The Darnedest Things

seeing the world through the words of my kids

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Sarah Denis

So, my-six-year old daughter has been conducting experiments. Scientific experiments. Just the other day she decided to make a new kind of soap – an extremely scientific endeavor indeed. To make her sudsy concoction, she needed water, shampoo, conditioner, and ... soap. She placed it all into a translucent blue plastic cup and, shoving another plastic cup on top of it (cocktail mixer style), she shook it up for a good 45 seconds.

Then she decided her plastic cup combo somehow looked just like her favorite planet: Uranus. So, later on, when I asked her how the experiment was going, she replied, “Good! I’m making Uranus!”

Then she said, “OK, I’m going to shake Uranus some more.”

When she was done shaking her container of “soap” for a few more seconds, she opened it up, took a huge whiff and proudly declared, “Now I’m smelling Uranus! Mmm. It smells heavenly!”

After a while, my daughter realized the more she said the word “Uranus,” the more her father would laugh. Uncontrollably. And this is why science is so much fun at our house.*

When people tell you that the hardships of parenting are “all worth it” this is what they are talking about. At least, that’s what I think of when someone asks me about being a father. You might be stressed out six ways from Sunday, but as soon as your kid starts making loud, declarative statements about Uranus, things don’t seem so bad anymore.

All it takes is a few ill-chosen, well-spoken words to change your mood around. The English language parsed through the minds of kids has long been a source of comedy, and like most comedy, it’s better live and on the fly.

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How hilarious and freaking poetic is “500 pounds of brave in my mouth?” That should be the motto of a totally badass debate club or something.

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My three-year-old son has a small stuffed monkey he insists on carrying around crammed down the front of his shirt, with only the head popping out, right under his chin like a tiny, furry conjoined twin. He named the monkey “Tater Tots.” Plural. Which makes it 100 times more adorable.

Lately, he’s become a fountain of fun facts, spouting off statistics about his very favorite subject (next to Spider-Man): himself. In the span of a few days, he informed the family that he can “run sixty-eight hundred minutes in one minute,” he “weighs five weights” and perhaps most astounding of all, he is in possession of “500 pounds of brave” which he stores “in his mouth.”

How hilarious and freaking poetic is “500 pounds of brave in my mouth?” That should be the motto of a totally badass debate club or something. It should be the mantra of anyone lacking the courage to speak out against injustice. It should be carved in marble archways spanning the gates of schools across the nation so kids are constantly reminded of the planetary importance of their own voices.

Or maybe that’s just me. I’ve heard it said that most people don’t find your kids as funny or as interesting as you do. Fair enough. If you don’t think my kids are adorable, I’ll get over it. Far more important than impressing strangers with cute stories is the mind-boggling ways they constantly inspire me. They can be right here standing next to me, but they are often seeing a completely different world. And I’m lucky enough to hear the play-by-play.

One afternoon not too long ago, my son and I decided to put a puzzle together. The first twenty minutes of this quality time was absolutely infuriating as I found myself constantly reminding him to start with the edges. I kept telling him, “OK, Bud, here’s an edge piece. Nope, not that one. Here you go. I guess it doesn’t fit there. Nope, not there. Nope. It doesn’t go like that, Bud. Oh for the love of Zues, just rotate it 90 degrees and pop it into place so we can move on, already!”

Finally (and most probably after a gentle reminder from my wife), I shut up so he could do the puzzle however he wanted. He proceeded to simply find the pieces to make up his favorite character in the puzzle, whose name rhymes with “Fuzz Blightsmear.” Pretty soon, he had a complete Fuzz Blightsmear, and just kept working out from there until the puzzle was finished. And it was one of the coolest things I‘ve ever seen unfold before my eyes, watching the wheels turn inside his head, watching his little hands learn to test things out until they work.

I’m sure every parent feels this way, but after moments like this you really think, “Man, my kid’s pretty awesome.” This is because all kids are awesome. And eventually, some kid is going to grow up and pilot a spaceship all the way to Uranus.

*You may not find the planet Uranus all that funny,
but you are wrong. Because Uranus is hilarious.