My husband doesn't have a lot of free time. When he has some, he loves to hike and backpack and camp, with our family or with his buddies. He loves to travel, and to spend time at the lake water skiing when it's warm. There are plenty of things he enjoys. But when he only has a few minutes to spend at a time on diversions? He only has one hobby: Obsession.
He chooses a topic (usually, something he wants to buy), and then exhausts every resource he can get his hands on to educate himself about it, until he knows "enough" to make an informed purchase.
Examples? Sure. I've got plenty. Projector and 96" screen in the basement? That took three years. Jeep, and all the associated accessories? Two years. Vacuum cleaners? I'm still waiting for that one to resolve. His obsession with washing machines was accelerated by necessity, but no less intense than his serious interest in treadmills, lawn mowers, digital cameras, laptops, under-cabinet task lighting for our kitchen, garage floor sealants, minivans (also borne out of necessity), hardwood mulch, and reproductively-beneficial nutritional supplements (IVF, remember?).
He reads "Consumer Reports" more than his scriptures. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)
He does not have a monopoly on idiosyncratic behavior. I counted yesterday, after reading Steph's post, and I have 99 books (including library books) stacked up next to my bed. (I am completely willing to post that list on this blog if anyone is interested. Any takers? No? I didn't think so. But it is a REALLY interesting list.) They are not on a shelf (although, they are separated into fiction and non-fiction, then alphabetized), just stacked next to the wall. I gaze at them fondly with greater regularity than I would freely admit, because I. Love. Books. I cannot stop. My name is InkMom and I am a Biblioholic.
I also cannot sleep if my sheets are not tucked tightly at the bottom. (This caused problems early in our marriage. CPod -- all 6'5" of him -- adapted nicely.) In the shower, I always start with my hair and make my way down, and if I forget a step, it pains me if I don't have time to start over.
When I'm trying on clothes, the outfit never looks quite right until I've tilted my head to the right. (MommyJ shares this quirk. When we were growing up, the full-length mirror in our room cut off your head, and if you wanted to get an idea of the whole package, you had to tilt.)
My love for words is near-pathological. I collect them like trinkets and try them on for size often, until they become a permanent part of my repertoire. This has spawned a need to correct any and all improper usage I encounter in a way that is, I'm sure, terribly annoying to all who have experienced my supercilious oldest-child compulsion to make everything RIGHT.
Admittedly, I have let a lot of things go since having children: the towels don't have to be folded a certain way, though I'm happier if they are (after all, they must fit in the cabinet), and while my cleaning regimen might seem a little over-the-top to some (MommyJ), I'm much more flexible than I used to be, and it works for me.
I could go on. There is a certain member of my family who, for a period of time in his early childhood, would not wear pants that touched his legs. Thank goodness for the eighties God-sent trend of parachute pants. He also wouldn't wear socks with lumps, or shirts with tags, and the milk in his cereal bowl had to come to RIGHT HERE or he wouldn't eat it. We all have our little tics.
And that is why I am not surprised to already note idiosyncrasies in my children. ConMan's handwashing needs have become so intense that we have trained him add lotion to the regimen; otherwise, his little fair-and-delightsome hands become so dry it's painful -- but still not painful enough to curb his conviction that there are germs on his hands. (I think I blame this one on his germophobe preschool. Seriously.)
G-Dog, like his mama, can't sleep if his covers aren't tucked in tightly next to the wall. And, he, like his daddy, exhausts us with a machine-gunfire barrage of questions on topics ranging from the nature of God to what kind of sticks birds use to build nests to how kaleidoscopes work. (I know, Mom. I'm getting what I deserved, after famously asking questions like, "Do mosquitoes have blood?")
Last week, Miscellany visited our beloved pediatrician for her 4-month check-up. As Dr. H. examined Little Girl, MayDay kept scaling the exam table like a climbing wall. Once atop the table, he made his way across, behind the baby, towards the counter holding the baby scale, a sink, and a wall-mounted sharps container.
He was persistent, but so was I. Each time he climbed up, I put him back on the floor. Finally, as he climbed once again toward the scale, I took his little face in my hands and asked him, "MayDay, what are you trying to do?" He glanced significantly at the infant scale on the counter next to him. I followed his gaze and suddenly, clarifyingly, knew exactly what had fueled his compulsion.
I pushed the weights on the scale back over the zero-point, and my little, chip-off-the-old block control freak sighed, and said, "Oooohh, thank you, Mommy!"
Sadly, I completely understood. And I am now, more than ever, convinced that the reason more people haven't been officially diagnosed with one psychiatric disorder or another is, quite simply, because we haven't asked.