Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Boy Wonder

In high school, my physics teacher used to call me the Boy Wonder -- mostly in ironic tribute to my inflated ego. But the other night at dinner my son did a couple of things that place him squarely in the Boy-Wonder category. I can see that his sister is equally bright, but today's story is about the son.

Some parents push their kids to excel, driven by a competitive urge. These parents have kids who can play more sophisticated piano pieces. I can't say, but I'm not sure that those kids love learning. We try, I hope, to instill a love of learning in our kids.

We've never prompted him on this kind of stuff, but for well over a year now he has talked about sets that can be formed in our family (e.g. males in one set, females in another). He doesn't use the word "set;" We haven't explained that to him yet.

The other night he announced that he could fit any two family members in a set: Son and mother, oldest of their gender (my special wife has an older brother), daughter and father, youngest, son and father, boys, mother and daughter, girls. That was impressive, but I only decided I had to blog about it when he said "I think it would be harder to do for a family of five." He clearly thinks about theory, not just particulars.

I paid him what is pretty much the highest compliment in our family, saying, "Maybe when you grow up, you'll be a scientist."

Later that same evening I heard him repetitively pushing buttons on his sister's toy phone. "Mom, I can make the phone count to a hundred!" he said. I thought he meant that he could press one of the keys a hundred times. My wife and I both said we'd rather not hear him do it.

But he insisted, and pressed the keys so that the little electronic voice said: "Zero, two, four, six, eight, one ... zero, one ... two, one ... four," and so on, by twos, to 100.

I asked him where he'd gotten the idea for that, and he said he'd just thought of it. But a few days earlier my daughter had pressed all the buttons in order and then given the phone to me, saying that I should push buttons. I pushed the same ones she had, but then continued on by ones, making a 10, for example, by pressing one and then zero. My son was right there at the time. The conversation was about something else, so I never said anything about my method. But I think that's where he got the idea.

It mattered a lot to my father's twisted ego to be smarter than other people. My mother knew this, and when she gave both of us an I.Q. test back in 1979, she was at great pains to evade my question about what his score was. She said it was a private matter, but I was relentless and pressed her for the information over and over again, using various manipulative teenage arguments. He was sitting right in the same room, but said nothing while she fended me off. She kept saying that our scores were in the same "range," and emphasizing that the test contained a bonus factor that inflated the score of younger people. Over and over I pressed her, and repeatedly she stuck to this line. If his score had been higher, she would have said so. So I either matched him, or edged him out by a slim margin.

She worked hard to protect him.

It doesn't bother me to say that I think my son is smarter than I was at his age. Most parents would probably be proud to say so. It's a mark of my having escaped the emotional purgatories my parents are trapped in that I can be normal, and have pride in my kids.

...Granny Insanity has done some clear thinking about censure today in her "Are We Clear On The Censure Thing?" post.

Left grip is 27 pounds (25, 27, 27), right grip is 70 pounds (61, 69, 70), inhale volume is 3450 mL. Thanks to Scott for the idea that the slump in metrics might be a Herxheimer reaction. If it were that, though, I should feel terrible. Still, I like the idea that it is a mild Herx better than the scary idea that the invaders have developed a resistance to the drugs.
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