Childhood Confusions

The mysterious things that made us go 'Huh?'
September 07, 2009

I don't know about you, but my childhood had many awkward moments. Amidst the fun times and innocence of it all, I found my growing intelligence often hindered by my understanding of the world around me. I couldn't always depend on the teachings of my Sesame Street friends to help me learn the mysteries of the world, I had to learn from my mistakes. This article details some of the things I had a hard time wrapping my brain around. I'll keep this short and sweet to leave room to expand on later.

ABC: It's Easy as One, Two, Tree

This one is one of the big ones from my life. The scene: Preschool classroom. The agenda: Let's learn numbers. It's an easy subject. All we were learning was to count to the number 10. We had recently mastered the ABC song that is melodically sung to the jingle of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, so our new endeavor was numbers. We slowly but surely learned all the numbers, but to my surprise later, I had learned how to say the number 3 wrong. My older sister and her friend quickly shot me down when I was trying to impress them with my new numerical conquest. In my ignorance, I said 'Tree' instead of 'Three'. Let's just say I learned my lesson.

Oh Snap!

This is another one that I learned harshly during my preschool years. My music teacher was teaching us a song and asked if any of us 5 year olds knew how to snap our fingers to the rhythm of the song. I rapidly raised my hand to beat my peers to getting the congratulations that I so desperately craved. I overlapped my thumb nail over my middle finger nail and flicked my middle finger forward creating a faint clicking sound. I thought that that was how you snapped your fingers and proudly presented my tiny clicks to my teacher with a smile. She shook her head and told me that I was doing it all wrong. I felt bad, but at least I tried. The rest of the class was just sitting there picking their noses or undoing and doing their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles velcro tennis shoes.

It Lurks Within Your Nose

Speaking of which...I'm gonna be honest with you guys, I used to pick my nose. That's an aspect of my childhood that I always tried to keep under the rug, but I was caught every so often with my finger in my nose. To keep me from continuing the gross habit, my dad would tell me that I had this ugly monster in the back of my nose that would snatch my finger and eat it if I agitated him too much. This was never enough to scare me, though. My parents would have to resort to horror stories of my sister getting a rock stuck up her nose and made it bleed. That held me over for a long, long time.

The Gleek of the Week

Talk about the ultimate secret weapon. It hides quietly in your big brother's mouth. In a matter of milliseconds an explosion of nastiness shoots from his mouth and towards you. You scream in horror as the gleam from his saliva inches closer to your bare face. Then, splat. You are forever humiliated and left to wonder how to do this wonder called gleeking. Yes, my older brother would do this often to me to tick me off and I never knew, and still don't know, how he did it. I mean, today I can infer in how this phenomena happens, but I never was able to master it. I would often just try to spit at him. He'd get angry at me because I wasn't playing by his rules, but that was the only way I knew how to closely imitate him.

"Who's Controlling the CPU?"

Before the well received invention of online gaming on a major game console, I would think that the game characters that I wasn't playing as were controlled by some kid like me across the world. I remember playing Road Rash 2 on my Sega Genesis while sitting on my brother's black bean-bag. I was playing very intently into the wee hours of the night and thought that some kid in Japan was playing as the character of Biff. He was always the guy that peeved me the most and would always seem to win if I didn't. Back then I had no idea what AI was, so I came up with this explanation for the exceptional playing of the computer characters. When I found out that this wasn't the case, a little piece of me died in the myths of my childhood.

Paying The Electric Company... not the show

My mother would always tell me that every time I flipped my light switch, we were charged a quarter (regardless if it was on or off). So, to show my responsibility I tried my best to either leave the light on or off for long periods of time. What I didn't know was that the electric company charges for the length of time an appliance is left on. In the end, I was wasting a lot of money when I left my lights and stuff on, but who really cares? I was just the little innocent angel that I was.

This Here Folding Money

In 2nd grade, my teacher was teaching us how to count money. I'm not sure she taught us the history of money so well. She was describing the pains of carrying a lot of coins back in the day (like in the Roman times), but she used the hypothetical "I". "It was hard for me to carry so many coins because it was so heavy. So they invented paper money which allowed me to carry my money better." From that point on I thought paper money was introduced in the 70's or 80's. Little did I know, she was just trying to explain the annoyance of coins, not the history of it.
On a Similar Note...

When I was in preschool my sister showed me something really cool on a 1 dollar bill. In the right-hand corner of the George Washington side is this tiny spider hanging out. I've also heard it is called an owl, but since there are so many spider webs on the dollar, I choose to call it a spider. When she showed me this, I wondered why the United States Treasury Dept. decided to put this arachnid on a piece of currency, because when I think of America I think of spiders *rolls eyes*. Free Masons, maybe?
Kevin McAllister: I don't think so.

I'm an Old Man!

Practically the most asked question from kids. Why do we get all pruney on our hands and feet? This has always confused the heck outta me. Well, apparently there's an oily substance that is produced by our skin that gets washed off. When this happens, it allows our skin to absorb more water into our epidermis; and because it is still attached to tissue underneath, it wrinkles. So in the anatomical sense, we are not getting older while taking a dip into some body of water. It's just our bodies telling us to head on out, we're clean!

Mirror Mirror on the Car

While riding in my mom's car to school one day, I found myself in deep contemplation over how a mirror works. Is it some sort of paint that I can get at Home Depot? Is it a piece of glass and some lustrous metal stuck together? Is there some sort of twin stuck inside a window mimicking me? Or am I mimicking him? I would try to make my reflection mess up in how I was moving in almost a Peter Pan/shadow fashion. I'd frantically move my arms and make weird faces until someone saw me in another car. Instantly the fun was over and I stared forward in an embarrassed sulk.

Roly Poly Unrolly

Playing in my mother's garden was an everyday adventure. Driving my Hot Wheels through the muddy trails I made, building houses of twigs and rocks, and digging deep holes into the cool wet earth were all common occurrences. I made friends with all the beasts and creatures I found out there, especially the roly polies (AKA pill bugs, doodlebugs, woodlice, etc.). We've all played with these tiny tanks and marveled in wonder when they roll up into a Sonic the Hedgehog ball. I used to think they were dead in this spherical shape, so I would try to coax them back to life in some form of resuscitation. I'd just blow on them, and they would unravel and continue on their way. I thought I found some remarkable medical breakthrough and showed my friend. We thought we were going to get some Nobel Prize for this "discovery". The only thing we obtained was a shortness of breath.

Newton's First Law of Motion

Once again, off to the car. My mother and I were coming from my elementary school when we decided to grab some snacks from a gas station. I grabbed a package of Combos and a bottle of Cream Soda. Bored beyond belief in the back seat, I started fiddling with the cap of the soda bottle. I was tossing it in the air and catching it. This one's a little confusing, but bear with me. My little brain attempted to understand why the bottle cap was falling back down to my hands and not flying to the back of the car. I thought that since nothing was retaining it (like my hand) from staying put in the air relative to the outside, it had to fly behind me relative to myself and land in the back of the van. I mean, the only medium it was in was the air inside the car, and that surely wasn't keeping it in place. What I didn't know about was that inertia was acting on it, and from Newton's First Law of Motion we know that "an object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon an unbalanced force". It was just continuing in the direction that the car was moving. In a nutshell, the car was moving me and I was moving the bottle cap.

That's it for this one. Please... discuss any of the things that confused you when you were young. It's fun to see how we've progressed as humans and learned from our mistakes. Maybe we can all help each other out on the stuff that we still don't understand. "Why's the sky blue?", "Why do we have fingernails?", "Why do girls have cooties?", and "What happened to Steve Guttenberg?" are all welcomed here. We'll just save the "Why are we here?" question for the members at!

Until next time...

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