The Quirks You Adore (And The Ones That Drive Ya Nuts)


For the last four months or so, we’ve had a plastic purple bowl sitting on our kitchen table. It holds a mound of plastic spaghetti with plastic sauce. Max wants it there, all the time. He used to sleep with a set of purple dishware by his side, but we’re past that.

Max wants us to write “Max eats spaghetti sauce” on the top of every picture he draws. He likes to be called “Max eats spaghetti sauce” as well. Seriously—if I call him “Max” (as in, the name that’s written on his birth certificate), he shakes his head and corrects me. If I read a book, he insists that I rename every character “Max eats spaghetti sauce” and, if there is another character, that I refer to that character as “Caleb eats chicken nuggets ketchup.” (Caleb is his best bud at school). I am not allowed to say “with sauce” or “with ketchup” or I will be fired.

Max likes to go in our front door only, not the back. He likes the right-side door of the gym, not the left. He prefers purple clothes, and it has to be the right shade of purple. He only sleeps on top of the covers, not under. If we go to a car wash, he insists on going through twice. He likes his scoop of chocolate ice-cream at the ice-cream store divvied up into three cups. He would watch the same race-track scene from the movie Cars 50 times in a row on YouTube, if we let him.

Max is a child who’s full of quirks. His little sis, not so much. Max is also my child with cerebral palsy. Does he have these quirks because of his special needs? His neurologist once told me that when Max—who has trouble articulating words—has mastered a phrase, he likes to repeat it because he’s proud he can say it. That explains “Max eats spaghetti sauce” but not the other stuff.

It doesn’t matter: Max’s “things” are a part of his personality. They’re endearing to me. They make up the Max I adore. Yes, sometimes we get weird looks from people, but like I once said, in the special needs circle we inhabit, there is no “weird.”

Although I am over “Max eats spaghetti sauce” and “Caleb eats chicken nuggets ketchup.”

What endearing quirks do your kids have these days? Which ones make you just a wee bit bonkers?


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  1. by Heather @ nobody-but-yourself

    On July 14, 2011 at 7:54 am

    My kid has an iPod Touch (so, it has built-in speakers). She will settle on one song as her favorite and play it over and over and over and over until we’re fifty miles past “ad nauseum” and full on into “everyone else in the house – including the cat – is going to rip off their ears if we hear it one more time” territory.

    Previous songs that received this dubious honor include:

    Who Let the Dogs Out?
    Eye of the Tiger
    Bohemian Rhapsody
    We Are Siamese (from Lady and the Tramp)
    A Whole New World (from Aladdin)
    Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf in rotation
    She Will Be Loved (Maroon 5)
    the Cantina song from Star Wars

    and this week’s current tune:
    There Ain’t Nothing Wrong with the Radio (Aaron Tippin)

    Now, it is true that the majority of the songs she adores to overplayed death were originally heard because they live on one of *my* iPod playlists. However, she can kill the joy in *any* song, even my beloved-since-I-was-a-teen Duran Duran, with the incessant repetitions. Having her wear her headphones when she listens doesn’t really solve the problem, either, because she sings along, even to the instrumental bits.

    So that would count as a quirk that drives me nuts (admittedly, not a long trip).

    One that I love is how she cannot bear to be in the presence of any sort of affection without getting in on the action. Any time there is a hug going on within a hundred foot radius, she comes dashing over to insert herself into it. We thus have a lot of “family hugs” going on around here. :-)

  2. by J.A.

    On July 14, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Interesting. Here’s my question for you. Do you think you would be as tolerant of those quirks you don’t like if Max did not have special needs? I’m not a parent who is tolerant. If you want the red bowl, not the blue one and it’s just as easy for me to give you either fine? But if I have to wash the red one and the blue one is available? Nope. No way, now how. I don’t have a special needs kid so I don’t know if I would act differently then.

  3. by Ellen - To The Max

    On July 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Hmmm…. I am pretty tolerant when it comes to my kids, and kids in general. But I also happen to be human (well, last time I checked) and so, I am not going to think every single thing he does in endearing, whether or not he had special needs. Just like I don’t think every single thing my daughter does is endearing. HARDLY!!!

  4. by Shana

    On July 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    When you have a child with special needs you pick your battles. And when, for example, you see that they actually have a preference (say purple or spaghetti) you use that to make your child communicate more and to show your child that his interests also interest you. Of course, they may not. But the child with special needs may need more reinforcement to eat his meal, clean up or even speak. You use what you can. Kuddos to you for using what reinforces Max to get the most out of him!

    I am not sure that I would go through the car wash twice but if that elicits a preferred behavior from Max, then so be it.

    Life changes when you have a special needs child as opposed to a “typically developing” child. You find out what their needs are, what they need to learn and you go with it. You use whatever reinforcement is powerful at the moment.

  5. by J.A.

    On July 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I guess I wasn’t asking about when’re you liked it but what you do about it. Shana your answer makes a lot
    of sense. With my typically developing kids I will not give in fo their quirks that drive me nuts. Period. But it makes sense to do so if you have a child for whom doing so would really benefit skills that they must work hard to build. And if were doing that I’d feel the need to do so with their typical sibling too.

  6. by E.W.

    On July 17, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    My son was very quirky until about 4 1/2 years old, so much so that I was beginning to think he was special needs! Only certain people were allowed to make his drinks, a different person to make his food, everything around him had to be immaculately clean (including himself, he refused to have a single drop of water or dirt on him), he became distressed when driving a route alternate to what was routine, and his routine itself had to be just perfect. When things weren’t “just so” he became visably distressed, shaking and silent tears, like his whole world was crashing down around him. The hard part was that his quirks often changed so at times it was hard to prepare for the coming metldown. However, when he was 4 1/2, his brain became swollen (encephalitis, unknown cause) for no apparent reason, and he lost his verbal and motor skills for a time (equivilant to a 8 month old). As he regained his skills we all noticed that he was no longer quirky! Very Bizarre…

  7. by Ellen - Love That Max

    On July 17, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Well said, Shana. We live by that philosophy too.

    I just did a post this weekend on my blog about encouraging Max to say “Mommy is a poopiehead” to get him to talk:

    EW, that is indeed strange, one for the medical records.

  8. by Dee

    On July 21, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I was trying to pick one of the quirks of my daughter to comment on… I couldn’t there are so many!!! But something I have learned recently (my child is 15) is that some of the quirks are not quirks but real and desperate needs. Something that gives her security and order in her world. Crazy it took me 15 years to understand that. Ok one quick quirk! When we are driving she sits in the front seat. When I adjust the mirror, or radio or even the shifter…… she has to touch it too or sort of wipe off my touch….. yea strange, I don’t go there, I just pretend I didn’t see it even though it pisses me right off!!!! Not sure where my point is with the whole needs vs quirks with this one? Maybe give me another 15 years and I will have the answer!

  9. [...] son has had various obsessions over the years: the color purple, spaghetti, car washes, Lightning McQueen. Max’s latest interests: fire trucks and [...]