One of the disadvantages of being a first-time parent is that you have absolutely no basis for comparison. Therefore, although you consistently round up, you really have no idea if your kid is all that smart.
“Look, she’s pointing at that dog and saying ‘ruff,’” I might say to my wife proudly. Our daughter does this a lot. She points at things and then makes whatever sound that thing makes. My wife’s response is always enthusiastic, but I know her well enough to know that she’s wondering the same thing I am, which is, “Can other 17-month-olds do that? Shouldn’t she know by now that it’s a ‘dog’ and not a ‘ruff’?”
You’d think that pediatricians would help, but, as well-intentioned as they are, they tend to give you parameters so vast that pretty much any child who isn’t raised by wild animals and/or bog people will fit in there somewhere.
“How many words should she be able to say?” you’ll ask.
“Well, it depends,” Dr. He or She will say. “Somewhere between 12 and…all of them. See you in six months. Don’t let her lick the electrical outlets.”
Like most husbands, I’ve always assumed that my child will be as smart as my wife. By now, surely evolution has enough experience to block out all of the mediocre stuff and zero in on the good qualities, right? Well, I witnessed something yesterday that makes me wonder if perhaps a few of my “late-developing” brain genes may have weaseled there way in there.
My wife was working late, so it was just me and the little one. I was watching SportsCenter and she was playing on the floor with her Crayons. Although I occasionally had to remind her that they weren’t for eating or sticking in her nose, things were going well. And then she suddenly started crying. And I mean REALLY crying—the breathless, red-faced, inconsolable kind of crying that makes a parent feel frantic and helpless.
I checked her for bite marks—perhaps a lost cobra had slithered in—but there was nothing. “Baby, what is it?” I asked. But she just kept crying and crying, pleading with me in her toddler half-words to help her. And then I realized what was wrong. She’d been trying to pick up all of her fifteen-or-so Crayons at once to transport them across the room to where her other coloring books were. But because her hands are so small, she couldn’t do it, and uncooperative Crayons kept falling onto the floor. I tried to take them away and carry them for her, but she found this unacceptable.
“Here you go, honey,” just put them in here,” I said. I found her Crayon box and showed her that if she stacks them inside, she can carry all of them anywhere she wants.
I handed her the little box and she stopped crying. She looked at it for a few seconds, considering what I’d just demonstrated. Her bottom lip was still shaking a little—emotional aftershocks.
“See? It’s all good.”
And then she dumped her Crayons onto the floor, threw the empty box at the dog, and tearfully started the whole process all over again.