perfectly normal to me and you are so lucky that he can talk to you about it.

Sometimes rather than trying to reassure, (since you could be lying) try to get him to say more.

I found a very interested "umm" or "Oh?" would get my daughters to talk much more than trying to explain or disagree. Or I would repeat back what they said, when they dropped a bombshell. Amazingly, the less I talked, the more they were able to unburden themselves. And then together we could find out what was going on...

They are now grown, and I am still keeping my mouth shut and we have a wonderful relationship!

Anonymous said...

The kid is normal, just was too smart for his own good.

HB is right: we don't "know" anything. We ESPECIALLY don't "know" the things we most wish to be true to make life bearable.

Case in point: religion. There's no evidence or logic to support the idea that God exists, loves us, and will take us to heaven when we die -- yet millions of people believe just that because the reverse is too painful to admit to themselves.

Once you figure out that your brain can trick you into "knowing" things that are really just wishful thinking, you begin to doubt love, goodness, self-worth, morality . . . .

For most of us, this doubt doesn't creep in until we're in puberty; HB is just precocious.


Paula said...

Normal, for a highly intelligent child. Having two such boys myself, I can whole heartedly agree with the above sentiment that it's both a blessing and a curse.

E. said...

I'll join the chorus and say "normal." If this were me and my son, it might have freaked me out for a moment that he put the odds at 10%, but that probably has more to do with his relative inexperience with fractions than with actually believing there's a one in ten chance you and TH will do him in.

I think he's just a smart kid with a brain wired to do its own thing. The fact that he's not afraid to explore this kind of "what if?" scenario seems consistent with other aspects of him that are bold and brave. And the fact that he talked to you about it strikes me as healthy and good. A kid who thought this and kept it to himself might be nursing a neurosis. This kid clearly ain't.

Laurel said...

I don't remember having had the same thoughts myself, but I'm sure that instead I had other equally strange thoughts. HB sounds precocious and intelligent, but normal. Especially since it doesn't sound like the thoughts are bothering him; it's more like he's working out some of the mechanisms that operate in society and the world. (Not the killing stuff, or the evil, but as another poster said, the way that we can't really know or understand other people in the same way we do ourselves.)

Jennifer said...

Whoa. That would have thrown me for a loop too. My kids are still too young to say anything like that. (I think.)

I would assume that if he brought it up with you he knows it's not true. Otherwise he wouldn't have made you privy to his suspicions.

mary said...

Yep, sounds very familiar - when I was 5 or so I used to wonder if my parents were kidnappers who had killed my real, good parents and abducted me and my brother while we were too young to remember. Didn't match up with how I actually thought of my parents - I thought they were perfect, not evil at all - but I was hooked on the fact that I couldn't prove that it wasn't true. Must be something to do with development of an individual consciousness that happens around that age.

Only difference is, I never told my parents because I didn't trust them to understand - your son sounds much more open in his communication with you! I agree with other commenters - he's a smart kid.

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Anonymous said...

My comment just dissapeared as I was trying to post... so sorry if you get it twice.

I thought of this sort of shit a lot when I was a kid and I'd like to think I turned out pretty normal. You probably have nothing to worry about.

Looking back, I'm pretty sure these sorts of thoughts had a lot to do with my transition into reality from the guardedness of early childhood... that and watching the exorcist at age five! Jeebus! I still sleep with my closet doors closed!

I know it was probably hard to hear, but it's not as odd as you might think.

anne nahm said...

I'm not saying you *should* do this or anything, but I guess you could get a scary-ass mask from the Halloween store, and wait until HB is all calmly reading, and sneak up on him and yell RAWRRRRRR! and then chase him around the room shrieking for a minute or two.

And then, after he realizes it's you, and you all have a good laugh, you could mention in passing, "see, if there was ever a time I was going to kill you, that would have been it."

FWIW, I remember going through a six month period of being pretty sure a monster had skinned my mom and was wearing her hide, and the monster was pretending to be my mom to lull me into indifference before it got me. I'm pretty normal. But I do have rather high anxiety at times. Go figure.

winecat said...

Sounds as if HB is perfectly normal but WAY intelligent for his age. Combine that with an active imagination and you'd be amazed at what you get.

For years I was convinced I was adopted, despite that fact that I look much like my Dad, because I was so different from everyone else in the family.

At 58 I'm still way different than the rest of my family but they've gotten used to it and my husband loves me for who I am not who he'd like me to be.

Carrie said...

I think a great way to handle a comment/question along those lines would be to ask him questions about it. Try to find out what brought these thoughts/concerns about. Maybe it is from reading a lot of Dahl, just crazy thoughts kids have, etc. I forget how old he is now, but up to a certain age, kids have a tough time really discriminating fantasy from reality.
On a positive note, he was able to fall asleep right away...if he was really worried he prolly would have stocked up on food and locked himself in a closet or something.

Carrie AKA WannaBePA

Anonymous said...

yes, totally normal. unless I am very abnormal...I remember having similar thoughts as a kid. And I turned out ok.