As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Teaching kids to do “weird”

As a mother, I have only one annual over the top activity.  It’s in the form of an exuberant advent calendar.  Shameless bribery?  Perhaps.  Guilt-reducing?  Check.  As much for me as for my sons?  Definitely.

But its appearance can be deceiving.  The 24 little gifts I package up and hang from our kitchen light fixture are not exactly iTunes cards, electronics, or valuable baubles.  They shade a little more towards Morticia Adams.  Things like little skulls and antique pathology slides.  I’ve described my sons’ (decidedly mixed) reactions to these things before, in this older post.

A couple times, I’ve tried to give the whole thing up, but the natives revolted.  This sealed my freedom to go “weird.”

OK, they already know “weird” because they grew up with me.  But in the face of all the holiday sparkles, I like to share my belief that treasures are not always new, pretty, or valuable.  They only have to capture your eyes, heart, or sense of humor.  Below is a sampling of the ones they’ll be getting this year.  (And since the kids don’t read my blog, no surprises are spoiled.)

Glass slides of WW2 aircraft.

Strange little vaguely Egyptian or Cambodian beads.  I hope no one thinks they are edible.

Big tall glass pipettes.  Yes, these will kick around my house forever.  They will start on the kitchen table, until I move them to the boys’s rooms.  Then they will get stuffed in various corners.  Then one will roll off a desk and break.  One will get lost.  And the third one will somehow mean something to one of the boys and it will end up on display or in a piece of art.  I’m in it for that one.

Seaweed.  One of my boys asks for this. The other two will twist up their faces in disgust and give their packages to the happy one.Antique dental molds.  This, my friends, is the main event.  It will inspire the “Nightmare on Dane Road” discussions with a future therapist.

This is not so bad.  Honey cones from the Netherlands.  When I was having my annual stress out November moment over finding 24 gifts, I happened to have a little fit in front of a friend who was travelling to Amsterdam.  He brought these back to help me cover one of the 24. Sweet!

I would not even want to sample this drink, but I bet one of my three guys will love it.  Probably the seaweed guy.  The one who gets H-Mart gift certificates for his birthday.

Just what is “Brown Mixture” anyway?  Of course shaking it makes all the difference.These are kind of sweet.  The little bird “perches” (or impaling implements, depending on your sensibility)  are paper scrolls you can pull out from under the tiny Tweety birds.  I did, and wrote nice “mom” messages on them.  But then I decided to get fancy and color the birds with felt pens and I pretty much destroyed them.  Not on purpose.  I wasn’t going for weird at all–but I got it–by Golly!

There are always some kitchy foods.  This is not antique.  Antique kitchy foods would just be disgusting.  And I suppose the “rainforest chicle” ingredient would be a good clue that these are VERY 2011.  Yes Mr. Glee, I will now buy your gum because I am also being a virtuous environmentalist saving tropical eco-systems when I blow these bubbles.

I do include some tasty treats too.  Locally produced or treasures from my travels, when I am enough on the ball to remember to collect them throughout the year.  Which is pretty much never.  The reality is I might have a maximum of five Advent items collected before November, and then I go on a crazy kamikaze quest for a couple weeks.  (See Dutch honey cones above.  Having fits in front of kind friends helps.)

This is just plain sweet.  I always seem to have some kind of nest or egg theme for one of the days.  My source for many of the non-food items is called “Nesting”…so there is no shortage of aviary-type items.

There is always at least one gift that features the boys’ initials.  These are some kind of metallic letter decals.  Very Archie and Veronica.

These teeny tiny books are so old and brittle that the Rudyard Kipling (Original Mr. Weird) one I opened to make the photo almost broke in half.

OK so the Advent is up earlier than ever.  (Pat on back for OTT Mom)  And what am I hearing,?  Ooohs and ahhs and little sprinkling of excited clapping?  Uh… no.  It is:  “Mommmmmm.  Why did you go all earthy and Prius-driving on us?”  Browns?  Greens?  This looks like mud.  Where is the red?  Where are our old cool packages?  This is not Christmassy at all.  It is depressing.”

See below, at what I did for too many years in a row, carefully saving and reusing the packages.  I was sick of it.  But I guess I am still failing massively on the “teach weird” front.  They want red and sparkles.  Grrrrr.

Some post Christmas additions:

  • I hadn’t noticed this when I selected it, but the main ingredient in Brown Mixture is…opium!  Always a popular gift from a mother to son.
  • When the boys opened the pipettes one commented “Why did you give us pipettes?”  The other boy wryly commented, “Aren’t we beyond asking why?”
  • The seaweed went down exactly as predicted.

5 Responses to “Teaching kids to do “weird””

  1. Stephanie

    Jules, this is so creative and amazing – I love it! I’m sure your boys do, too…even if it’s not all sparkly and red 🙂

  2. Phil

    I love this tradition. You have inspired me to think more weird during the holidays. Thank you! Phil


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