Being a first-time father is tough for any man, but what about being one at the age of 45? In our monthly column The Dad Diaries, publishing director Raymond muses on the ups and downs on fatherhood.
I don’t mean to brag, but I think JJ, my three-year-old daughter, is a genius.
I mean, she knows her alphabet, she knows her numbers, and she also knows her way around my heart each time she pleads earnestly for another gummy. So I’m sure that my young child is very, very smart.
I’m also sure that most parents quietly feel the same way about their young children, that they’re so ridiculously clever that they ought to be a member of Mensa or enrolled into Hogwarts School or something.
But here’s my theory: Parents think that their offspring are acutely intelligent, primarily because we watch them grow on a daily basis. What they couldn’t do just yesterday, they magically can today. We assume they’ve acquired these new skills or abilities overnight, at a rate that only geniuses can.
The truth, though, is probably a lot less sensational, and these skills had probably been surreptitiously brewing in their three-year-old brains for months, waiting to make a grand entrance sometime between their nap time and a cunning gummy plea.
Because, truth be told, these new skills aren’t all that impressive if you think about it.
I remember the first time JJ recognised her own name on a sticker pasted on her school’s shoe locker – you could’ve sliced my beam of pride with a cleaver. She had just removed her footwear at the school’s entrance, and I was repeatedly exhorting her to find her spot in the shoe locker, marked by a sticker with her name on it.
“Where should you keep your shoes, JJ? Can you find your name anywhere here? No? Are you sure? It’s okay, keep trying.. no, that’s Alexander’s spot, not yours… it’s somewhere to the right…. no, to the right… no, no that’s left, look on your right… your right… that’s still your left… your right… your right… YOUR RIGHT!!”
After a mini exposition on the differences between “right”, “left”, “up”, “down” and “diagonally across from Alexander’s shoe locker”, she eventually slipped her shoes into the correct spot – such a clever, clever girl!
In my head, my genius of a child had successfully pieced together a string of arbitrary Germanic symbols to mentally access her own moniker, and meaningfully reconciled it with her own identity and her sense of self.
In her head, however, she probably saw the letter “J” and thought she liked the curly bit at the bottom and decided to shove her shoes in there, mostly in the hope that Papa will finally stop shouting, “YOU’RE RIGHT!!”
If we need more evidence that such significant milestones are typically only significant to the parents of the allegedly overachieving child, we can always conduct the Tell-It-To-Someone-Who-Isn’t-Related-To-You Test (catchily coined the TITSWIRTY Test).
You can pick a random person in your sphere of acquaintances – a colleague, a Facebook friend, or a neighbour’s second cousin from his stepmother’s side – and proceed to recount the episode to him:
Me: So, you know, my daughter JJ, she can recognise her own name now. She managed to find her name on the school’s shoe locker….
TITSWIRTY Test Subject: Mmm hmmm.
Me: All by herself….
TITSWIRTY Test Subject: Yeah…
Me: She’s three, by the way.
TITSWIRTY Test Subject: That’s nice…
Me: Yeah, it is… did I mention that she’s three?
By now, in my head, I’m thinking that this person wouldn’t be able to spot a genius if she came up from behind and bit him on his dark matter. In his head, however, he’s probably thinking: Do I even know you??
So maybe JJ isn’t a genius just yet (and her father might not be the brightest bulb in the room either). But she’s only three so there is hope yet. I will just have to impart to her a whole bunch of knowledge and stuff to make sure she becomes really, really smart. I think I’ll start with teaching her right from left.