Early in parenthood, each of us has the secret and smug suspicion that our child is, in fact, a prodigy. This seemed to be confirmed for me one day as I was snapped out of my driving reverie by my 4 year old daughter’s voice from the backseat of the car. “Dad, will you tell J. that he doesn’t know everything.” I turn briefly to her six year old brother and say, as instructed, “J., no one knows everything” and swallow the impulse to add, “With the possible exception of your mother, of course.”
There is silence for a while as the two of them ponder this gem of fatherly wisdom. A truce descends and, then, almost as if to test my sage hypothesis, my daughter asks, “OK, J., if you know everything, who was the first president of the world?” This should be good, I think. There is hardly a pause and my son, only half way through his first year of school, replies with eminent confidence, “George Washington.” My daughter, perhaps feeling the first limitations of a public kindergarten education asks me, “Is he right, Dad?” And I have to admit that he is mostly right even if the USA is not quite the whole world yet. And there it is: that uniquely parenthood moment, that sly suggestion that maybe one of our offspring has dipped into the deeper end of the gene pool than we were aware existed.
I put my shoulders back and start to consider which university J. will enrol in. My illusions, however, soon evaporate as the backseat conversation reaches its intellectual zenith. After a pause, my daughter, feeling that she should take advantage of the now confirmed genius beside her, asks, “J. are there any animals that can fly?” Once again, the answer is unequivocal and instantaneous. “No.”
J.’s sister’s next question is tinged with anxiety, “But what about Father Christmas’s reindeers?”
The air becomes palpable with uncertainty. Then my son in a single moment relegates himself back to the realm of sandpit mortal.
“Oh, yeah,” he says, “I forgot about them.”