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Listening to parents tell stories about their bright children has always been one of my least favorite things. Their anecdotes invariably include little mister (monster) remembering a lyric to a song or saying something like “Mommy’s wine is her milky-milk” or perhaps putting a piece of bread in the toaster (“and he’s only 7!”)
Your child can parrot an adult phrase? Amazing. Their stunt? Nine times out of 10 any child (or animal, in most instances) could do it.
Clearly parents are delusional to believe these feats worthy of amplification. They must be too dumb to evaluate their child’s capabilities, too self-absorbed to think twice about forcing us to humor them, or both.
Then Jay, my 6-year-old, said something the other day in the car. He used the word “suggest.” I think he said, “I suggest we go to In-n-Out.” There you have it, I thought. The child is gifted with words. I’d already had my suspicions. He has a meltdown when he is late for school, reads at the first grade level (he is in first grade) and once remembered the name of my favorite movie ( Gaafather).
Then it dawned on me. What got my attention, what captures the imagination of all parents, is not necessarily that our kids are above average, but that they are actually growing up.
When considered as a demographic we take it for granted that blessed healthy children eventually become fully functioning adults. But when the alchemy happens in our own kid, it is a wonderful shock. One day they are eating the crayons and pooping in the fireplace area; the next day they have a preference for Taylor Swift.
These moments of clarity hit us at odd times, between diaper changes, tantrums, smiles and tears. Then we catch a glimpse of an emerging intelligence and it dawns on us: this lump of baby flesh is becoming a person.
We’re like Frosty the Snowman. When our children come to life in some new way we are moved to yell “Happy Birthday!” But instead we pull out our iphone at the soccer game and whisper to the dad next to us, “Check this out… my little girl sang a song to her waffle this morning. Sounds like the National Anthem, doesn’t it?”
I will continue to resist the urge to brag about Jay’s growing mastery of the English language, but I have a bit more empathy for those parents who can’t resist. Of course, unless your child is Bobby Fisher or Baby Jesus their cute achievements will continue to bore me to tears.
Epilogue: I thought Jay said the word “suggest,” but I now realize it was gas.
Dan Conway is a high school elected official. An optimist and cynic. Editor of The Drone. You can read more of his Medium posts here: