It recently came to my attention that there is an actual diagnosis in the DSM IV for a childhood behavioral disorder called “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” (ODD for short).

Symptoms include:

  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Excessive arguing with adults
  • Often questioning rules
  • Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
  • Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Frequent anger and resentment

It should occur to anyone that in most cases of small people whose brains are not yet fully cooked and who have not had 20 years of experience in social artistry, these things will happen.

But DSM has that covered.

A child with ODD will do these things “more than normal.”

It is important that I point out two things:

First, I have no children.

I have no desire to tell people when their kids’ behavior is or isn’t normal, to try to make them feel or even suggest that they should feel guilty about seeking help for behavior they think may not be normal, or anything even remotely to that effect.

Second, there is a good chance that, were I born 15 years later, I would have been diagnosed with ODD.  There is a good chance that the more wise-assed amongst you will diagnose me with it now.

It’s a tired question:  Why does it seem like virtually every incidence of childhood misbehavior or difference or difficulty is suddenly treated as grounds for declaring children pathological?  Conspiracy theories abound:  It’s the conservatives and drug companies inventing diseases so they can sell drugs for them; it’s a liberal plot to subdue and pussify children for ease of federal control of civilians in the future; it’s an attempt to pathologize individuality, answer-seeking, and the questioning of authority in general; along with vaccinations, it’s a government plot to sterilize and/or lobotomize the population.  Maybe there are aliens involved.  Or the Illuminati or Free Masons or the Priory of Scion.  Someone get Dan Brown on the phone.

As a child I was…difficult.  I was not violent, and I was not harmful or antagonistic towards other kids–at least not more than was normal.  I have discussed, in another piece, my childhood propensity to tell rather spectacular (but generally harmless and seemingly purposeless) lies.  More than anything, I liked to tell adults and other authority figures where they could stick it.

This is my recollection, at least.  I don’t know exactly what the view was like for the adults in my life.  I was strong-willed enough to cause my mother to buy a self-help book on dealing with me.  I would argue relentlessly, feverishly, dramatically to get my way.  At one point, maybe around 8 or 9 years of age, I suggested one of my teachers was an asshole (or maybe it was that he did or should eat shit), and the powers-that-be at my experimental hippie elementary school threatened to put me in special ed or even kick me out, actions against which my mother, after insisting that nothing was wrong with me, was offered “take her to a child psychologist and prove it” as the only recourse.

It is important to point out that one of the guiding premises of this experimental school was that children were autonomous individuals, capable of thinking for themselves and, with a little guidance, managing their own schedules and making the “right” decisions.  But even as they shouldered us with this adult-like responsibility and somewhat non-specific expectation, we were still treated as children–that is, with the attitude that, as children should, we would accept adults’ assertions about what decisions were “right,” do as we were told, and maintain an attitude of capitulation and submission toward authority figures.  Talk about confusing.

So, reluctantly, not believing for an instant that anyone other than the school was messed up, my poor, beleaguered mother hauled me off to a child psychologist for evaluation.  I didn’t get it.  I asked my mom:  Was I stupid? “No,” she said.

“Are you sure? I took a long time to learn money, and I can’t write 2s or 5s.”

She was sure.

Was I messed up?  Why did I have go see a doctor for crazy people?  I was not messed up, she said.

“We’re going just to prove it to everyone for good measure.”

“Why do we have to prove it?”

“Because you’re smarter than they are, and they don’t know what to do about it.”

I went weekly over the period of a handful of months.  I had to role play with dolls, answer endless simple questions, look at pictures and describe what was happening.  I think she advised my mom to do some kind of rewards system thing, maybe with gold-star stickers that went on a bit of tagboard on the fridge when I managed to refrain from arguing.  I knew it was contrived–intended to manipulate or trick me in some way.  I could not be enticed to care about the gold stars.

“What kinds of things make you angry?”

“When I’m watching TV and my dad comes in and just changes the channel to watch football without asking.”

I remember that question and answer distinctly.  It was a slightly warmer-than-normal winter day and the blinds in her office were pulled against the sun.  I was facing the window and she was facing me.  I remember, vaguely, having misgivings about whether my shrink might like football as much as my dad did and wouldn’t be sympathetic.

I remember, for our last meeting, we didn’t sit in the boring office.  She took me in her sports car to get ice cream.  I think the place was in downtown Minneapolis’ famous skyway system.  Maybe not.  At any rate, I didn’t have the heart to tell her I didn’t really care for ice cream, and she gave me a hug when she brought me back to my mom.  The shrink was a nice enough lady.

The finding, incidentally, was that there was nothing wrong with me, aside from a bad case of not knowing my place.  Or knowing what it was supposed to be and simply rejecting it.  I had no personality disorder and I wasn’t retarded or in possession of a learning disability.  There was a personality clash with my own father–something about a power struggle.  I was a bit spoiled.

In my mother’s defense, she believed I was wrenched from the hands of death himself to be in the world (I was, in a manner of speaking), so she coddled me.  I. Me.  The miracle baby.  I got away with things that children with less dramatic births may not have.  I was special.

I was a difficult individual, but not a pathological one.

My impression of the situation, both at the time and in hindsight, was that I knew and understood more than I was given credit for.  I could not stand being talked to, reasoned with, or treated like I was a child, even though I was.  I would say to people, “don’t talk to me like I’m a kid!” which they often found adorable and worthy of a chuckle.  Laughing at me was about the worst thing any adult could do; it made me all the more furious.

Even now, the slightest whiff of condescension is to me as the word “chicken” to Marty McFly.

In the end, I was not put in special ed or kicked out of school.  I was given a more structured schedule than some of my peers, and that helped.

Thus began my long-standing academic habit of being difficult enough to be a monstrous pain in my teachers’ asses, but never out of control enough to suffer any very serious consequences.

I vacillated between As and Ds in jr. high and high school.  I’d escape summer school, barely, every year, and spend my semesters maxing out my tardies & unexcused absences, bribing the man at the parking lot gate with Egg McMuffins & coffee.  I was a master test-taker and walked out of high school with a sparkling ACT score and a C average–an average average–though everything else about my record indicated I was a born delinquent and hopeless loser.

My life certainly would have been easier had I left high school with an A average.  Had I not spent so much time forcing my way and fucking around for rebellion’s sake.  I made a lot of headaches for myself, in addition to the headaches I made for other people, often just to prove a point.  To assert my self-ness.   My am-ness.

My 2s and Zs remain identical, as do my 5s and Ss.

My first Facebook status update after I graduated college with my B.A. was something to the effect of “Haha, suckers!  I win!  I WIN!!!”

(My outstanding student loan balance begs to differ, but that is a separate issue.)

I wonder what would have happened if I had been put in special ed?

Part of me fears that I had been born 5-10 years later and my mother were a slightly more pliant woman, I would have been medicated into oblivion.

Would I even be here, talking to you?  Would I have been beaten down, told I was a walking malfunction, tranquilized into capitulation for long enough that I would never have found the confidence to go to college, let alone do as well as I did?  Would I have been made afraid to challenge, to question, to search for unique answers to run-of-the-mill questions? To reject answers that I found insufficient?

We don’t need no education…

Or would my early life and education (both scholarly and social) simply have been easier for everyone involved, including me?  Maybe I wouldn’t be here because I’d be a shrink, a lawyer, a doctor instead?  Maybe I’d be too busy rolling around in money and influential connections to care about any of this stuff?

The answer is: I don’t know.  I can’t know.

But the question is important because there is a good chance that either by virtue of genetics or simply knowing me, any future children of mine will not be entirely easy to deal with, either.

They may inherit my husband’s much more agreeable personality, but should they not, should the moment come when I’m sitting in a principle’s office somewhere, my child staring at her shoes, kicking her heels on the chair, answering some administrator’s questions–or mine–monosyllabically out of either shame or fury, I wonder if I’ll be strong enough, prescient enough, lucid enough, to recognize the reality of my–and more importantly, my child’s–situation.  To discern whether it’s my child or the adult system around her that, in fact, has the problem.  To act accordingly.

The challenge, no matter how speculative, frightens me.

I have to hope and trust, though, that my mother’s example wasn’t for naught.  That because my mother knew her child, because she didn’t let them wrest it out of me, when the powers that be are wrong, I’ll still have the ability and willingness to look them in the face, narrow my eyes, cross my arms, and with total disregard for their authority, say, “No.”

I will try not to stick out my tongue.

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BECKY PALAPALA is the author of many unpublished poems, diatribes, and terse letters, which she holds captive in a homely tote bag in her bedroom. The poems that escaped can be found in online publication at Strix Varia, Paper Darts, and in other nooks and crannies of the internet. In 2008-2009, she served as a poetry editor for Ivory Tower. After an iliadic battle with higher education, Becky graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in the spring of 2010. She currently lives with her husband, daughter, and dog on the outskirts of the Twin Cities, where she pines for her rivertown home and attempts to befriend the rabbit that lives in her yard.

126 responses to “We Don’t Need No Education”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    I don’t have any kids either, but it does seem like there is a cultural urge to explain behavior (for adults and children alike) by giving it a label.

    She doesn’t pay attention- she’s ADD.

    He can’t sit still- he’s got Restless Leg Syndrome

    It’s almost like by giving a label to a behavior, we absolve the person from some or all of that behavior’s consequences. “Oh, he’s like that. He’s got ADD, waddaya want?” Feelings don’t get hurt as badly when you turn unskilled behavior into clinical syndromes.

    Not to say there aren’t legit, biochemical conditions that society was not equipped to understand twenty or even ten years ago. But it does seem like a lot of time and money are being funneled into defining and treating what are essentially growing pains.

    • Gloria says:

      I don’t know, Joe. As a mom with an 18 year old daughter with Borderline Personality Disorder, and 8 year old twin boys – one with ADHD/OCD and one with an “Emotional Disturbance not otherwise specified – I have to say that I don’t think labels are always necessarily designed to excuse children’s behavior, but to force grown ups to quit being assholes to kids. Force them – legally obligate them – to be more patient and understanding. And, you know, sometimes, as a parent, you just throw your hands up and look the grown ups in the eye and say, “We’re all doing the best we can – you, me, and this nuisance of a child – what more do you want?” Other grown ups will tell you to medicate your child. Maybe it’s sugar. You let them play video games? That’s obviously it. You’re too soft on them. You’re too hard on them. If my kids acted like that, I’d beat their asses! You can’t win. Sometimes diagnoses and IEPs legally protect your child and allow you to say, “I’m doing the best I can, so is my child, and if you don’t back off and be a little understanding, I will sue you and drag your name – your name personally – through the media and court system.” Because, you know, sometimes we all are actually just doing the best we can.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Not long ago, autism used to occur in one birth per 2,000. For the last decade or so, the number has spiked geometrically; it’s now one in 110. And it isn’t because the DSM is more fancy, or that parents want their kids diagnosed in a certain way. No one knows why (it isn’t vaccines, though; the doctor who popularized that bit of bunk has been thrown out of the UK and had his medical license revoked).

        Autism in its various forms (which in the 2012 DSM will include Asperger’s), ADHD, sensory problems, and the PPD-NOS (pervasive personlaity disorder not otherwise specified) — the numbers are way up. No one knows why.

        The DSM is calling it as it sees it, not making names for things that aren’t real and that don’t give parents gray hairs or worse.

        • Joe Daly says:

          >>The DSM is calling it as it sees it, not making names for things that aren’t real and that don’t give parents gray hairs or worse.<<

          Totally agree. That’s why I acknowledged that there are definitely legitimate conditions that we could not have addressed, diagnosed, or understood twenty years ago.

          Apologies for any offense taken for reckless comments I made that minimized or diminished real medical conditions. That was not my intention, although a quick review of my comment indicates that’s what someone could reasonably infer. And I certainly didn’t suggest parents aren’t doing their best. While I do believe that over-medication is a problem, and that I think there can be some emotional consequences for giving labels to children, I completely agree that medicine isn’t making stuff up for the purpose of making stuff up. There are legit conditions that we didn’t understand not so long ago.

          My main point was that defining something does not normally resolve the problem, and that, to Gloria’s points, we still need to find ways of addressing the issues. Whatever the root causes are behind a child’s developmental challenges, defining it is one thing, but correcting it is the more compelling need.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, Greg. You know me. My distrust of authority is such that I’m disinclined to believe in the fundamental integrity or infallible nature of the DSM IV.

          I think that the people who are making the DSM IV are somewhere in between my age–on the front end of this spike in diagnoses–or my parents’ ages. That is, they were raised or raised children or were otherwise socialized into a society in which perceived behavioral anomalies were increasingly pathologized.

          They are only human, after all, credentials or not. Even intellectualism is subject to fashion and even PhDs are subject to the follies of their times.

          I guess I’m saying that the issues may well be “real.” But “real” itself is a matter of perception.

        • Matt says:

          Notice how, in the wake of the infant whooping-cough deaths, Jenny McArthy is trying to back-peddle her anti-vaccination stance, all of which was built on that quack’s “research?”

        • Richard Cox says:

          Whether or not the rise in autism diagnoses is a real increase in incidence or the result of diagnostic substitution–or a combination of the two–what interests me even more is the evolution of parenting and how certain memes propagate themselves throughout a generation.

          I get the feeling that as the news media has evolved into a multichannel, 24/7, content-hungry, fear-mongering beast, it has altered how parents interact with their children. Maybe autism is on the rise, but certainly the reporting of autism is. The reporting of all forms of danger is on the rise, regardless of the reality or prevalence of those dangers, because news-as-entertainment requires drama. The easiest way to entertain an audience is to anger or frighten it, crystallize our inherent doubts and fears into a real entity we can root against.

          Where there is a real increase in certain disorders, if there are scientific and medical steps we can take to improve the lives and health of the general population, including children, then we should definitely do that. But I wonder how easily those individual challenges can be identified among the clamor of amplified dangers sold to us by a fear-mongering news cycle that never ends.

          Also, it seems alarming how many hours of every “news” day are sponsored by prescription drugs. Isn’t it a little backwards for pharmaceutical companies to advertise treatments to undiagnosed patients?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          What Richard said.

          (You may feel free to frame this, Rich)


          I refuse to see people as hapless dopes, powerless to help themselves against the tide of drug commercials. I prefer to hold them responsible.

          I’d be willing to bet I watch more TV than anyone in here and I have yet to ask my doctor about Viagra.

          That said, yeah. The zeitgeist is trending towards extremity in all its guises. Whether in reaction to kids’ behavior, politics, or letigiousness, people have by and large ceded the middle path in favor of fervency.

          Hyperbole, panic, and overreaction are the orders of the day.

        • Gloria says:

          Wait… can women take viagra?

        • Richard Cox says:

          I prefer to hold individuals responsible as well. Corporations are only doing what they are designed to do: make money. As entities they attempt to survive and thrive in their environment the same as we humans do.

          If you can watch all that television and still make your own informed decisions, then more power to you. The rest of us need to turn the frickin’ thing off every once in a while.

        • Zara Potts says:

          The entire pharmaceutical industry is designed to frighten you.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Richard, it’s because you’re not special miracle babies like me.

          G, I don’t know. I don’t think so.

          It was a joke, mostly. I have asked my doctor about Chantix. But I was already a confirmed nicotine addict. I have it in my home and mostly just eye it suspiciously.

          I am determined to try without it first.

          Ambien too. I went on about 3 hours of sleep a night for almost two months, until I started to feel certifiably insane, before I asked my doctor for that stuff. And the second I started sleeping without it, I quit touching it. I am not a pill-prone individual.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Are there statistics available on the actual incidence of parents and schools administering psychopharmaceuticals to children? I know the common wisdom is that we’re all in trouble, and everyone’s throwing ritalin at every child who blinks when it’s unexpected… but what’s the actual truth on the ground? The figures may very well support the common wisdom; I have no idea if they do or if they don’t, but I’m more and more loath to come to conclusions the more I realise that I have no actual data on incidence rates beyond: ‘That’s what the TV said one time,’ or ‘Everyone knows.’

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Wait – that makes it sound as if I think schools are handing out drugs. Rather, I mean the combination of authority figures: parents, schools, doctors, child psychiatrists, etc, coming to the conclusion that Child A should have Drug B.

          Bad wording. Sorry.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, as Greg points out above, there has been a profound increase in diagnoses in the last decade or so.

          While maybe not every child with a clinical diagnosis is necessarily medicated, I would expect there to be some positive correlation (even if not 1-1) between rise in diagnoses and rise in the prescription of psychiatric drugs.

          That said, it’s not just the drugs.

          Labels (that is, the diagnoses themselves, even in the absence of drugs), if they’re administered too giddily, can have serious ramifications for how others view a child, how s/he is treated, the opportunities presented to him/her, and (maybe most importantly) how s/he views him or herself.

          Serious shit, man.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Also worth pointing out that–as Nat indicates–it may not be the same for every country.

          Like, I’m reasonably sure there’s a marked increase in the US. It’d be interesting to know if there are also marked increases elsewhere.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, no doubt. My questioning is how we’re determining just what ‘too giddily’ is, and if that’s in fact something that’s happening. Where’s the data? Everyone I know clucks their head and sighs over the increasing over-pathologisation and over-medicalisation of children these days. I know it’s a problem, because it almost happened to A.J. on The Sopranos.

          That’s it. That’s the complete and total extent of my exposure to the very serious issue of the new paradigm of dealing with children and its dangers.

          I’m not a parent, so my exposure to this world is highly limited. Others are going to have more experience. But I’m leery of engaging with a dialogue until I have more evidence of what the model is, and what its outcomes are, than what I’ve learned from TV.

          I’m also not sure what you mean by a 1:1 ratio between diagnosis:prescription. Wouldn’t that assume that every diagnosis is being made by a qualified psychiatrist with the authority to prescribe medication, as opposed to, say, a psychologist? A psychiatrist who then also decides, every time, the best course of treatment is through medication?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I think maybe you you’re not picking up what I’m throwing down.

          I said there probably is not a 1:1 ratio, only a positive correlation. The instance you offer is one among many reasons why that might be. Other reasons include, but are not limited to, psychiatrists diagnosing but deciding against medication, parents refusing to medicate their children even when it is recommended, etc.

          I have no data. This is a memoir. This is about my experience, my sensitive, pugnacious 8 year-old soul, and my general contempt for authority, especially in the form of teachers and institutions of learning.

          However, Greg appears to have some data, per his comment about the dramatic upswing in diagnoses, so you could maybe get something out of him.

          My only statement was that I’d be willing to bet there’s a positive correlation between the diagnosis upswing Greg indicates and the prescription of medication to children. I mean, it’s a pretty safe statement. It means only that if more children are being diagnosed with specific disorders, then more children should be receiving prescriptions for them.

          What’s “too giddily?”

          That’s an excellent question. Central to the piece, I think.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, look at that! I read ‘if not even 1:1’, not ‘even if not 1:1’, which is something else entirely, and which seemed like a remarkably strange thing to say. Damn it. Now I’ve rendered myself nonsensical. I hate it when that happens.

          “My only statement was that I’d be willing to bet there’s a positive correlation between the diagnosis upswing Greg indicates and the prescription of medication to children.”

          Oh, totally. If there wasn’t, what would the point of psychiatric diagnosis be? You’re suffering from BPD, have a lollipop?

          I don’t know. My feeling is that contempt should be reserved for specifics, not generalities. I think authority isn’t necessarily bad, or stupid, or worthy of contempt – but that doesn’t mean it necessarily isn’t. Personally, I like the fact that white lines on the road keep people from driving their car into me. I like that the Melbourne police busted the guy who broke into my car. On the other hand, my government’s record on dealing with climate change sucks. I think the Australian education system could be better, but also, could be worse. Especially when, to bring it back to this piece in specific, it comes to the individual needs of the individual child.

          It’s one of the reasons I like data so much; it can help to clarify what works or what doesn’t, and what I should be contemptuous of.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I, too, am a fan of data. But I am also a fan of my intuition, which tends to be good.

          When I was 8, however, there was no internet and I was also 8, so I mostly only had my intuition.

      • Tammy Allen says:


    • Gloria says:

      I want to say, too, that I’ve met a lot of teachers and administrators who actually want to do what’s best for my kids – especially my sons. But this is a whole new age. There are kids committing suicide from bullying. Everything is oriented toward limiting liability. I have one kid who is basically an escape artist and another who deals with feeling frustrated by kicking kids – and both are safety concerns. When you kindergartner is getting suspended all the time and then, later, when you’re other child, now a second and then third grader gets suspended all the time, too, for putting his hands or feet on other children, there’s a problem. I would literally have to go to court to even begin to consider medicating my children and, to be honest, I’m not sure it’s the right answer. So, because of their diagnoses, I’m able to get my boys extra supports at school. It’s caused them to be suspended far less often lately and – with total props to their school here – it’s allowed an entire team of caring adults to sit in meeting after meeting while we all come up with a plan that allows my kids (and all the other kids they interact with) to have a more positive school experience, and it’s allowing the teachers to do his or her job.

      I agree that there are overmedicating issues and that kids will be kids. But there’s also a whole other set of parents who look at the behaviors of the kids their kids go to school with who are asking, “What are you doing to protect my children?” and I think it’s a valid answer. And I think the solutions aren’t always clear cut and I think they can be really complicated.

      • Gloria says:

        I think it’s a valid question, not answer.

        Also, please insert “you’re” and “your” where appropriate.

        I’m tired. 😉

      • Becky Palapala says:

        You raise an interesting point with regard to living in a litigious society. I mean, the school itself or adult impatience with kids who stand out or act up isn’t the only thing that might be mucked up in adult systems.

        It’s a bit different in your case, since you’re dealing with a child who acts out physically, but there was a time in which a bully was just a bully and litigation wasn’t the solution.

        That’s not to say that aggressive behavior ought to be ignored or accepted under the shoulder-shrugging assumption that kids will be kids, but it seems to me (not having, of course, lived in any times other than my own), there was at one time more focus on encouraging kids to sort things out for themselves. Like, it didn’t just default to a civil suit. I wonder what effect that has on kids learning to managing their own situation.

        I’m thinking of “A Christmas Story” type of thing. If there’s a bully, dad gives you boxing lessons in the garage and tells you to go stand up for yourself.

        I mean, I realize that’s an idealized or fancified, nostalgic scenario, but I think it does illustrate a fundamental change, not in children but in the way–and with how much gravity–people treat certain behaviors in kids.

        And it is it an increased sensitivity to violence/aggression, naked opportunism, something else? While anyone can be forgiven for asking that their child be reasonably safe and protected, if there is as much focus on the my in “protect my child” coming from other parents as it seems, it strikes me that it is not just about the child. Like, is it some kind of fundamental dysfunction in the way communities intra-relate? I suppose this would be one possible explanation that I would offer to Greg’s quandary, above.

        I, personally, can’t see myself suing some other parent or a school over a kick to the shins. But it’s good–and terrifying–to know that some other parent might. Good, anyway, in the sense that I am warned.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Joe, believe me, I get you.

      And I agree, in large part, if that isn’t already apparent.

      It’s a fine line between difference and pathology.

      It’s one I’ve teetered on, apparently, my whole life. And despite the delicate, unfixed position of the line, the treatment for the two is markedly different.

      Which I think is what you’re alluding to and what I’m talking about when I wonder how different my situation might be–and in what way–if it’d gone the other way.

  2. Irene Zion says:


    You don’t like ice cream?

    • Yeah, that’s highly unusual. Who doesn’t like ice cream? I eat about $2-3 worth of the stuff each and every day. Couldn’t live without it.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I don’t dislike it. I just really only like strawberry, and I have to be in the mood.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Then the only diagnosis I can give you is: ICD.

        (Ice Cream Disorder)

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I also don’t really care for cake. Except carrot cake. But this is a more recent development. The older I get, the lower my tolerance for sugar gets. Except for soda. And the 3-4 tablespoons I put in my coffee.

          Also with regard to ice cream: For years I wouldn’t eat anything but soft serve. I didn’t like the traditional kind, and I found sugar cones (the brown pointy ones) repugnant.

        • I don’t really care for ice cream either, Becky. It’s . . . cold.

          If I do eat it, I prefer soft serve or frozen custard, because it’s at least only cold, rather than cold AND hard. I like the texture better.

          I hate ice cream cones. I will only eat ice cream from a cup or bowl.

          I don’t like cake, carrot or otherwise. But I do like frosting, especially the kind on carrot cake.

          Can’t stand sugar soda. In general, not a big fan of sugar.

          Lately, though, I’ve started putting 1 spoon of sugar into my coffee and tea. I fear this may be a sign of advanced age: it seems quite a little-old-lady thing to do.

          On more pertinent matters: I would probably have been diagnosed with ODD as a kid. I was constantly in trouble at school. I didn’t have tantrums, but I told everybody off. I got in fights, even with boys a lot larger and older than myself. I tormented substitutes, entered in epic battles with teachers. I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Texas. Though I was constantly told I was intelligent, I was accused endlessly of not living up to my potential, of using my “power” for ill rather than good with the other kids, and–by the one teacher I ever had who’d have used a phrase like this–of having a “vitriolic tongue.” I spent much time in the corner, in the principal’s office, in the coat room. I was pushed into cabinets by frustrated teachers, and one even poured a carton of milk over my head.

          Naturally, I was born before such diagnosis became common. Plus, I lived in the ghetto, where people don’t get diagnosed, they just get smacked in the head.

          Interestingly enough, once I grew up and left my neighborhood, all signs of ODD and general miserable pissed-off-ed-ness left my personality. Turns out the problem really WAS “them,” not “me.” I have now become fairly conflict avoidant and friendly. I smile so much I have given myself wrinkles.

          I’d like to write the DSM and propose a category called “Situational ODD,” wherein the afflicted child actually lives surrounded by violent morons for a several mile radius in all directions, and thus becomes a horrendous ball of rage, in which case, rather than a shrink and medication, a real estate agent and relocation are recommended.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’d like to write the DSM and propose a category called “Situational ODD,” wherein the afflicted child actually lives surrounded by violent morons for a several mile radius in all directions, and thus becomes a horrendous ball of rage, in which case, rather than a shrink and medication, a real estate agent and relocation are recommended.

          Amen, Sister.

          I didn’t live in the ghetto. In fact, I was one of the “poor” kids (we’d have been middling anywhere else) in an affluent semi-rural suburb. However, I think “violent moron” works in a figurative sense, too.

          Wherein people are so moronic, the idiocy is a violence unto itself.

          In that sense, I was right there with you, but the only real estate I needed to escape from was K-12 education.

          No one ever pushed me around. Or poured milk on me…

          Okay. Not exactly the same thing. Remotely.

          But in any event, it wasn’t Me-friendly, and at 8, what else did I know?

  3. Gloria says:

    Becky – your mom was rad. I’ll bet she still is. I think future you mom is going to be rad as well. There are no easy answers. Just a bunch of concerned parents trying to figure out what’s best for their kids. Sounds like your mom called this one right.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      My mom IS rad. And, it will probably come as little shock–not an entirely obedient or “easy” youngster herself.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    From what I’ve gleaned, having some experience in these matters, doctors are very, very reluctant to give meds to kids, and parents are even more reluctant to give their kids meds. Meds are used as a last resort, when a situation is untenable and nothing else works.

    That said, seems to me that Kid Becky’s tendency to argue would have been eased somewhat by medicinal marijuana. ; )

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, right. I mean, no one wants to dope up a kid.

      What I’m suggesting is that the tipping point for “untenable” may not be stationary across time. That what was once tenable is no longer so.

      Medical marijuana? No way dude. I was constantly convinced that adults were trying to trick/manipulate me (in my defense, they kind of were). That is, I was already a little paranoid. Weed would NOT have helped that situation at all.

  5. Aaron Dietz says:

    Being completely ignorant of such things, I’m really happy that I now know what DSM IV is. Thanks to fellow-TNBer Lauren Hoffman (she writes about her feelings), I was recently exposed to a barrage of literature about that, including examples. Wow, what a world. You write about it well. Is that compliment? I think so.

    I like that your first Facebook status update after graduating was “I win”–nice way to sum that up. I would have not quite been as eloquent and included a “boo-yah” or two.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I felt like I had won the Iditarod. Well, not won, maybe, since it took me like 13 years, but I finished, anyway.

      And with a 3.9. (Damn you, Prof. Whats-Yer-Name!!!!)

      • Aaron Dietz says:

        Hey, you beat me–it took me 14 years. And you had a better GPA, too!

        • Becky Palapala says:

          By the skin of my teeth, I assure you.

          High five, my fellow non-traditional.

          I just wasn’t able to take it seriously until I was about 25. I couldn’t fathom succumbing to institutionalized higher education. I was sure they would brainwash me.

          I was sure it was a plot. A PLOT.

          I still kind of believe that, actually. But I was somehow able to persevere.

  6. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    As the father of two already headstrong little girls, I’m at the front end of this experience. And I’ve already lost patience with people who describe them as “complicated” or “a handful” or “difficult” because it’s also where some of their greatest strengths lie. So I tend to come down on the side of believing that we’re too quick to want to “tranquilize into capitulation” (to use Becky’s excellent phrase). Though I see Gloria’s point too, particularly when it comes to liability issues. I’m raising my daughters in a country where doctors don’t frequently prescribe drugs like Ritalin and where personal law suits are much less common, while at the same time kids tend to be wilder over here and spanking and corporal punishment generally more accepted, which makes for louder households.

    But I’m glad to hear your story, Becky. From where I stand, leaving these childhood traits of yours undiagnosed seems to have paid off. For instance, I only hope I have girls who one day can shout down trolls with such aplomb.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Ah. It’s true. Trolls are my kryptonite. When I find them, I tend to abandon myself to the biggest asshole version of me I can still cobble together.

      Though I’m getting better. It wasn’t too long ago that I WAS the troll.

      The infuriating word for me, as a kid, was “potential.”

      “But you/she have/has so much potential!”

      It was intended to be a compliment or some kind of encouragement, but the immediate situation implicit was that whoever I was now was unsatisfactory or bad or not good enough. My worth lied in the hope that I would one day be some other way. The use of that word made my skin crawl. Usually resulted in some kind of outburst.

  7. I’m not sure what to say about this. I am very definitely ignorant on the topic, but I have been teaching (although, obviously, I’m not a real teacher) for about three years, and have seen a lot of kids with a lot of problems. In this part of the world, parents will absolutely refuse to acknowledge any issue with a child’s development. It’s considered shameful. Better just to ignore it and give them an extra motivational beating. Even an untrained fool like me can see that a lot of these kids have learning and behavioural issues, but the parents say differently. If a teacher tries to explain, the parents will move their kid to a school with more understanding teachers. Yeah…

    Which makes me wonder. We do definitely seem to be interested in applying labels in this modern society of ours, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Yes, in as much as it makes everyone think they have a problem. But no, in that it helps us (at least, I think it does…) to address real problems.

    Or maybe we just need to be rational about it. Which is, of course, asking a lot.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I’m basically interested in whatever makes sense.

      Which usually means handling things on a case-by-case basis. But that’s a challenge, right, for the people creating and managing the DSM IV, whose very charge it is to speak in generalities and for teachers/administrators who are under tremendous pressure not to over-commit their time or efforts to a small handful of difficult/struggling kids.

      My vacillations were tremendous. I was pulling As in AP classes one year and flunking out of gym. GYM. The next. (I was reasonably athletic. I just didn’t like gym and couldn’t always be enticed to show up.)

      I’d make all kinds of money off my father on my report card one quarter then end up grounded because of my report card the next. It had a lot to do with my interest level in whatever classes I had. But it put me–and teachers and my parents–in a weird position. Obviously I was smart enough and had no trouble learning. Obviously I was completely capable of handling myself in a civil and responsible way, with little intervention. But convincing me that was what I wanted to do was a crapshoot. I can’t think there aren’t plenty of other kids just like that. What I think is changing is what becomes of them.

      • Gloria says:

        I flunked gym and passed AP English the same term, too. In my defense, I quit participating in gym when the teacher, Mr. Whoeverthehell, would put one of the cheerleaders on his lap to do roll and then would mark me down for not remembering my gym shorts. He was gross. Furthermore, I reported him to the school board. I was a nuisance.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          What is with gym teachers? We had one of those at my…I believe it was Jr. High.

          He never bothered me any, but I think he was eventually fired for some kind leering or inappropriate comments or something with regard to some other girls.

      • Sounds like we were quite similar as students. I got that impression from the post, and definitely from this comment. Even today I struggle to feign interest, or persevere with something unless it naturally intrigues me.

        That’s a fair point, too, about the DSM IV. I suppose they do have to use generalities.

  8. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Sigh. Damn you, Becky. I had decided to not start my day commenting and just get some damned work done and then… you. I’m glad I read Gloria’s perspective before joining Joe’s stance. It always seemed to me the folks most loudly proclaiming some new disorder were researchers looking for funding or lawyers (sorry, Joe) trying to create yet another protected class. I almost forgot to look past the jaded blinders and see that there are real people, too.

    That having been written, I’m glad the fools didn’t tamper with you. I, too, was a “miracle baby” (several doctors told my mom I was actually a tumor and had already scheduled a hysterectomy before our family doc stepped in) and [cough] a little problematic. One of the last times I was sent to the dean’s office in high school, he was late for our meeting. I gave him a proper five minutes, asked his secretary for some stationery, then wrote him a scathing letter on the importance of professionalism and punctuality if he expected to be taken seriously. Later, I was pretty much fired by our first family therapist. He kept muttering “That troubles me,” in response to almost anything I said. I got exasperated enough to suggest that he seek therapy himself, given that he was apparently deeply “troubled”. Asshole.

    I suspect – strongly – that you will do just fine by your future kids. Come down to Colorado and you can practice on mine – my wife and I could use a vacation. 😉

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Maybe they need to declare a compulsive diagnosis for doctors prone to implying “miracle babies” all over the place.

      They are obviously responsible for producing at least two utterly spoiled brats. Imagine the countless others that may have suffered at the hands of these whack-a-doos. (Whack-a-doo!!!)

      *preens, fluffs, smiles at self in mirror* So, so speshul….

      I’m glad they didn’t tamper with me, too. I haven’t had an easy time of it, and some lessons were harder-learned than others, but I think, in my case anyway, there is something to be said for having been forced to figure it out.

      The best course of action in every case? Probably not. Which just goes to show the difficulties parents and teachers and others charged with the welfare of children have to face. But I wonder what happens when kids, maybe kids who are walking the line a bit, aren’t sort of trusted or commanded to get out there and figure it out. Like, when they’re told instead they’re institution cases whose decisions and behaviors are best managed by a special cadre of certified menace handlers.

      It troubles me, Drew. I’m going to call you Drew now. Because “Andrew” is too long & formal, “Andy” is too diminutive, and “Anon” no longer seems appropriate.

  9. Even though I have no children, I concur.

    With everyone. On everything.

    Except for the ice cream.

    So there.


  10. Matt says:

    Funny – I was just talking about this same topic with someone last night.

    I’m inclined to see a little bit of a cause-effect relationship here: our science has given us a greater understanding of these behavioral conditions, and as a consequence we tend to label it “problem” and rush to treat it as such, especially with the current pharmacological fad.

    What chides me are, as Gloria mentions, the other parents who feel so quick to rush to judgement on the matter, as though by virtue of have simply squirted a kid out into the world they’re suddenly qualified as an authority on all things parental. I don’t have kids, either, but I have taught tons of them of varying age groups in my karate classes since 1993, and have seen plenty of behavioral problems (the martial arts tend to attract parents who want their kids to learn some form of discipline). There’ve been some fully legit psychological issues, sure – a couple of autistics, one textbook case of fetal-alcohol syndrome – but in an overwhelming majority of cases it was very easy to see how my student’s problems stemmed from what sort of parenting they were recieving.

    I’m pretty sure that, had I been born a few years later, I very likely would have been put on the kiddie version of Prozac. Why? Because I was quiet. Because I liked to read. Because I never smiled in family photos. Because I didn’t always socialize well with the other kids at whatever new school I’d been enrolled in that year. All behaviors that would now be labled anti-social or pathologically withdrawn or something along those lines after a couple of sessions with a therapist. None of which would really take into account what was going on in my home to cause such behavior. Hell, during my parent’s divorce I was sent to a child psychologist several times (I don’t remember the exact impetus), and at no point did he key onto what was going on in my home life, a problem that would go unadressed for over a decade.

    Which I suppose could lead me into a rant about our cultural tendency to “blame the victim,” but I won’t go there.

    • Gloria says:

      I’d like to say, too, though, Matt that not all childhood behavior is necessarily a result of what a parent is doing wrong. Parents make all kinds of mistakes. All kinds of parents. All kinds of mistakes. Sure. But, you know, sometimes are just the way they are.

      That said, I can totally relate to you. I was a fist-fighting, scrapping loudmouth for a lot of years – the direct result of what was going on in my home. But I was also a remarkably good kid in many ways despite (or maybe because) of it. There are just too many variables. I don’t think it’s any better or easier to blame the parent than it is to blame the child. I think what would be best is a solution-oriented system devoid of blame.

      • Matt says:

        I don’t for moment it all is the result of parenting, good or bad. What I was (failing) to get at was that psychology/pharmacology seems – key word – to be giving parents an easy way to elude culpability for those mistakes you mention, focusing too much on the what and not on the why.

        And I hatehateHATE how some people are using these diagnosese as an excuse for shitty behavior. “Oh, I was diagnosed with ADD/BP/Codependency/OCD/Bipolar Disorder – this is just how I am” all while behaving in the same negative manner they did before being diagnosed. I’m sorry, but I find that to be utter bullshit; if you have the self-awareness to understand that you have a legitimate problem, you have the capability (I will refrain from saying responsibility) to change your behavior.

        • Gloria says:

          I know you didn’t, Matt. I’m a little raw about this whole “blame the parent” thing and I’ll own that it’s really my own issue. And now I’ll make an enormously concerted effort to just shut up and listen. 🙂

          To the people that use their whatever as an excuse – I agree. It’s lame. I definitely feel an extra burden to teach T and I that they are not ever going to be excused for their behavior. That the world just doesn’t care, so suck it up and learn some life skills. But I do try to say, “I don’t approve of your behavior, but I do approve of you.” I think that’s an important distinction and I hope it’ll be helpful.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I don’t think anyone’s too horribly into “blame the parent” either.

          My position, at least, is that kids reflect back more than just what their parents are throwing down. I mean, they’re subject to an entire adult system of which their parents are just a part, and in many cases, a system that is just as confusing and impenetrable to the parents as it is to the kids.

          That’s sort of what I was driving at by suggesting litigiousness is a good example of the seemingly unrelated ways the madness of contemporary community/social relationships can put kids in a weird or tough spot.

          I tend not to like blaming anything superorganic, like “society” or “culture,” since it’s a rhetorical mindfield, but there is a sort of involuntary conspiracy at work, to which we’re all sort of contributors AND victims.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          a mindfield and a minefield

        • Matt says:

          Actually, given the nature of this piece & the ensuing discussion, “mindfield” is a rather appropriate choice of words.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I guess I never thought of myself as a victim.

      No one has perfect parents, of course. Everyone on God’s green earth has been “messed up” by their parents in some way or another. Some more visibly or deeply than others, but to the man, our parents have made their marks. Though whether someone has been fortunate or messed up in regards to their parents is largely a matter of perspective. People who really disdain conflict are likely to see me as messed up. May blame my parents for having spoiled me. Others may get a kick out of it. See it as a boon. “Good for Becky and her obstinacy and force of will. Her parents played it right.”

      What can one even do with that?

      There is a fair amount of evidence, at least in my case, that a good portion of this attitude was something I was born with or at least developed so early on that it’s tough to argue my parents had much to do with it.

      So the biological hand you’re dealt plays a role, too. As far as personality traits go, I believe that there is the most evidence that introversion/extroversion may be a biological predisposition, potentially genetic, but others facets of personality may be, too. Like, there’s a good chance you would have been shy even if you’d had a less tumultuous home life.

      Of course, it’s speculation. Which is one of the stinkers of personality psych. You can’t take the same person and expose them to different life experiences except in rare cases of separated twins.

      Which, interestingly enough, MN tends to be at fore of research on. But still. Even genetic twins are not the same person.

  11. Oh, I have a whole library of self-help books in regards to children. My two little girls are both stubborn and mischievous and clever and argumentative (even the one who can’t speak in complete sentences yet), but at the same time the things that can make them difficult to parent are the things that make them exceptional little individuals.

    I agree with Kimberly. Everyone’s right. Some of you are more right. And I’m not telling who. I opt for thumb wrestling.

  12. Richard Cox says:

    “…should the moment come when I’m sitting in a principle’s office somewhere, my child staring at her shoes, kicking her heels on the chair, answering some administrator’s questions–or mine–monosyllabically out of either shame or fury, I wonder if I’ll be strong enough, prescient enough, lucid enough, to recognize the reality of my–and more importantly, my child’s–situation. To discern whether it’s my child or the adult system around her that, in fact, has the problem. To act accordingly.”

    You’re a smart person, Becky. And you have a good enough memory to recount your situation for us and write about it here. I think you’ll be lucid enough to recognize your child’s reality. You’ve done well preparing for it just now. 🙂

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I hope you’re right.

      I have terrible visions of me and my son or daughter mooning some poor principle through his office window.

      “EH BUDDY! ODD? WE GOT YOUR O.D.D. RIGHT HERE!!!! Run! Run child! Le’sgo!”

      But I wouldn’t do that. I don’t think.

      • Gloria says:

        Well, you know, I was the first person to teach Sierra, Tolkien, and Indigo how to give the middle finger. They’d never heard of such a thing prior. Just saying…

  13. ND says:

    There’s a “slight” difference between harmless lies of the sort imaginative kids tell and repeatedly telling police in multiple states people are abusing you for no other reason than you got grounded for threatening people with knives, stealing things, running away, hurling vegetables, breaking mirrors, destroying furniture, etc. Just saying.

  14. Tammy Allen says:

    I hate ice cream

    Usually there is a lack of parenting involved.

    Sometimes it’s over parenting.

    I watch Super-Nanny so I can pat myself on the back and realize I’m a great mom – mistakes and all.

    It is a case by case issue.

    Gloria is proactive and aware and concerned about her kids. She does the best she can. And so do I.

    Your mom rocked Becky.

    The labels are helpful in some instances.

    Drugs are a personal choice.

    Yes. Women can take viagra. It’s usually prescribed if a woman has a low libido and it’s causing relationship problems. Not commonly discussed so not commonly known. The woman’s clitoris acts very similarly to a man’s penis. Shut up! I’m studying to be a Medical Assistant.

  15. Darian Arky says:

    I got away with too much crap as a kid, and my parents and teachers (most of them) gave me all the slack I needed as a “smart, special” kid to basically screw around and wind up with not much of a real education, but plenty of skills for bullshitting my way through life to get what I wanted — or to avoid what I didn’t want. I was never aggressive, because appearing to be polite and cooperative just worked so much better. Twenty years in the Army didn’t teach me discipline as much as how to get what I wanted in an even more structured environment with lots of rules. Now I know how to appear “smart” without really being educated, how to fake politeness, and how to seemingly cooperate with others while actually pursuing my own selfish goals and using the system to my advantage. Is it any wonder I’m a diplomat? Anyway, being “bad” — and I’d have a hard time saying I was ever truly “good” — isn’t necessarily the only sign of a deformed and dangerous personality.

  16. Darian Arky says:


    Somewhere along the line I learned how to write, and it’s something that’s gotten me a long way in life — not because I do it well, but because so many people do it so poorly, and the middling to upper echelons of government hierarchy are (for now) still occupied by people who value writing that isn’t bad as a way to get things — or even to get them done. So, I’ve focused on honing my writing skills to make up for not having any others. Combined with Google and my substantial on-line presence, it all has a way of making me look smart. It’s just a Potemkin village. But I’ve moved a couple of pieces of furniture into one of the dachas, and it’s a comfortable place to hang out. Wanna get smashed on vodka and go throw rocks at the peasants?

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well it suits you. As usual, you sell yourself way short on your writing skills, especially since they’re self-taught.

      I am uncomfortable in the rah-rah role, and now you’re just milking it. It’s like you’ve got a sprained ankle that never heals, and you just lie there, yelping from the couch. It’s getting conspicuous, sir!

      That said,


  17. Erika Rae says:

    I have to believe that kids like you (kids who question and assert themselves) are capable of such greater leaps than those who don’t. My husband is like this. He questions everything. Rejects authority on all levels. Rages against the machine in every way and tries desperately to make his mark in life in spite of the repeated battering he gets for not playing by the rules. As a result, the downside is so much harsher. The failures more poignant. Life in general is just plain maddening. But man. When he finally hits that hole he’s aiming for someday, I have no doubt it’s going to be one firework filled sky. And then there’s me. Heh. I play an excellent game of putt-putt. Whoop.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Oh man, Erika, I have been banking on the fireworks display for so long. Worst fear: On my death bed, proclaiming “I could’ve been a contendah!!” before gasping my last.

      I suppose that’s the gamble inherent, though. As Mom would say: “Well. Everything is a tradeoff.”

      I admire expert putt-putters. Truly. You have no idea.

    • J.M. Blaine says:

      I was a back of the class
      stick of gum & a coloring book
      in remedial math
      & front row pet
      in honor’s English.

      In the same year.

      There’s a new DSM V coming
      out next year
      and rumor has it
      only one page long.

      We Are All Crazy

  18. Jessica Blau says:

    Glad you weren’t and aren’t medicated. The world needs your voice!

  19. dwoz says:

    I subscribe to the theory that we are born pure and sane. Every day spent converting oxygen and sugar into CO2 and manure we become incrementally more insane, until we finally reach that day when it actually seems to make SENSE to vote republican.

    I guess my point is that we’re all, each and every one, careening away from sanity at a breakneck pace, it’s just that a good solid lot of us are apparently careening in the same direction. As if sanity is the top of the mountain…not many people fall UP the mountain.

    The only reason that I can say MY insanity is more “normal” is that there seems to be a statistical numbers advantage to the insanity I incline towards.

    Assigning someone the label “OCD” or “ADD” doesn’t mean I’m more sane than them, just that they’re engaged in a different flavor of insanity than me.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Ah, don’t sell yourself short, man.

      I, for one, think you are a rather remarkable loony.

      All joking aside, I think there’s truth to the numbers game you cite, but I also think some part of it, at least an inclining–even if not predetermining–part, is something we’re born with.

      Whether it’s genetic or some other form of pre-natal situation, I think people are born different.

      • dwoz says:

        Yes, that is of course a given, that we’re born different.

        Maybe we’re all CONCEIVED the same. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most of us ARE conceived in exactly the same way.

        Again, all seriousness aside, I think it’s really a case of evaluating whether the personal coping strategy each of us employ, happens to exhibit a net “win.”

        “Win” unfortunately being an ambiguous and self-contradictory term. i.e. there are plenty of sociopaths that outwardly seem entirely well-adjusted.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, arguably, if their behavior is not causing them considerable life difficulties, including but not limited to difficulties they suffer as a result of having harmed others, then arguably, they are not sociopaths at all.

          I think that’s one of the conditions of being certified. Your condition needs to make your life unusually difficult or unmanageable in some way.

  20. Slade Ham says:

    Dear god, this sounds exactly like me, hahaha. Too many similar experiences here to count, but I too floated through grades six throuh twelve with a fluctuating average. Literally A to F depending on my mood. I had a 9 in English my senior year, not because I couldn’t read or write, but because I refused to re-read things I had read five or six years ago and didn’t like the first time. Ultimately my teacher and I worked out an agreement so I wouldn’t fail.

    I made D’s most of my senior year because I didn’t care and then smoked the SAT the summer after I graduated on no sleep and with a hangover. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong pschologically. I just hated the system.

    I went through tons of sessions with a child psychologist too. Most of them during my parents’ custody battle, but then several more because I displayed CLEAR signs of this so called ODD. The truth was, I was a teenage boy. Teenagers act like that. Yes, some more than others… but fuck the degrees, that’s just what they do.

    And my stepdad was dick. That didn’t help.

    All the results of all the tests and sessions and questions were the same – there’s nothing wrong with him. He knows the rules and he breaks them purposefully. Deal with it.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I failed gym sophomore and junior year. I would’ve only had to take it sophomore year (and pass, of course). So my Sr. year, I was in a gym class with a bunch of snot-nosed 15 year-olds who teased me about being old and waaaay too competitive. But I was stuck there, forced to stay and pass to graduate. I was allowed to pick which class I was in, though. Principle was like, “What class will you be the most likely to show up for?”

      With no options left, I applied myself. My teacher was the girls’ track coach and tried to recruit me to the track team after I came within two inches of the school’s girls’ high-jump record on my second day of ever encountering a high jump.

      But THAT she could not make me do. “Haha! FU bitch! You want this? You can’t HAVE it!”

      Okay. I didn’t say that.

      Super badass me. Damning the man and fucking my own opportunities all in one deft dirty look.

      I believe there’s already a TNB “I’ve been dead before club.” Maybe you and Gina and Wills and I can form a TNB Juvenile Delinquency Nostalgia Club.

      We could all get together and drive around giving the finger or something.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Why JD nostalgia? We should do something current and delinquent. Just to show we still have it, ya know? The way football players still get into pick up games.

        We SHOULD start a club.

  21. Gareth says:

    My 25 years as a secondary/high school teacher have taught me that most children suffer from the often debiliting condition of IPCD.

    As a teacher I’ll all too aware of the challenges created by allowing children out into the world. However, there does seem to be (at least in western cultures) an increasing need for everyone to be “the same” … to stifle individuality.

    Of course, I also know that some kids really are just nutters who should be kept drugged … and, preferably, locked away from the rest of us.

    As a parent, I really enjoy the wonderful eccentricities of my children … though it sometimes drives me out of my mind … and there isn’t anyone in the world going to be allowed to drug them because they are “lively” or “restless”.

    ICCD? Ignorant Parents, Crappy Diet.

  22. Eber says:

    Excellent. I love reading your stuff. Insightful (some times incitable) and always funny. Brava, Becky.

    My oldest son was a Montessori malcontent and we were similarly required to see a child psych by the school commandant. Fortunately we found a good Doctor who after 4 weeks told us to get our 4 year old right-brained high-energy creative kid the fuck out of the Montessori state-of-the-art child assembly line. Years later I tried to locate this woman and thank her but never could.

    Now not liking ice cream – thats a serious disorder.


    • Becky Palapala says:

      Eber, I miss you a lot. Where you been?

      If I’m counting your kids right, the advice was masterful. Prescient, even.

      I had a day care provider who got me. Was unfazed by my ill behavior. Surprisingly, or not at all, found me entertaining.

      I guess talents in teaching are like talent in anything else: Few and far between.

  23. Gareth says:

    My wife just read the article, and says I show four out of the six symptoms for ODD.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Oh, there’s more. That’s only a sampling.

      If you wanted to look it up, you could go as much as 8 for 10. Dare to dream!

      • Gareth says:

        I did just look them up.

        1) it IS someone else’s fault; and 2) what exactly is wrong with a “Revengeful attitude”?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Nothing. Nothing at all, Gareth. The only reason they didn’t make my list is because they weren’t MY primary symptoms.

          I think “revengeful attitude,” in particular, sounds very super-hero-ish. Like Batman, but a snotty little brat.

        • Gareth says:


          … hang on, did you just compare me with Batman, or call me a snotty little brat?

          I know which one most people I know would say applies.

          I mean, it’s 2:00am, one can’t sleep, but is not actually awake enough to do anything useful or constructive … what else is there to do but lie there staring into the darkness and thinking over exactly what it is that I’m am going to do to that bastard who screwed me over that time in 1992? If I ever see him again … which is highly unlikely … but if …

          Still, now I have validation for it – I have a legitimate disorder.

          I think I’ll get a t-shirt made: “ODD and Proud!”

        • Gareth says:

          That is not to say that any snotty little brat who gobs off at me isn’t going to get a smack around the head and force-fed Ritalin.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Um. Neither?


          I meant more in general. Revenge-taking children in general. Makes kindergarten seem like it could be more like Gotham City.

          I guess…

          There was that spate of superhero South Park episodes lately. Sort of like that. Professor Chaos and General Disarray!

        • Gareth says:

          It’s OK, I’ve bben called worse … but never actually even romeotely linked in a sentence with Batman.

          Actually TAKE revenge? Oh no, that would require far too much effort. You should look up the word “veleity”. I want that on my grave-stone … just that one word.

          School in general IS Gotham Cityish (Cityesque?) … all that strident morality (small children especially can be moralistic to an incredible extent).the clear-cut difference between right and wrong, and with a little bit of striving for Übermenschness thrown in.

          I was recently given a box-set of South Park by a friend, but have yet to open it. I definitely get around to it … sometime.

          But I do remember (sort of) that W.H. Auden did something (on which I can’t at this moment put my hand … where’s Rodent when one needs him?) telling a story about a boys boarding school in the style of a Norse Saga.

        • Gareth says:


          Hmmm … there is something disturbing about that typo.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Batman does have some pretty amazing abs. And with a face like Christian Bale’s who could blame you for a romeotely Freudian slip?

          That said, I sort of like the word. Something lyrical in it.

          Reminiscent of that children’s song…”Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy too…”

          Which when sung, sounds like a bunch of nonsense words…

          Anyway. Romeo’ll eat ivy too…

          Wait. What were we talking about?

          Oh yes. I hadn’t heard of the Auden saga. It sounds amusing. Or is it more disturbing? A la “Lord of the Flies?”

          South Park is excellent. On the one hand, often purile; on the other hand, really, really, lucid socio-cultural commentary. I mean, underneath the poop jokes.

          The superhero-centered episodes were all this season, so you’ll have to wait to see them on DVD, but they’re a lot of fun. Professor Chaos and his sidekick General Disarray were introduced many seasons ago, though…

        • Gareth says:

          My stream of thought went past Mark Knopfler’s “Romeo and Juliet” (always sung by Amy Ray in my head) straight to “Twas in a restaurant that they met, and Romeod what Juliet”.

          I am now beginning to doubt my memories of the Auden thing … I’ve been racking my brains, but can’t pin it down (age is not being kind to what started as a medicocre memory).

          Poop jokes have their place.

  24. Brad Listi says:

    The thought of witnessing you under the influence of heavy sedatives is, I will confess, an entertaining one.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I got rufied once. It’s really my only gauge. But if it’s any indication, the most likely outcome is that I would, midway through a conversation with the ID-checking guy, fall face-down in the doorway of a bar and burn a hole in my jacket with a cigarette.

  25. Not-my-real-name says:

    Commenting anon. cause of my job. I have worked with young kids for 13 years now, and have a degree in Alternative Early Childhood Education. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 grown, 1 teen and a younger one. I own a really small daycare/preschool. We are organic, my hubby is bi-polar and went off his meds years ago and I’m saying all of this just so you know that I am NOT a fan of labeling or god-forbid medicating anyone.

    That said, I must also say that I am writing because I currently have a 3 year old in my care who fits your opening description exactly. I will refer to this child as “X” for ease. I pretty much let X be the way X is, except that X’s behavior is now beginning to adversely affect the other kids in my care. One family is taking their child elsewhere because they don’t like the way their child is treated by X. I can’t argue with them either, their child is an unusually sweet and giving 3 year old and although I advocate and get the children to tell each other what is going on in order to help each of them, X is a problem in this social setting. X is mean to the other kids and the other kids just don’t understand why they have to do everything X wants yet X won’t play their games with them…just one example.

    I don’t have a solution, just pointing out that in all my years working with little ones, X is one of 3 kids that come to mind as being challenging to a point of wondering if there is something “wrong” with them. I am sure that X will be fine when older. I hope. For now, I wish X’s parents would find another daycare because nobody is happy when X is around, which is really sad because X deserves to have friends.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Bummer for X.

      And you.

      And X’s parents. And sweet kid’s parents.

      Do X’s parents know about X’s behavior? I mean, they must. Unless s/he only inflicts it on you/daycare.

      I was a day care kid and my mom is neurotic still that it might have given me abandonment issues.

      I don’t know. Maybe it did.

      Then again, plenty of kids get through daycare with no apparent issues at all. So, you know. I wish I had some great advice for you or something. But especially at SO young…I mean, you’re limited in what you can do to reason with such a kid.

  26. Tawni says:

    How did I miss this, Becky? I really need to remember to check TNB for new posts more often. Sheesh. Slacker.

    I loved reading about smart little kid you. I love your very wise mom. I hope to always have my son’s back the way she had yours.

    “Because you’re smarter than they are, and they don’t know what to do about it.” = awesome.

    I also really enjoyed reading all of the comments, thoughts and different viewpoints on the matter of labeling and medicating kids.

    I have been warned by my father-in-law that the school will most likely try to label my son with A.D.D. like they tried with his father as a child. They apparently tried to talk him into medicating my active husband as a child, but my father-in-law refused. Instead, he made sure his son played outside constantly to burn off the extra energy, and was involved in multiple sports.

    My husband has no signs of adult A.D.D. and grew up just fine. I am planning on sports, exercise, and perhaps a drum set for my high-energy, artistic little four-year-old, because I will homeschool him before I will allow anyone to medicate him. I’ve never been in this situation before, and every child is different, so I try not to harshly judge the decisions of other parents, but that is one thing I feel very strongly about.

    We were fortunate to find a private kindergarten that doubles as a gymnastics academy, and because he gets tons of exercise all day long, he is a star pupil. No A.D.D. issues or teacher concerns whatsoever. Next year, however, he starts public school, and I am terrified that without all of the extra exercise, he will be restless and under-stimulated. I’m not looking forward to the parent-teacher conferences. You know how much I loathe conflict. Wanna come with me? (:

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