So, my sister Jenni and I were having a conversation the other day that got a little out of hand.
we pretend to be people we’re not, okay? Is that so weird? Is that so
incredibly weird that you’re weirded out right now by the weirdness?
Well, then apparently we can’t be friends. Because it happens, and I am
Okay, so it’s not so much that we pretend we’re people
we’re not. We just enact conversations that would never, ever happen in
real life to mimic what we see around us.
On the day in question, we were being child-braggers.
have heard these people. They honestly, seriously believe that their
child is gifted, and they aren’t afraid to talk about it, and their
child, bless its little heart, is exactly like every other child in his
or her age group.* I don’t mean to make fun of these people too much,
because I can see how it happens. I mean, you knew your child back when
she was basically just a lump of flesh in a car-seat doing nothing but
excreting out of every orifice, and now, get this, she can count to 18 and she only misses 12 and 14, but the thing that makes it really special is that she is only two freaking years old.
To watch someone go from doing nothing much more than pooping tar 8
times a day to constructing full on sentences is breathtaking. It’s no
wonder every parent thinks their child might be a genius every once in a
Well. Maybe not every parent.
it started off when I talked to her daughter, Alice, (who recently
turned two) on the phone and she mentioned going to the park. She and I
talked for a few minutes, then Jenni got back on the phone and said
“Yeah, she’s been really verbal lately…” Oh really, Jenni? Really
verbal, huh? That sounds like a bit of a brag. Look what you just started.
Me: Oh, has she? Has she been really verbal? Like extra verbal? Like maybe more than other kids?
Jenni: (snooty voice) Well, you know, I don’t mean to put
anyone down or anything, but I don’t hear a lot of kids her age talking
quite as much as her. She’s kind of like an adult in conversation, but
so young! We feel so blessed that she’s learning so quickly…
Me: Oh, how cute that you think she’s so young for that!
It reminds me of when Viva [who is now 3] was about six months younger
than Alice and started speaking in full sentences… that’s when we knew
how special she is…
Jenni: I remember that! Alice was almost six months at
the time and I remember her signing to me how impressed she was that
Viva was talking so well. Alice was always really adept at signing, even
before she finished nursing…
Me: Oh, Jenni, that’s really fantastic that you feel so
confident about her. Well, Alice is your first, so it might be hard to see
that she’s as average as she is without being able to compare her to
Viva who was signing in complete paragraphs and had a 4,000 word signing
vocabulary by the age of 3 months. But yeah, how special for you that
Alice is being so verbal. You know, hearing about it brings back so many
memories of when Viva was a year younger than Alice and she started making up elaborate bed-time stories in French… it was actually really challenging for us because
we didn’t know how to keep up with her active imagination! Nor do we speak French!
Jenni: Oh, yeah, that would be really, really hard. That and the colors thing…
Me: What colors thing?
Jenni: Oh… no. I’m so sorry. You didn’t know.
(shakes head covering her mouth) It’s noth…It’s just that last time
we were all together I performed a small evaluation and noticed some
things about her color memorization, and I was… surprised and a little
disappointed. It’s actually really hard to talk about this when Alice
knows her colors so well and has actually replicated several Renaissance
frescoes! Ha, awkward…
Me: Oh, don’t feel
uncomfortable, it’s totally fine that you think Alice is outstanding! I
think that’s really cute and kind of quaint actually. Come to think of
it, Viva tells me that when she was training Alice on multiplication
tables last Christmas, Alice did a really good job of pointing to the number
“two” and kind of sounding out something that sounded like a word. Viva
was so, so proud of her, and you should be too!
It’s really interesting to me that you bring that up because when Alice
was whipping up a Master’s Thesis on the merits and pitfalls of our current educational system last February she specifically cited Viva as being the type of
math teacher that “doesn’t get” her students….
Me: Oh, no. Another misunderstanding. (Sighs)
Hate to be the bearer of bad news about how your child is a common
criminal, but Viva is actually the one who wrote that report and had it
published in Education Weekly and there was an incident… this is so
hard to talk about! Basically, Alice plagiarized it and tried to claim
it was hers…
Jenni: Oh, is that what Viva told
you. That little trickster! Yeah, Alice pulled me aside during nap-time
yesterday and explained that she was suspicious that this might happen.
Later that day as Alice drove us to the city hall to secure a trademark
for several memorable phrases in her paper, I couldn’t help but but
muse on how hard it might be as these girls get older to have Alice
outshine her cousin so much. We’ve really got to make sure and work on
Viva’s self esteem!
By this point we were laughing too hard to continue.
In closing, a word of advice: next time you hear someone doing a bit of a brag, be bold! Don’t sell your kid short. He probably will single-handedly cure AIDS and cancer and cankles some day so you might as well say he already
has. Because as a parent, there’s nothing I find more impressive than a
laundry list of accomplishments performed by your toddler, and I’m sure
you feel the same way about mine.
*For the record, my daughters actually are geniuses. Anna, for example, drew a picture of a rainbow yesterday that had eight different colors. So, yeah. Obviously there are exceptions, and I am one of them.
(Side-note: I had to correct the spelling of the word “geniuses” three
times before I realized that I had the i and the u switched. It felt
awesome to not be able to spell “genius” without spell check.)