Your Kid’s a Genius! Whoop-de-damn-do!

Isn’t there some third, in between choice?

As a parent, there’s no greater sense of pride than when your kid brings home a report card full of A’s and you can tell everyone else about it.

Or so I’ve heard.

There are scores of smart, talented kids out there. It goes without saying that some of them are bound to be smarter and more talented than my kids. I’m friends with many people who have kids gifted in one way or another. That’s great for them. I’m happy and/or amazed and some of the things they’ve accomplished. It’s just hard for me to hear about these kids without wondering about mine. I don’t have concerns about The Girl yet. She aces just about everything put in front of her with little effort and she gets glowing reports from every teacher she comes across. Then again, The Boy started out that way. He didn’t get stupid or anything. He’s actually a really bright kid. He just doesn’t know it.

The standard parenting lament since the dawn of time is that a kid “can do so much better” or “isn’t performing to the best of his abilities,” etc etc. I used to hear it all the time when I was a kid and I barely even understood what it meant (or I stopped listening–I forget which one). Now that I’m the parent, I totally get it.

The Boy hates school. But that’s not so strange. What kid actually likes school? The kids who liked school were the dorks, the losers, the “neo maxie zoom dweebies” (an argument can be made that John Bender hated school). So maybe The Boy is just trying to be cool by underperforming. I’ve seen his friends. A lot of them are idiots. But he has one friend who’s parents make him take academic classes over the summer. Unfortunately, it’s not wearing off on The Boy.

Am I alone in this feeling? Do other parents obsess over things like middle school grades and extracurricular activities? It’s about keeping up with the Jones’s kids, isn’t it?. Every quarter, the local paper prints a list of students who have made honor roll or high honor roll. And I skim through it not to find The Boy’s name, but to see the names of the other kids who made the list. There are lots of smart kids on that list. There are kids who work hard to get good grades. And there are dozens of morons. How are these knuckle-draggers making the list when The Boy isn’t?

The answer is “who cares!” He’ll be fine, right? We’ll try harder this fall. And when I hear about someone who’s 4-year old daughter speaks fluent Mandarin, I’ll pretend to be thrilled.

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Epilogue: I was working on this post while riding the bus out of Manhattan when The Boy sent me a text. He had just pitched a perfect game in MLB 2K12 on the Wii. Ha! Take that, cousin who’s 4th grade daughter just spent a semester overseas in Switzerland!

…and he did it with the Marlins!

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7, Make That 50, Words You Can’t Say

George Carlin

Really? That’s the best you could do?

When it comes to regulating The Boy’s behavior, his mother and I rarely agree. It’s a combination of me trying to be the cool dad and her being overly concerned about everything. Granted, The Boy seems to be a target for getting in trouble. If a hundred kids are doing something wrong, he’ll be the only one who gets nailed. So this has made his mother a little more hyper-aware of anything he does–rightfully so, I guess.

The other day, I got the following text from The Boy’s mother:

“I found a list of dirty words in his pocket. I’ll let you deal with it.”

First of all, it serves him right that his mother found this list. We’ve been telling him to empty his pockets before throwing his clothes in the laundry for years. But that wasn’t my immediate thought. My immediate thought, and response, was:

“A list of dirty words? Really?”

My sarcasm must have come through because it was explained to me that he would be the one who got in trouble if the list fell out of his pocket and I needed to explain this to him. I agreed but would he really get in trouble for having a list of dirty words? I can think of a million things worse that would fall out of his pocket:

  1. Pornography
  2. Stolen answers to a test
  3. Floor plans to the local bank
  4. A note claiming a fellow classmate is gay (he actually got busted for this one)
  5. Threats to blow up the school
  6. (come on, I’m not going to list a million of them)

As long as this list wasn’t going to be read aloud in class or on the school bus, I doubt he’d get in trouble. But if he did, his mother would be the one who got the call.

List

Exhibit A (edited for publication)

It’s not even his handwriting. I don’t even know what some of the words mean. Ray? Chode?

I blame the media.

I Get It, I’m Not The Best Dad

After The Boy was born, I spent a lot of time stressing over filling all the awake, non-eating hours with the “right” activities. There were all these magazines filled with ideas for the right activities and crafts for developing babies and toddlers. Man, I felt like crap. But by the time The Girl was born, I was over it and spent my time laughing at the new parents who swore they’d find the time to do everything with their kids.

You WILL have fun.

All these years later, I’m constantly reminded of my shortcomings as a father (usually by myself–I’m working on it…). This Father’s Day, I noticed an unusual number of postings of lists of great dads and dad videos and dads doing things with their kids. But this list just isn’t fair! Don’t get me wrong—I admire and envy each one of these guys and wish I had the ideas they had. Especially the first guy. And now I feel like it’s too late.

But I must be doing something right. The kids got me Apple TV for Father’s Day. And no, you can’t use it to watch every episode of Family Guy. It’s inappropriate! And I’m a good dad (wink).

Three Little Words

The Boy wasn’t born with athletic ability, nor the patience and/or drive to develop any, so when he expressed a desire to play baseball, I should have been thrilled. But he was around 10 at the time, well past the time when all the other kids had already been playing. Sure he had played Tee Ball and I enjoyed every hilarious scrum when some kid would tap the ball off its plastic perch. When Tee Ball ended, all the other boys moved on to Little League. The Boy didn’t. He never really got the concept of team sports. He once got upset while playing a soccer “game” because the other boys were trying to kick the ball away from him.

Don’t just stand there! Get the ball! Come on!

He could have played baseball if he really wanted. The thing is his mother and I both work and we live in an area where most families have either stay-at-home moms or the parents work locally. With me commuting to Manhattan, getting The Boy to any kind of after-school activity is difficult to impossible. So it wasn’t a big deal when he didn’t express an interest in baseball. Besides that, I was relieved because of what playing Little League would do to the psyche—mine, not his.

When I was growing up, Little League was just as it was portrayed in the movies. The bigger kids always pick on the smaller kids. The good teams always beat the bad teams. The parents are way too competitive and the coaches hate any kid who isn’t super-talented. That’s just the way it was except in real life, the bad team never got to go to Japan or be coached by Walter Matthau. I was always in the latter group of kids. Being kind of a skinny, quirky kid, I was sort of the mascot for the older kids in my neighborhood. They let me hang out with them as long as I was willing to climb the barbed wire fence and stumble down the huge ditch to retrieve any wayward balls. One time, a bunch of the boys came to get me and I happened to be at a baseball practice. They asked my mom what position I played and she told them “left out.” Who knew she had a sense of humor?

But I digress.

The Boy suddenly wanted to play organized baseball and I flashed back to every scene in the movies and every bad experience I had. I imagined The Boy being picked on, teased, taunted, excluded. But I managed to to keep my insecurities to myself and I only reminded him that most of the older boys have been playing for a long time. And not just Little League. There are multi-level rec leagues and travel teams as well. But The Boy was cool with all that. So I relented.

The Boy lacks talent but he also lacks self awareness. Either he doesn’t know or he doesn’t care. I watched him play whenever I managed to make it home on time. He wasn’t the worst kid out there. Plus, he was having fun which, I was assured, was the most important thing (of course, the people who tell me that have super-talented kids). The other kids were nice to him, at least outwardly, and the coaches never left him out.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I show up for one of his games just in time for it to be called on account of lightning. So I collect The Boy and his stuff and we walk off to my car. At that moment, I hear the three words I’d longed to hear for so many years:

“Nice catch, Liebowitz.”

It was yelled from a passing car by a teammate of his. And it was yelled without a hint of sarcasm. The Boy apparently made a great catch which was still being recognized after the game was over. He waved nonchalantly and told me about the catch. I acted impressed and told him how awesome it was without making it sound like I was shocked.

“Nice catch, Liebowitz.”

I’d heard those words before but they were directed at me and in a far more obnoxious tone. Now those words have a totally different meaning. And I can breathe again, at least until next season starts.

Now I have time to stress about his grades…