Children of Wonder

May 5, 2009

By the time she started kindergarten, we knew that Random Daughter was a very smart little girl and a very good little girl.

We figured genetics worked by addition in our case; her IQ was perhaps the sum of ours. Being a very smart little girl she figured out that her parents had very little patience with children, so if she wanted to survive to the age of 18, she shouldn’t take chances. In particular, she noticed that Mrs. Random always grew house plants and called them her “babies.” Mrs. Random was not very patient with her babies; if one failed to thrive, she said, “This one isn’t worth the trouble; I’m tossing it.” Our observant little girl noticed and took the hint.

When Random Daughter (now known as Mama) joined forces after graduation with her Oberlin college roommate, now known as Mommy, to become Out-of-Law Partners, we noticed her partner is also very bright.And the fellow alumnus who agreed to send some sperm in a test tube is a sharp fellow as well. All and all, Random Granddaughter got off to a very good start in both the genetics department and the influence department. Even her mommies’ little cat, Sylvie, is a remarkable feline and may have contributed important elements to RG’s development.

So we were not surprised when the School for Very Bright Children where Mommy works measured RG’s IQ as very, very high even when compared to all the other little phenoms in their crop of budding geniuses.

However, even as doting and proud grandparents of RG, we have to be impressed with the newest little member of Mensa in England we read about the other day, all of two years old.


When I was about 12 years old, I read a science fiction collection of stories called Children of Wonder that imagined the amazing children who might appear in the future. The startling future I read about in 1956 is now here, and something very strange is going on.

Almost no one was writing humorous science fiction when [William Klass writing as] William Tenn opened the door with “Child’s Play,” a funny story about a present-day lawyer who receives a Christmas gift meant for a child of the future and sets about making people with his Build-A-Man kit.

“Child’s Play” (Astounding Science Fiction magazine, May 1946) was wildly acclaimed–even the sophisticated New Yorker carried a piece on it–and by now it may be the most widely anthologized of all science fiction stories.Tenn’s first book, Children of Wonder, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1953. Interested in the ways in which writers of fantasy perceive the real age of fantasy–childhood–he put together an anthology of tales about the “children of wonder” –most of them quite horrifying, he notes.

Elise the very, very, very bright little girl in England, seems to be growing up as a happy, cheerful, well-adjusted child. Perhaps her interesting heritage which includes England, Malaysia, China, Nigeria and Sierra Leone provides her with a good balance of trace elements so she may not need to turn into a horrifying child of wonder

Another Elise, Anne Elise, our Random Granddaughter, who is perhaps only growing up to be a very very bright little girl in Puget Sound also seems to be growing up to be a happy, cheerful, well-adjusted little girl. Maybe it’s Sylvie, the world’s most affectionate and extroverted cat, who provides the essential trace element to help her grow up into a wonderful but not horrifying wonder child.

4 Responses to “Children of Wonder”

  1. I think parenting and environment has a lot to do with the quality of wonder that wunderkindchen display.

  2. That should be “have” a lot to do. Geez.

  3. modestypress Says:

    On the whole, I tend to agree with you, though there are mysterious exceptions. My sister (#1 of 2) was a victim of egregious statuatory rape resulting in a daughter. My sister never married and raised the daughter by herself.

    Her daughter (my niece) is a few years younger than my daughter. My wife and I observing our niece when she was about 12, thought, This young lady is going to have serious problems as she gets older. Later, my sister later said to me, “I was a terrible mother.”

    My sister moved to Chicago and we did not observe our niece again until she was in her late teens and attending college in California. One day she stopped by and visited us. She had (as far as we could tell), more or less raised herself and had turned into a mature, intelligent, sensible young woman, a bit like teaspoon in fact. A year or two later she introduced herself to her boyfriend, also a person of exceptional quality. They married, live in Vermont, and have a couple of childern. I haven’t seen them since my family reunions about 8 or 9 years ago, but I have no reason to think that they are anything but still wonderful. How did my neice turn out so well?

    People are usually fairly predictable (in ways sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful), but sometimes they astonish us, again in ways at each extreme. Go figure.

    For that matter, look at you!

  4. woo Says:

    Yup, I think love is the vital trace element in RG’s life and upbringing which will enable her to reach her very, very bright potential without turning her into a horrifying wunderkind.

    None of her family are pushing her, but are accepting her and setting her some important boundaries.

    Plus, as you say, Sylvie the cat’s influence must not be underestimated. We underestimate the felines in our lives at our peril, as David knows only too well…

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