My son outsmarts me. More than I’d like to admit. Granted, I’m not the most worthy battle-of-wits opponent among my peers, but I’ve got 30 years on this kid! Not only is his logic sound, but his timing is impeccable. When Marcus strikes, it leaves this dad with no suitable recourse but to grumble incoherencies under his breath like a thwarted cartoon villain. A couple of representative moments:
* * * *
I’m sitting at the kitchen table trying to refill my torch cigar lighter, one of those tier-5 tasks that all of a sudden gains importance the moment you open your laptop to do work. Marcus, just barely 4 at the time, is playing quietly in the living room.
Something’s not working. ‘click ... click, click ... thunk.’
Let’s try that again. ‘shake, shake ... click, click.’
“Godammit! Cheap piece of…”
Marcus walks up to me, “what are you doing, dad?”
“Nothing, this lighter’s just broken.”
Marcus returns to what he was doing. I give up and continue with my work. Moments later Marcus strolls over to the table.
‘click, click, click, click’
My parental reflex kicks in. “Hey! Fury, stop that. You’ll burn yourself!”
Marcus pauses to look at me, as if to give me one more chance to take that back. I give him a “well??” look.
“Dad, if it’s broken, how can I burn myself?”
“It might… it’s just…the… that thing… hmmph… rah…robble robble...”
My brain is tripping over parallel parental directives: reward for logic – instill healthy fear of fire – reward for logic – fear of fire… After I compose myself, all I can muster is “soooo, if that lighter wasn’t broken you wooould…”
Marcus gives me a this-is-so-easy-I’m-insulted look and replies on cue “… not play with it.”
He walks away in victory, clicking away. I consider calling social services on myself.
* * * *
Marcus and I are in the elevator at the mall. As with most kids his age, he loves to press the buttons, so I’ve developed the habit of directing a portion of my peripheral attention to sudden hand movements in the vicinity of the panel. He initiates. Index finger extended, he makes a move toward the red button. Like a cop in a sting operation, I spring into action (It’s going down! It’s going down!).
“Fury! Don’t touch that!”
My arm goes out for the intercept. We’ve foiled a premature emergency stop.
Marcus gives me a bewildered look.
“What. You don’t want me to learn how to read??”
“Wha ... I ... you ...*sigh* ... it says ‘Emergency Stop’”
I know he was reaching to press the button, but it’ll never hold up in court.
* * * *
Ok, so Marcus bests me so often that I’m starting to feel like a Tom and Jerry carton. He kind of even looks like the little guy. But if you were ever a regular viewer of the cartoon, you’d know that every few episodes, they’d throw Tom a bone and let him win. I used to love those episodes. Redemption.
I’m sitting at Rubio’s with Marcus having churros. He’s just learning to read and likes to practice on shorter words. He points to the menu board.
“That says Taco, right?”
“Yup, sure does!”
“What about the second one?”
“That says burrito.”
This continues down the menu. Eventually, we reach the 5th one.
“What’s that one?”
“No, the fifth one.”
“The FIFTH one?”
“Yes Fury, I know. The fifth one. That says Quesadillas.”
He winds up for smart alec mode. I can see his crooked half smile forming, like a novice standup comedian about to deliver his punch line.
“So, Quesadillas starts with a Q???”
I maintain composure, sit up straight and slam this one out of the park.
“Yes Fury. YES IT DOES! Quesadilla does in fact start with a Q, sir!”
I’m fighting every urge to jump up out of my seat, arms raised (Dad wins by KO in the fifth round!).
He tries to appeal the decision. I admire his resilience.
“But ‘ke’ sounds like a C or a K...”
Alas, I’m a dad. Time to stop gloating and be his mentor again.
“Yes, you’re right, but in Spanish the QU makes that ‘ke’ sound. Quesadilla is a Spanish word.”
“So it’s really ‘kweisadilla’ in English right?”
“Yes, if you were reading in English you could say that, yeah.”
I let the little guy save face. Knowing that I won this one was good enough for me.
Fast forward to dinner, two nights ago. We’re having tortellini with pesto and for fun we’re naming different ethnic foods. I name a country and he tells me what he’s eaten from there.
“Tempura and miso soup.”
“Clam Chowder! Yum!”
“What about hmmm… Mexican?”
Wait for it…
“… and what letter does Quesadilla begin with?”
“C… oops! I mean Q. 'Kweisadilla.'”
“Very good son. Very good.”
He won’t soon forget that. Nor will I.
Another exception. Whoopie Pie is spelled "MMM"