Like a lot of parents, I had certain preconceptions about what my kids would be like that have been … uh, challenged, let’s say, since I had actual kids. As a former “gifted” child and general nerd/brainiac/teacher’s pet, for example, I was sure that my kids would be nothing less than child prodigies – or at the very least, academically and artistically inclined, and certainly above average in those areas. I mean, DUH.
Such arrogance. In reality, of course, my kids – like all kids – are a mixed bag. (Not to mention being so young it’s really difficult to tell what their ultimate strengths and weaknesses will be.) Take the Hatchling. Her verbal skills, as I think I’ve mentioned here before, are not quite in line with her peers – she’s a late bloomer – but she’s been able to catch and throw just about any kind of ball since she was two. She’s pretty iffy on the concept of rhyming (Me: “does ‘cat’ rhyme with ‘dog?'” Hatchling, enthusiastically, “YEAH!!”), but she can memorize songs and movie lines in one or two takes. (Eerily so – it’s not at all unusual for her to incorporate movie lines into regular conversation, which can be unnerving if you don’t catch the reference.) She can only write a few letters, poorly, but she does drawings that are really cool and complex, and put together in a remarkably sophisticated manner for a four-year-old.
Today was another excercise in contrasts. I was trying to teach the Hatchling the classic kid’s game of “I one the sandbox.” You know, from Sesame Street. Ernie starts off with “I one the sandbox,” and Bert goes, “I two the sandbox,” and they keep going until Bert gets to “I eight the sandbox,” and Ernie is all “YOU ATE THE SANDBOX?!?!” and, you know, hilarity ensues. So I’m trying to get the Hatchling to go back and forth with me, numbering the sandboxes, and though she’s been able to count to 20 since she was two or two-and-a-half – a long time – she just could not get the hang of it with the sandbox stuff added. I’d start it off with one, and then I’d say, “what comes after one?” and she’d get flustered and say “Six!” or something, and, then I’d say, “No, you say ‘I TWO the sandbox,'” and she’d go “I 2-3-4-5-6-7” or “I have THREE sandboxes” or something equally off, and finally we just called it quits. We worked a little more this afternoon and evening on what-comes-next games with numbers and letters, so she could practice giving herself time to think, and right before bedtime I thought we’d try the game again. She still got confused by the addition of sandboxes to counting, but we persevered. Finally I got to seven-ing the sandbox. “What comes after seven?” I asked her. She thought about it. “EIGHT!” “Right!” I said. “So I said ‘I seven the sandbox,’ and now YOU say ‘I eight the sandbox.’ She frowned with concentration. “I eight the sandbox.” “YOU ATE THE SANDBOX??!!?” I said, and, y’all: she just about peed her pants with laughing. I mean, it KILLED her with the funny. We had to do it about five more times before she went to bed, and even as I was rocking her sister to sleep I could hear the Hatchling lying in her bed muttering “… ate the sandbox … heheheheheh.”
And this is still kind of crazy to me. She struggles with a simple counting pattern, but a homophone-based pun? THAT she’s right on top of. Which, I dunno, maybe that’s completely normal for a kid her age, but it isn’t what I would have expected going into this. (Though, given her grand-paternal heritage, I probably should have known that punning humor would be her native territory.) And I guess that kind of sums up my entire experience of parenting. None of this is what I expected going into it. Sometimes that really sucks (breastfeeding issues, anyone?). But often, like tonight, it means you spend the evening laughing your face off about eating sandboxes. Which is not a bad way to end the day.