The premature readers, the early walkers—they all become equal in the primary years. In a fifth grade classroom, one cannot at all single out those developmental prodigies. My own daughter used to have an incredible attention span and could chew with her mouth closed as well as use a fork at age one. She is almost eleven. Now, every meal is a circus of reminders to chew properly and quit eating with her fingers. An early talker, my daughter said “dog” at eight months, but now, when asked about school studies, silence grips her and a sort of shocked expression crosses her face. (Ask her who was busted for passing notes that day, though—she’ll relay the entire story). As a small toddler, my daughter could quickly dress and ready herself for bed. We parents patted ourselves on the back for raising such a focused, skillful, self-motivated creature. Just tonight, when I directed my big girl to prepare for bed, she wandered into her room, lay down on the floor amidst the detritus of socks and Littlest Pet Shops, flipped lazily through a magazine, and seemed overwhelmed by Suddenly Cannot Accomplish Requests Disorder. How and why does this happen?
I no longer hazard guesses about which of my friend’s babies will be geniuses. My own son has taught me that there is no measure of predictability whatsoever other than his decided hell-raising approach to life. He is the family wild card. My goal for his school years is simply to survive them. Genius is unimportant.
I have posted this video before, but Bill Cosby’s comedy routine on brain damage is one of my favorites. For all of us who have raised perfect angels that confounded us with their new-found inabilities in later years, Bill’s words are golden.