After exhaustive research on the web, which is to say, several hours, I have been unable to find any reference to what my mother called bonking. Yes, I know it’s a euphemism for sex and that’s not what she meant. People, including me, use it to describe colliding into another object, something my head does when it goes in search of open cupboards. It was also used during World War I to refer to shelling with artillery fire.

The manic metronome illustrates what mother meant by bonking. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

But not a single reference to how my mother used it. When I was little, my favorite method of comforting myself was to rock my body back and forth, as if every chair, couch, or car backseat were a rocking chair. I would start with a gentle rocking motion, and slowly build up speed until I reached competition-level rocking. Thud, thud, thud, back and forth, like a manic metronome, I pounded out the rhythm of whatever music was playing in my head. This is what mother called bonking. I broke the springs in one of our couches because I could not sit on the couch to watch TV without bonking the entire time.

I also bonked across state lines. We used to drive from Texas to Arizona to visit my grandma, and I remember asking my mom once when we were going to get there. She said, “If you hadn’t been bonking so hard, we’d have already been there.” I guess the force of me bonking so hard in the backseat cancelled out the force of her foot on the gas pedal. One mile forward, half a mile backward.

Rocking is fairly common in babies. It soothes them. The rhythmic movement is calming, and most stop doing it around the age of three. I obviously needed a lot of self-soothing and comfort because I bonked passionately until I was at least eight years old.

I don’t remember anyone ever talking to me about it or trying to discover what compelled me to do it. My parents just accepted that I was a weird kid and that I’d probably grow out of. I did, kind of. I still love a rocking chair better than other kind of seating arrangement. And I still do some gentle rocking at times when I’m standing and waiting. And who doesn’t rock while listening to the blues?

Caption #1: Yearstricken rocks! Caption #2: Apple rocks! Caption #3: Yearstricken is off her rocker!

If I were a child now, I’d probably  have to see a shrink once a week, be on medication, have two or three psychological labels sewn to my psyche, and attend special classes for children who bonk.

Sometimes children have behaviors that require intervention, sometimes not. Sometimes kids are just weird. That, after all, is where all the weird adults come from.


This post was written from a rocking recliner.

24 thoughts on “Bonkers

  1. I have to comment because I did this too. (In my family, we called it “bouncing.”). It may have persisted even past the age of 8, but I learned to do it in private. My parents never seemed too bothered by it, either. Are you at all musical? I’ve wondered if there might be a connection to a love of music, too, compelling one to relax by moving to music (even if it’s just in one’s own head!)

    • Anne, I replied to your comment this morning, but it’s not on the blog, so I’m repeating it from memory.

      I am excited to meet a fellow bonker. I don’t play any instruments other than a little guitar. (The guitar is not little, my ability is.) But I make songs up. When my children were small, I wrote several songs for them that I would sing when I rocked them.

      I wonder how many other bloggers are bonkers? (I mean, of course, bouncers or rockers. I’m pretty sure all bloggers are bonkers in the sense of “crazy.”)

  2. In my family we called it “bouncing,” and my sister Helen was addicted to it. Colicky as a baby, she was rocked for hours by my mother, my father, my grandmothers, and sometimes little me…I’m sure that comfort feeling was what inspired her bouncing, all the way up to about age 10. Why shouldn’t we be rocked by Mommy as long as we need it, even if the couch as to be the Mommy substitute? I wish my Mommy were here now to rock me, in fact. I have a futon couch, pretty unbounceable.

    • I was a colicky baby, too. Days and nights mixed up and very hard to comfort. Now, I’m very easy to please — diamonds, furs, servants, good red wine, and that sort of thing.

      And I miss my mom, too. Sometimes if I need a good cry I listen to “Motherless Child” by The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. So comforting in a sad way.

  3. My son, now nearly 27, rocked back and forth on his knees in bed. He did this in his sleep sometimes. He may be tempted to do it now, although I haven’t discussed it with him lately. He is a wonderful dad, a great husband, and has a very good job. We just called it rocking, and waited for him to outgrow it. The beds took a bit of a beating, however.

    • I’m sure your son is happy that you have not discussed this with him lately. He sounds like he turned out just fine. It’s amazing how much damage small children can inflict on furniture.

  4. I knew that I would love any post entitled bonkers and I did. It’s one of the words that I scream gotcha when I see it. I don’t know what the dictionary definition is but for me it conjures up an image of total sanity tinged with a certain Je ne sais qoui…

    • Yes, it has that meaning of going crazy – as in, “She’s gone bonkers.” According to, this usage started between 1945 and 1950. I think sometimes we use it now to mean something you are crazy about. I go bonkers for dark chocolate. : )

  5. I don’t remember doing that as a child, but I’m definitely a rocker now, especially if I have to stand in long lines. Not back and forth, but side to side. With my arms crossed over my chest, like I’m hugging myself. It just makes me feel better, more relaxed and calm.

    I have always been a foot bopper, though. It helps me fall asleep if I have a foot hanging off the bed, bouncing away. And I do it sitting in meetings, etc.

    I will do either of those without realizing it.

    • I rock back and forth as well as side to side. I’m a foot waggler, too, and sometimes I hang my foot off the bed and row myself to sleep. The more I hear about others who fidget, rock, and waggle, the better I feel.

  6. Is bonkers is a euphenism for sex? I thought that was boinking. Perhaps both are. No one in my family rocks, bonks or bounces in that way (we do boink though). We dance around when we have to wait. It ususally looks like we have to go to the bathroom but it does soothe the nerves. It can be embarassing sometimes…..

  7. I still do this now ahah :> It’s weird because I think there’s such a stigma attached to bonking these days, as in what you said about therapy and medication is absolutely accurate. People assume you’re crazy – well, maybe we are slightly crazy, although I prefer ‘eccentric’ – or abused or something which is slightly unfair. Sometimes, it’s just fun to do when you’re bored. Also, I find it to be genuinely soothing when you’re stressed out :> great post, as always~

    • Rocking is extremely soothing. I guess because all of us were rocked through those first nine months as our moms walked. It seems like quite a few people did it as children and/or continue to do it into adulthood.

  8. that was a phenomenal post! And the fact that your mother berated your “car bonking” put me over the edge (me coming from a family where “bonking” was almost a swear word).

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