Monday, January 24, 2005


What do other parents do when they discover that their children are way too smart? For instance, when your baby suddenly starts talking, do you get all freaked out and intimidate him so badly he doesn't utter another peep for years? Or is that just me? I'm in the habit of pointing at things and saying their names to Punkin Baby as we go through the day in the vague hope that someday he'll internalize it, but I'm always shocked on those rare occasions when he says words. Mostly, he's non-verbal; he loves to make noises, especially plaintive little kitty mews with nose crinkled. Cute! Excessively cute. Then there's the shrieking, which toddlers all seem to do at some point. Not cute. Today I was in no mood to deal with it when he climbed on me, whacked me with "Meet Babar," and shrieked yet again to politely ask me to read to him. I frowned at him and said, "You could just say, 'Please'"-- whereupon he turned his big gray eyes to me and said "Peees." I would have read him a hundred books at that moment.

His bigger brother, Buccaneer Boy, usually acts like a typical energetic 4-year-old. Except when he pops in the Sherlock Holmes game to hunt for clues or goes a few rounds of chess with the computer. And then there are the mornings (most of them) when we're awakened by his shouts of "Hoist the mizzen, Mister Cavendish!" followed by his rendition of the theme to "Pirates of the Caribbean": DA dadadada DA DA DA, DA dadadada DA DA DA, DA dadadada DA DA DA, DA DA DA DUM, DUM, DADADA DA-da... Etc. He knows it all. He doesn't seem to be paying attention a lot of the time, but I think that's just because adults bore him so. Every once in a while, he looks up and says something so deep and wise that it boggles everyone in earshot. For example, he really jeopardized our future with his sudden comment to the psychiatrist evaluating our situation that "We need to move, but (insert psycho ex's name here) won't let us." Mr. Evaluator quickly concluded that we talk smack about the woman all the time in front of the kids, and therefore we are BAD people. He wasn't buying our explanation that Mr. Boy is just incredibly smart and figured it out on his own. (Which shouldn't be hard, considering this behavior.) It's the truth, isn't it? We try to emphasize honesty... Sigh.

As for #1 Son, he is bright but troubled and doesn't always live up to his potential. He's been in chess club and the gifted/talented program (which "Mommy" takes credit for, despite being a high school dropout with no respect for education). It's a sad measure of how brilliant our kids are (or we think they are) that we actually felt disappointed when #1 Son brought home a B-average report card this week. My parents would have thrown a fit if I'd done that badly, especially in 4th grade. But he's not me, nor, thankfully, is he his mother.

To be fair, if this same report card had represented an upward trend, we'd have celebrated. But his grades are falling, and he doesn't seem to care. There's a lot more to it than just a lack of interest, though; the boy is a bundle of nerves because of the custody situation. When he came back from "Mommy's" last night, he was white and shaking. Of course, that could be because she brought him home without his coat on a mid-January night. Late, and without feeding him. But at least she brought him back. I always worry that next time, she won't. But so far, her self-preservation instinct has won out.

I won't dwell on that. One other great child-prodigy story from today: My sister bought the boys a couple of disposable cameras and some scrapbooking stuff for Christmas. (Weird as may be, but they get a kick out of it.) #1 Son posed things very carefully and methodically but lost interest after 20 minutes or so. Buccaneer Boy, however, must have inherited his grandpa's shutterbug gene. He chased after baby brother all day, snapping candid photos and getting some really adorable shots. I'm glad he did; Punkin Baby has been the unfortunately neglected youngest child in the photo department recently. Now we can populate a whole album of him in his grubby yellow T-shirt. Beautiful.

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