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What Seinfeld's Success Means for Our Kids

Photograph by Getty Images

Jerry Seinfeld thinks he’s on the autism spectrum. In a recent interview with People Magazine, Seinfeld claims that simple social interactions are very difficult for him and confesses to being a very literal person. He can’t always understand people when they use idioms or expressions. I can hear his TV character now, “What’s up with idioms and expressions…?” as he’d tear into a genius comedic riff about not understanding what anyone is saying.

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As I read the article I can’t help but wonder if being a literal person, one who takes everything at face value, is part of what has made Seinfeld’s observational style of comedy just so good. Isn’t that what most of his bits are about — being literal? I’m sure Seinfeld spent a good portion of his life getting comfortable with his social awkwardness and has had many a fight with relatives or his wife that include the phrase, “Don’t be so literal.” And yet, being awkward and literal just might be what makes him funny.

I wonder if teaching my kids to embrace what makes them different is the key to living a happy, healthy and dare I say, normal, life.

I have to be honest that I’ve always dreaded finding out if my kids have a “something.” Like any parent, I prayed for healthy, normal children who could pass through life easily and not have to struggle. But my kids are quirky, though I guess I am too. As I look back on my own successes and failures, I can attribute those failings to me not embracing my quirks and leaning in to what I’m good at without worrying so much about what I’m not.

As my kids get older, I’m starting to wonder if there is such a thing as a normal child? Maybe every child is on the spectrum, not the autism spectrum but the normal spectrum. Maybe every person is some parts normal and some parts quirks, which all combine to make us who we are in the most interesting ways. I wonder if teaching my kids to embrace what makes them different is the key to living a happy, healthy and dare I say, normal, life.

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The pain and worry parents feel on behalf of their children is deep and never-ending. And while I by no means mean to say any child is lucky to get an extreme diagnosis, I am saying that all of our children’s quirks can make them who they are in the best ways possible. If Jerry Seinfeld can make a career out of his social awkwardness and inability to understand nuances, then my kids can be successful no matter what they face.

So the next time I want to tell my kid to stop being so literal, I’m going to stop myself. I’d hate to stand in the way of his future success.

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