My daughter called tonight. The Barely Extended Family’s travels and visits with various grandparents have become so complicated somebody at the same level and experience as those who arrange Obama’s travel and itinerary needs to be involved.

At the moment, the schedule is that my wife and I will go visit the mommies and Random Granddaughter next Friday. She is involved in something very exciting in her preschool and did not want to miss it, but she will deign to join us in the afternoon.

The weekend after that Mommy’s mother and stepfather will go hiking with Mommy, Mama, and RG in the Olympics. Then we will meet at the island county’s fair.

We also learned that RG has become a bit weary of her career as a painter and is moving into music. First a friend (about 12 years old )started teaching her recorder. RG wearied of that fairly quickly.

Now she has embarked on piano lessons. There are several incentives. Her best friend, Mia, is taking piano lessons. (Mia’s family also owns a piano, which RG’s family does not.) The teacher is an adult, with quite a bit of experience in teaching children. Random Granddaughter is rushing headlong into adulthood.

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Social Occasion Part 2

February 4, 2009

Speaking of International Relations (as David just did), one of the impossible tasks of modern life is to arrange a social event by email. It takes about 57 emails before schedules can be reconciled. I was trying to arrange a date and time when Mama and Mommy and Random Granddaughter and Mary and S and F can all have an international social occasion at the mommies’ house.The date Mary set doesn’t work for S and F. We arranged a week later.

I thought, dinner. The mommies said, how about brunch at 10 am? S and F said, we have an appointment and can not arrive until eleven. I said, how about 11 am? Mary said, that would be fine; I sleep late on weekends. The mommies said, that would be late because RG must take her nap by 1 pm. I said, I am making an executive decision, we will meet at 10:30 am.

Then the mommies asked, what about food preferences? T(hey have had guests who wouldn’t eat this or that.) I will email the guests today and ask what they like to eat and what they don’t like to eat. They are very polite people so they probably will tell us they eat everything. Nobody eats everything. RG hardly eats anything. (She will be the first five year old to suffer from anorexia.)

Mrs. Random is concerned I am taking advantage of the mommies to be my diplomatic social hostesses (which of course, I am), and said, we [Grandma and Grandpa] should pay for the food. The mommies said, don’t worry about it. Of course, Mrs. Random, in her Martha Stewart alter, is fretting about it.

Now RG is on deadline to learn Quechua and Romanian in three weeks. And the mommies said, RG may get bored with all the adults around and wander off and do something else in the middle of the social occasion (and perhaps provoke an international incident).

At the last minute, somebody will probably not be able to make it. I will sulk because all my careful scheming has come to naught.

Then there’s Bunny, the killer rabbit masquerading as RG’s favorite stuffed animal. He may decide to wreak revenge on me (for my bunicide in the woods) in the middle of the social occasion, ruining the mommies’ best tablecloth with bloodstains.

This is the first week I don’t have to go to work. I have a list of 10,000 things I need to do. Mrs. Random has a list of 10,0020 things I have to do. The 20 have to come before any of mine. Perhaps her 10,000 things come before my 10,000 things.

When RG was an infant, she was healthy, but clearly unhappy much of the time. The mommies and RG lived next door in the duplex we owned, and I frequently took care of her. She was frequently crying, though there seemed to be nothing wrong with her physically. I remember mommies and Grandma saying, “If only she could talk, so she could tell what was bothering her.”

I said, “I have a feeling you won’t like what she has to say when she begins to talk.

As she became a toddler and pre-schooler and began to talk, she often seemed frustrated. She often struck me as trying to decipher a secret code that adults used to get their way. At the time, it struck me as a perfectly normal part of growing up. Adults direct and control little children all the time, quite certain they know what is best and necessary for the children.

I have a secret sympathy for little children; I am kind of a toddler libertarian.

I have become quite a fan of the cherry vile philosopher/anthropologist Ernst Becker. I first came across his work when I read a transcript of a talk Becker gave in British Columbia in memory of Gestalt psychotherapist, Fritz Perls. I was thunderstruck when Becker talked about how we control little children for their own good (or so we think).

I am going to quote from Becker’s talk at length here. The entire transcript is available on Wikipedia. (It occurs to me that the syndrome Becker talks about, when carried to a monstrous extreme, might shed some light on David’s experience that led to his DID. I don’t know. David will have to evaluate whether my extreme intuitive leap makes any sense.)

 =================================================

 “In order to come of age, in order to become an adult, the child has to distort his awareness of the world and become somewhat dishonest about himself. He becomes dispossessed of his own senses; he is fragmented within himself by the mechanisms of defense; he is cut off from reality; and he doesn’t see the real world as it is because he has a certain stake in seeing it in a somewhat distorted way. And apparently it all starts in childhood, where the child tries to exercise his own activity but comes up against two people in his environment who in some ways continually block his own movement and his own satisfaction. They block the child’s assimilation of experience. This has been known, of course, since Freud. The child is blocked by the adult in the pursuit of pleasure. I won’t say that he is blocked always for his harm; he is blocked a lot for his own good. If the child goes to walk into a fireplace, the adult has to stop him. If he tries to eat poison, it’s a good idea not to let him do so. If he tries to walk off a cliff, you try to grab him. So the child finds that he is blocked by the adult at certain times. A lot of times he is blocked and frustrated by adults so that he can learn self-control. There is a sense in which the child has to learn proper self-control. These things we admit. But the thrust of the modern theory of psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and all of Perls’s work, is that a lot of times the child is blocked in his experience because of the anxieties that are not his and because of threats that are not really there. These are the anxieties of the parents, the anxieties of the adult. His hands are dirty, and you make him wash before dinner because you are afraid of germs. He doesn’t know anything about germs, and anyway, how much chance would there be of his becoming ill?

“A lot of ways in which adults stop children occur because the adults themselves feel uncomfortable. He puts his feet on the sheets, you scream, “Get your feet off the sheets! I hate dirty feet!” Well, there’s nothing wrong with feet on the sheets, really. There are very few illnesses you could get from that. This is not Calcutta, after all. He fondles his ‘genitals; this makes the adult anxious because the adult has his own anxieties about sexuality. He breaks a glass, the adult becomes upset. He tracks dirt onto the floor; all of these simple things. I have a friend who went to beat his child for stepping into the roses. What are roses for except to be stepped on by children, in a manner of speaking? And yet, you can see where children have to take the burden of adult anxiety. The child internalizes anxieties that are foreign to him and artificial to his desires; unnecessary, we might say, to his own natural expansion into the world. The child needs the adults for one thing, really, more than anything else, and that is a feeling of value. He needs a feeling that he is loved, and a feeling that he is somebody of importance — what we call self-esteem. And the only way he can get self-esteem is by accepting what his parents say and do to him. He accepts the adults’ blocking of his actions because if he doesn’t they will threaten him with abandonment and withdrawal of love. So the child is really trapped. He has to accept what the adults are doing to him, and he accepts it willingly. This means that he develops a certain world view where he tries, by putting a brake on his own action and his own pleasure, not to displease them. So as he shapes himself, he shapes himself into an image that is pleasing to others. So right away, you see, you have here the fundamental dishonesty of the childhood situation. He takes pieces of the parents into himself — “You don’t do this”; he goes to touch something — “No! No!” “Bad! Bad!” “Good! Good.” And the first thing you know, he’s got a program, a conditioning, a superego. He comes to feel anxiety when he does “No” things, and he comes to feel pleasureful when he does “Yes” things. But these “Yes” things and these “No” things don’t come from his own organism, they come in to him from the environment. So the child is actually a creature, you see, of his training. There is a tremendous sobering radicalism in that idea, which I think is the real reason for the discomfort of Freud, still.

“So, the child, in order to maintain and build a sense of self-worth in what is fundamentally a tyrannical world, adopts these deceits. You see, the child has no power; if he doesn’t do what you say, you will correct him for it. So he’s living in a world of Stalins, really, and anything he does wrong he’s “corrected” for. He’s living in a world of giants; when you’re a child you live in a forest of knees. We forget that very easily; we were walking around bumping into people’s knees for a long time, and we have to watch out we don’t get stepped on — and sometimes we do. They say, “Oops! I’m sorry.” There are all these feet coming down on you. You don’t really see people’s faces for a long time. And in order to live in that kind of world, you more or less have to knuckle under to it.

“Now, in this viewpoint of human development, you can see that neurosis is inevitable; it’s impossible not to be neurotic. Each person is in some way off-centered; that is, his aegis over his own action has been delegated to someone else. Each person is in some way, as close as we can put it, off-centered. He’s not a responsible, spontaneous source of his own activity. Somehow that has been delegated to his environment. In some ways his awareness of the world has been blocked. If the parents don’t feel comfortable with the child’s genital area, he tends to not see it. He tends to think of it as a “no-no.” If his parents are afraid of germs, he tends to be hypersensitive to his hands. And so on. He has to see only what they see in order to protect himself.

“The neurotic style, then, and this is an idea that I think is becoming quite current now, is kind of a positive development since we all have it; we’re all neurotic. The only problem with people who are neurotic is that they think that they’re different. But everybody is neurotic, so we can all relax. Everybody feels guilty about sex, because sexuality means your body makes you guilty — not necessarily because of what the church taught you, but because the body is a hindrance to your own free subjectivity. The body is a standardization of yourself, the body is a physical thing. Your own free person inside of your body wants to be something more than merely a standard product of the species. So, as Rank pointed out, we all feel guilty with our body. We’re all neurotic.

“I say that deliberately because I think there’s a lot of bad propaganda going around about how not to be guilty, how not to be neurotic. As you’ll see as my talk develops, this is pretty nigh impossible. Neurosis is a kind of dishonest style that helps people, all of whom are more or less crippled, maintain their sense of self-worth. It makes them oblivious about their own dishonesty. Here’s an excellent example of this kind of obliviousness about one’s own dishonesty (what we call the unconscious): A friend of mine, and 1, and another person were coming out of a movie theater. The third person was a dependent type who didn’t have too much confidence in himself, but who was sensitive. I said, “How did you like the movie?” And he said, “Oh, it was a great movie, it’s one of the best movies I ever saw, tremendous! The leading role, the acting, the images, the directing, the real good camera work, and the plot especially was particularly well integrated; you had a real feeling of suspense. It was really a first-class movie.” And then I turned to the other guy, who was a very strong person with a lot of confidence but who was a little dull intellectually, and I said, “How did you like the movie?” He said, “Lousy!” Then the first person said, “Right, it wasn’t very good.” So he didn’t have the courage, you see, to maintain that position in the face of the stronger person who said it was bad. But the interesting thing about it: I asked him afterward, “Do you realize that in the space of about one-tenth of a second, you went from a positive, enthusiastic opinion to a totally negative one?” He said, “I did?” There’s an example of the unconscious as it works: the obliviousness of the person about what he’s even doing in order to maintain his sense of safety and security and self-worth. So the neuroses that we all have are a kind of stupidity — an inefficient and in some ways self-defeating self regulation. The person has given up awareness of himself and the world. He has given up authentic self-control and self-governing in order to have self-esteem and to somehow keep his action moving forward, even though his actions now reflect motives that are not his. but those of others.

 

The interesting thing, you see, is that when we are trained as children, we are too young to know what is really happening to us. When you look at your children, you feel this particularly poignantly. They’re running! They just run! They’re moving; they move in that door and out that door. And you stop them on the way through and say, “Hey!” And they run by. And they’re through again and then Bye. And you say, “Hey, where are you going?” and they say, “Hungry.” “Okay, here, eat.” “Yum-yum. Play, play!” And meanwhile, certain things are happening to them, and they don’t know what’s going on. In the first place, they don’t have symbols; they don’t have language for a couple of years, in order to understand what’s happening. But they’re getting a lot of messages from the environment: a lot of prohibition, a lot of patting on the head, and a lot of various things are being filtered into their neural system. And they don’t have symbols in order to cope with this. And they keep running. Gradually, when you go over this process for about five years, it turns out that they can only keep running straight if they do a lot of things while they’re coming through the door, which they don’t know they’re doing, in order to please you. So the result of the process is that when you grow up you’re running, but you don’t know why, and you don’t have any idea of what happened to you while you were running. This, if I may say, is the tragedy of man: that he is that kind of an adult who runs without knowing that he is running, which is another way of defining stupidity. Our best theories of mental illness now, even the most extreme psychotic dimensions, are theories of stupidity: people who don’t know what they’re doing, because they don’t know what happened to them.

“In a way, of course, this has to speak for every one of us. None of us was born with language, scrutinizing his parents with a critical eye. I can’t imagine such a monster. It would be a nice trick to play on the parents, when they look over and say, ‘Naughty, naughty! You wet the bed!’ And the baby says, ‘Oh, it’s only excrement, you know that’s not bad, a baby’s excrement.’ What if he could say that back to you, huh? And you say, ‘Look, but you did it on the floor!’ And he says, ‘The floor is a foreign substance which is easily washable. I will feel no anxiety about that.’ But, of course, the child can’t do that, which is what his problem is. He can’t make a simple objective clarification of factual experiences, and say to his parents, ‘Call reality, as they say, the way it is.’

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 The idea of children’s instincts and authenticity being suppressed by adults was not original with Fritz Perls, of course. It probably originates with the French writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

 Fritz Perls was probably one of the greatest psychotherapists of the 20th Century, but the therapy he practiced was as much a form of entertainment as a helping process. (I saw him perform in public once.) In a way, he was an enfant terrible, an idiot savant, an intuitive genius who could decipher a person’s personality from watching their body language and listening to their voice.

However, he was also probably an amoral person with serious personality disorders. He practiced public therapy sessions, using them as much for entertainment as for therapy. He slept with many of his patients. He treated his wife and children very badly.

Becker was not an amoral person. However, in the discussion of authenticity I quoted, he does not discuss ethics. Because as soon as human beings interact with each other, we encounter the problem of how we are to behave toward each other. I am not a profound philosopher of ethics. The best I can come up with is that we should treat each other decently. It seems fairly obvious to many of us: don’t murder each other; don’t torture each other; don’t steal from each other; help other people when we detect them in dire need.

Sounds pretty easy, but we are always tangled in painful messes in how we interact with each other.

I don’t really know if my granddaughter is a genius or not. It is clear to me, however, that she is studying how people behave with great attention. “Buy me a stuffed animal,” she told me at the zoo. “You still have money in your wallet,” she pointed out. “What about the smallest, least expensive stuffed animal in the zoo store?” she wheedled.

“If you buy me a stuffed animal, I will take a nap,” she tried to bribe me.

As we drove home and cars ahead of her irritated her, she envisioned calling them on my cell phone and warning them, “Get out of the way! I am on the way to put out a fire!” she warned, putting on her fire chief hat and abusing her authority as a budding, four-year-old fire chief.

She is almost five and I am almost 65. I can still outwit her, but only barely. By the time she is five, I will probably be signing the deed to my house over to her. She will probably have her kindergarten classmates signed up for a Ponzi scheme.

I am a fairly obedient grandfather and I am willing to leave RG’s main child-rearing and moral guidance to her mommies, who seem to be doing a good job and who seem to be on compatible pages with my wife and me, though their style is different.

The main things I would say to RG are #1: be yourself and not what others want you to be and #2: treat other people decently. If #2 conflicts with #1, #2 takes precedence.

When young, my brother showed signs of being a sociopath. As he went into his twenties, he grew out of it. As far as I can tell, he is now a decent father, husband, and business owner; so people can sometimes grow out of dangerous directions.

RG seems to have the tools to manipulate people with great skill. She may grow into a charismatic and inspiring  leader; she may grow into a person who stays independent and does as she pleases without letting other people control her and without controlling other people in unethical ways; she may turn into a little monster.

It’s our job as parents and grandparents to help her be the best RG she can be; best in developing her capabilities; best in being a good person.

I plan to put all my RG posts on a flash drive and give it to her mommies with instructions to let her read them when she is 15 years old.

So, RG, if you are reading this now, and you are tempted to abuse your intelligence and your gifts, this is your grandfather speaking from the grave. Cut it out, now.

On the other hand, if you are turning into a wonderful person, you go, girl!

Danger Mouse

January 17, 2009

Part 11: Will RG Be a Professional Explorer or Shopper?

 

 

After her nap, I reminded everyone that the Friendly Neighbors had saved eggs for us and for the mommies. We knew that the Friendly Neighbors were not at home because they had told us they were going to visit their grandchildren on the mainland. Grandma said, “They left the eggs for us on the back porch. Leave the money in a little pouch they have there.”

 

The mommies asked RG, “Do you want to go with Grandpa to get the mail and the eggs?” She expressed eagerness to collect eggs.

As it was late on a cloudy winter evening, it was dark outside. RG and I brought flashlights and dressed warmly. In the past, RG clung to Mommy’s hand and avoided holding hands with Grandpa. This time she said to me, “Hold my hand.” She didn’t seem to worry a bit whether Mommy was coming along. In her other hand she held the flashlight and confidently lit the way. Along with the flash light, RG carried a supermarket shopping bag for transporting the mail and the eggs.

I thought, RG may be an explorer or a professional shopper.

As we walked down the gravel road, we had a very adult conversation. She pointed to the little vacation home Joe and Melinda are building on lot #2. She talked about their dog Leah who likes to jump up and lick RG’s face. (We live on lot #3.)

I told RG about the little boy who attends kindergarten and whose parents own lot #4.

We passed the Friendly Neighbors house on lot #1. “Their lights are on,” said RG.

“They are supposed to be away visiting their grandchildren,” I said. “I don’t know why all their lights are on.”

We got the mail and the country newspaper and put it in the shopping bag. RG explained to me the stripes on the highway told the cars where to drive. As we walked back to our private road, we saw a car approaching. RG explained to me that the car was on the other side of the highway and that we were safe. I thought, RG may be a safety engineer or a highway designer.

As we approached the back steps, more lights came on. I explained to RG that the Friendly Neighbors have “motion sensor” lights that come on automatically. She listened with interest. As we approached the back door we could see lights on inside. I said, “Bang the metal knocker in case they are home.”

Even as RG clanged the knocker, we looked through the window and observed the Friendly Neighbors watching television. Mrs. Friendly Neighbor opened the door and greeted RG warmly. In our family we often adopt relatives. Although RG has no shortage of cool grandparents, she has adopted the Friendly Neighbors as additional grandparents and they have adopted her as an additional grandchild. It takes a village of grandparents to properly spoil a grandchild.

 I gave RG the money for the eggs. RG has discovered money and is now very interested in economics. She handed the money to Mrs. Friendly Neighbor and explained we had come to get some eggs for Grandma and for the mommies.

Mrs. Friendly Neighbor said, “I have three cartons of eggs. Tell me which ones you want.” She laid out the cartons of eggs and opened them for RG’s inspection. RG looked at them and instantly decided which two cartons she wanted. RG has no trouble making decisions. Someday, someone may propose to her. She will not dither or keep them hanging. Within five seconds, she will say, “Yes, I would love to marry you,” or she will say, “I am sorry, [John or Mary as the case may be, or possibly John and Mary, as RG is a child in a science fiction future], but I think we should just remain friends.”

Without fussing she let me carry the shopping bag, now pretty heavy. As we went down the steps, she counted the steps (architect at work again) and held my hand.

Part 12: How Do You Measure a Small Child’s IQ?

 

 

As RG took her nap, I asked Mommy about how one tests a four year old child’s IQ. She explained in some detail. I didn’t take notes, so I can’t repeat what she as extensively, but her explanation made a surprising amount of sense. She said the SVBC employs a psychologist who loves his work and carries it out with great sophistication. For example, he asks vocabulary questions. He asks a child to explain a word such as “bicycle” and to give an example of how a bicycle is used.

 

Mommy said this part of the test is flawed by culture bias. “For example, a child such as RG who has gone to a Montessori preschool is likely to say, ‘A bicycle helps the environment because it doesn’t use up gasoline or put out pollution.’ A child in the ghetto may live in an apartment and not give an answer like that because she doesn’t have access to a bicycle.”

As I have lived and taught in a ghetto and as I have a very cynical attitude, I commented, “A child in a ghetto may say, ‘A bicycle is something to steal.'” As RG was not present, the mommies and Grandma ignored my comment instead of chastising me. They are more PC than I am but they tolerate my bad attitude because cynical people such as me are part of the “diversity” they value, though cynicism tests tolerance to its limits.

Mommy explained that the psychologist asks analogy questions as well. He will a give a child a list of three words and ask which two words should go together and why.

He also shows a patterns of shapes and ask a child to point out which shapes go together. “That test is really intended for six year olds, so they don’t include the results in the scores for four and five year olds,” she said.

I listened in wonder. The psychologist had written detailed notes and provided the mommies with a copy. Mommy read the notes to me. The psychologist noted that RG had greeted him in a friendly manner and jumped into the testing with interest, enthusiasm and confidence. I wondered, is this a description of the cautious, introverted grandchild I know who did not like to leave Mommy until she has checked out a stranger and gotten to know them? I also thought, even though she is only four years old and very introverted, she has become an introvert who has learned to act like an extrovert when it’s convenient and useful. It took me about forty years to pick up on that trick.

In the earliest days of IQ testing, people had used crude words such as “imbecile.” “moron,” and “idiot” to describe people at the low end of the measurement scale. Generally, society now avoids using these words.

What about the other end of the scale. What is a genius?  

“Only approximately 1% of the people in the world have an IQ of 135 or over,” one web site on measuring intelligence tells me.

If you are in the 99th percentile of children tested at a school for very bright children, what are you?

At the end of the psychologist’s report, he indicated that RG ranks in the 99th percentile of the children he tests. On a numerical scale, he put RG’s IQ at 146. I thought, What part of the phrase “young genius” don’t I understand? However, I also thought, What part of the phrase, “doting grandparent” don’t I understand?

My cousin Joanna learned Chinese and became a millionaire in Taiwan. Taiwan named a library after her. I hope Taiwan has a few more million dollars lying around and a few more libraries to spare in case RG’s interests turn to Chinese.

My uncle George earned a Pulitzer Prize and a “Macarthur Genius Award.”

I hope the Pulitzer foundation isn’t running out of prizes and the Macarthur foundation is saving a few prizes in case RG’s interests turn to music or some other prize worthy activity.

Part 13: How Do You Test a Child’s Social Readiness?

 

 

I asked Mommy about Saturday’s testing. The SVBC wanted to observe RG in her interactions with other children. Mommy has participated in some of this testing, so she is familiar with it, but she was not allowed to watch most of RG’s activities on Saturday.

 

Mommy was a little cranky about the testing. (This may be one of the reasons they don’t let parents watch most of the testing.)

She said most of the other children were siblings of children already attending SVBC, so they are more familiar with the school and the other children.

The three kindergarten teachers were present. I will refer to them as K1, K2, and K3. Mommy does not like K1 and does not want RG to be in her class. She considers K2 OK, but she likes K3 the best. She noted with approval that RG seemed drawn to K3 as she participated in most of the activities.

Mommy indicated confidence that she would be able to make sure that RG would be placed with a teacher Mommy preferred. She indicated there were certain code words a teacher who was also a parent could say to the other teachers and the administration to see that her preferences were followed.

When the children participated with other children in activities, RG seemed mostly drawn to one particular boy. Whether this tells us anything about her future sexual preferences I have no idea.

The children were given some construction toys and invited to make things. Mommy sniffed that the toys were rather peculiar and not much like the toys RG prefers to play with.

RG’s best friend Mia lives across the street. I have met Mia. She is also a very bright little girl. She has good genetics: both her parents have doctorates in science. Mia seems a little rigid and obsessive-compulsive. Once I was playing with Mia and RG. They were chasing me around the mommies’ house and screaming with laughter. Suddenly, I turned and started to chase them. RG quickly turned and ran away, continuing to howl with glee and demonstrating considerable flexibility in her ability to  “turn on a dime.” Mia stopped, shook her finger at me sternly and said, “No! We are chasing you! Don’t start chasing us!” I thought, RG shows some potential for being very flexible and adaptable.

Mommy said, “Mia’s parents tend to follow our lead in a lot of areas. They also had Mia tested at the SVBC. We thought Mia is smarter than RG, but Mia only came in at the 97th percentile on most of the tests.” I thought, Oh, dear, how can a child who tests at the 97th percentile at a school for very bright children ever keep up?

Mommy also said, “Mia tends to do better at tasks that involve organizing objects. She tends to be rather anxious and putting things in order makes her feel more in control.”

I have met Mia’s parents briefly and they seem very nice. Mommy said, “Mia’s dad also tends to be very anxious.”

As public school is still considered an option for RG, Mommy compared the public school “Talented and Gifted” program to SVBC (which is essentially a “Talented and Gifted” private school). Mommy sniffed very hard at the public school program. The public school T&G program just accelerates what is available to a child, she said. The SVBC expands what is available to a child and provides the child with more choices, she told us.

Mommy said that many T&G children become academically specialized at a very early age. For example, they may decide to learn all that can be learned about dinosaurs or they may become musical prodigies. Mommy is a very bright person and a talented violinist. I don’t know if her early years followed this pattern.

Mommy noted that RG is interested in many subjects and activities but not focused on any one subject. (I would say this was also true of my daughter. When Random Daughter was a small child, we knew she was very bright. However, as a small child and as she grew older she maintained interests and curiosity about many subjects.) Mommy said such  eclectic interests is a little more unusual among the T&G children.

Even though RD decided to study biology by the time she was in high school, she has always been very interested in a wide variety of topics. In college she always took a lot of classes outside her major.

RG’s dad is also a very bright person. It is very hard to know exactly what he does for a living. He has some artistic talent and some of his work involves graphic design. However, he does a lot of consulting work involving nonprofit organizations in Chicago, and even has some links to Chicago politics, even a bit of a connection to the people around Obama, perhaps. Mommy said he has tried to explain to her what he does, but she always ends up a bit confused.

Perhaps this indicates what RG will do. She may be a person who does a bit of this and that, only brilliantly. My wife, who doesn’t think she is very smart, does a bit of this and that, quite brilliantly I think. My wife calls it puttering. Perhaps RG will be the first person to get a doctorate in puttering, maybe even a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize in puttering. For that matter, perhaps she will be the first kindergartener to receive a Macarthur prize before she reaches first grade.

Part 14: What Can You Glean from the Garden in the Middle of Winter?

 

 

After the big snowfall melted, my wife rushed to the garden and dug up potatoes, carrots, and beets from the ground. As she returned from the garden with two baskets in her arms, I saw a big grin on her face.

 

My wife considers a garden that produces food year round the apex of food gardening achievement. This is perhaps possible in the Pacific Northwest. I doubt it will work all that well in North Dakota.

At dinner, Grandma served roast chicken. (We have not reached the point of raising and slaughtering our own chickens yet, though I know that achievement waits in our future.) Grandma served broccoli because she knows that is a vegetable RG tolerates. She served mashed potatoes because RG likes potatoes properly smashed to show them who is boss. Grandma beamed about how well the potatoes survived hiding in the ground under the snow. My wife served raw carrot sticks from the garden. Everyone exclaimed about how much better the fresh raw carrots from the garden tasted than “store-boughten” carrots.

RG likes carrot sticks. Carrots are very nutritious vegetables. RG’s mommies tell her she should eat nutritious foods so she can get her vitamins. Next time the mommies bug RG about eating her vitamins she will brandish a raw carrot at them.

 My wife served pickled beets. My wife loves pickled beets.

As a child, my daughter hated beets and refused to eat them. As an adult, she continues to detest beets.

 However, my daughter is learning to demonstrate food flexibility, perhaps to set a good example for RG. At dinner, my daughter told us that she recently attended a pot luck dinner and tasted some beets fixed in a new way and rather liked them. Perhaps Mama was letting RG know that adults over the age of forty learn new tricks, so when children get over the age of four, they also should keep themselves open to new experiences.

Bravely Random Daughter took a bite of Grandma’s pickled beets. Bravely RG took a bite of Grandma’s pickled beets. Bravely, Random Daughter and Random Granddaughter told Grandma they still don’t like beets. Bravely, Grandma smiled at her daughter and granddaughter and said it was OK. Even Grandma can be flexible.

For desert Grandma served cream cheese pie. She had used Organic Valley cream cheese to make the pie. Organic Valley is a farmer’s cooperative that produces organically grown or raised food such as milk, cheese or meat and is considered very politically correct among people who admire wholesome food. (Also, my wife and I have invested money in the Organic Valley organization.)

However, that night Organic Valley had failed my wife. She lamented there was something strange with the Organic Valley cream cheese she had purchased that week. It’s texture and consistency were peculiar.

 My daughter admitted she is not a big fan of cheese cake or even cream cheese pie, in any case. RG expressed enthusiasm for cream cheese pie, but after a couple of bites, she lost her enthusiasm. Grandma had hidden away a brownie for this eventuality. RG ate the brownie with enthusiasm.

Although the dinner at that point had been a triumph, my wife is never satisfied with anything less than perfection in her hospitality. Her face displayed discontent that desert had not pleased everyone.

After dinner, we watched The Grinch. This was RG’s second viewing of this drama. RG had watched The Grinch for the first time the previous Christmas.. It had been the first television drama she had been allowed to watch. At the time, RG had been a little shocked. “The Grinch is bad!” she said. “I was watching tee-vee,” she told her mommy, acting a little frightened, rather like a pre-teen who had experienced her first kiss or had just had her first sip of wine.

The mommies had sheltered RG from television as a toddler because they think (as do my wife and I) that television acts like a drug on the minds of small children. As RG gets older, they want her to regard it as a kind of intoxicant that is fine when used in moderation.

I observed RG as she watched the movie. She seemed to enjoy the story with judicious appreciation. I thought, Someday, RG may be a movie critic or a film director.

Part 15: Comparing Recipes Scientifically

 

 

The next morning Grandma fixed French toast for breakfast. Grandma has fixed French toast the same way for over forty years. Mommy and Mama have a book called Best Recipes which features scientific comparisons of recipes for various popular dishes. The mommies are quite entranced with this objective approach to food preparation. My wife has this book also. She is a little more sceptical.

 

After the mommies had extolled the glories of the Best Recipes French toast, my wife prepared it in that fashion. (However, after the mommies had left, my wife muttered to me, “I still think my recipe is the best one.”)

Breakfast was proceeding in a splendid fashion when things suddenly went amiss. We had all been discussing our various favorite dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. RG, listening to the conversation with interest, suddenly interjected, “We like to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” (implying the important point was not to miss a meal). Everyone at the breakfast table regarded RG’s comment as fairly witty and laughed heartily. Suddenly, RG’s face crumpled. She said bitterly, “You are laughing at me.” She got up from the table and stalked away.

My wife and I were not sure exactly had offended Random Granddaughter.

However, even geniuses may produce dramatic works that flop and even geniuses may from time to time suffer stage fright and fears of rejection, especially if they are introverted geniuses.

Next: RG at the park on the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

Next year Random Granddaughter is supposed to start kindergarten. The mommies were planning to enroll her in a public school. My daughter went to public schools and did fairly well. In kindergarten she had a male teacher; that was unusual, but we thought it was excellent start for her.

 In the case of RG, there are some complications. First, enrollment is shrinking in her school district and schools are being closed. Also, there are a lot of issues involving different schools and their style and “personality” as a school Parents often try to cherry pick a school for their child; they don’t always get the school they want.

 Mommy has some ideas about the public school where she wants to send RG, but she is by no means sure she would be able to send her there.

 Also, kindergarten is only half day; so the mommies would have to pay for a half day of child care. The public school will provide it, but it’s as expensive as almost any other arrangement.

 At this point, Mommy’s employer, the private school for very bright children (SVBC), suggested she consider sending RG to their kindergarten. This is a touchy issue: 1) they are very expensive; 2) we all have ambivalent feelings about the desirability of a child going to such a school (as paradoxical as it sounds with Mommy herself working there); 3) when RG applied for their preschool, she was rejected as a) not bright enough and b) too introverted. Although (as far as we know) RG was totally unaware of and unaffected by this experience, it was not a happy experience for the rest of the family.

 SVBC said in regard to #1: we can provide some financial aid and with the cost you will pay for child care the expense might not be as great in comparison to public school as the mommies fear. In case of #2, ambivalent means one sees both sides of an issue and is unsure. As for #3, well that comes next.

[Keep in mind the following was written back in April. Shortly, I will explain how circumstances have changed.]

Mama (my daughter) applied for graduate school at the University of Washington a couple of years ago to study medical statistics. She was rejected because she was competing with math majors who had stronger math backgrounds. Mama studied calculus by distance learning and applied again. This time she was accepted.

Perhaps if RG studies for a year, and then apply for SVBC kindergarten, like Mama, she will be accepted on her second application.

RD still has her calculus books. RG sometimes has trouble getting to sleep. However, I am sure the calculus lesson she will get instead of a “bedtime story” will probably help her achieve slumber. And who knows, perhaps Bunny, or one of the other of her alternates, has an unexpected flair for calculus.

Also, even with the discount given to a teacher, SVBC is very expensive.

Maybe, like Mama, RG will just have to go to a public kindergarten and take her lumps with the other proles.

After I strapped RG into her booster seat in the back seat, we left the zoo. I was having qualms about being so judgmental about bribes. The truth is, I thought, adults bribe each other all the time.

I discussed this with RG. I said, “It is hard for people to get along. Often people do say to each other, “I will do this for you if you do that for me. Sometimes that is good way to work out problems and arguments, but sometimes it is not.”

The silence from the back seat indicated to me that Grandpa was providing way too much philosophy to a little girl who just wanted to see some lions. (Soon it will occur to her that lions are possibly missing a trace element from their diet: a nutrient that might be provided by a Grandpa.)

Finally, RG changed the subject. At the time, I was completely caught by surprise. Later, reflecting on the discussion, I realized the line of questioning had been inspired by watching the baby animals in the videos on the television screen on the stage.

“Grandpa, how does a baby get out of the mother?” she asked.

While I was still considering an answer, she went on, “Is the baby in the mommy’s tummy?”

I said, “A mother has something inside her called the ‘uterus’ that holds a baby.”

“Then how does the baby get out of the mommy?” she pressed.

Unprepared for this line of nature education, I was thinking, These are strange questions for a little girl with two articulate and open mommies to be asking a grandpa.

At that point I probably should have talked about the “birth canal.” Though I have a lot of teaching experience, the lessons I offer don’t usually go down this path, so to speak.

I said, “Are you familiar with the word ‘vagina?'”

Silence from the back seat.

I am in deep water, I thought. “I think this is probably a discussion you should have with your mommies,” I said, heading for the side of the pool.

Next RG headed for an area where children can play with blocks. I suspect the blocks are made from tropical hardwoods (chopped out of trees grown on plantations so they are not “endangered,” a distinction lost on four -year-old children, but I am sure much appreciated by their parents.) Many children were playing with blocks and wandering around.

RG piled some wooden discs into a tower. A child of about three was wandering around and flailing wildly, ignored by his mom, who was happily chatting with another mom. His arm struck RG’s tower of blocks; the blocks toppled, the toddler looked on his destructive work with satisfaction.

RG looked on the toddler with a look on her face that indicated to me that she was considering toppling the toddler to the ground as violently as he had toppled her blocks. However, she controlled herself, and the expression changed to one that seemed to express: young children today…what can you do with them?

RG is growing up, I said to myself, and learning to sublimate that natural instinct we all feel to exterminate irritating people.

Next: Gecko, no Geico

Changing the subject, I got her dressed to go to the zoo, including coat, hat, and boots. The day was windy and rainy; not a good day for a trip involving outside activities, but if RG is going to grow up in the Pacific Northwest, outside activities will often involve wind and rain, so she better get in the habit of dressing for storm-battered expeditions.

The first stop at the zoo was the Zoomazium, essentially a large indoor playground and science center. Mrs. Random and I had taken her there once before. On that trip, a regular weekday morning, the Zoomazium had been nearly empty. Today (a legal holiday) it was filled with hundreds of mommies (and a few daddies) having “quality time” with children ranging from infants to kindergarteners.

In typical “institution speak,” the zoo describes the Zoomazium thusly:

All the exhibits within Zoomazium have been designed for whole-bodied, imaginative play, as well as integration with existing zoo programs. The building is divided into several play areas, including active spaces for exploratory play, a stage for theatrical demonstrations, storytelling and video presentations, a Project Place and Nature Exchange for guided learning. What could be more fun than exploring a mountain cave, crossing a rope bridge in the tree canopy, discovering what lies beneath a savanna water hole or even climbing a 20-foot tree?! All this and more are awaiting discovery for young children interested in nature.

As my wife and I are hardcore introverts, we both hate “crowd scenes.” I observed RG carefully as she is clearly a young introvert. She removed her shoes and coat and placed them in an open-face storage locker by the door to the Zoomazium. Hundreds of little children were running around and screaming. RG looked at them warily, but continued purposefully on her own mission. First she headed for the biggest of the three climbing areas. The climbing areas are essentially slides, but carefully crafted to look like jungle hills and grottos. A child climbs a tree/hill in the jungle covered with vines, goes through a cave to the top of the slide, and then shoots down. Each of the three areas has a height measurement area at the bottom. A child has to be tall enough to go into the area of her choice. As RG is very tall for her age, she easily qualifies for the tallest area.

RG climbed the jungle tree (with a little help from a path up the tree) and disappeared into the vines and caves. Eventually, she reappeared as she slid down the slide. The look on her face was not so much one of joy as of a little person fulfilling a designated task; not unhappy, but not one filled with delight, either.

My assignment was to babysit Random Granddaughter on Veterans Day. Both mommies had to work. The pre-K was closed. I arrived the night before, just in time to kiss RG goodnight.

The next morning we all arose early. Mama (Random Daughter) left first to catch the bus for her downtown job. Mommy (my daughter’s partner and RG’s birth mother) provided me with some instructions for the day. For entertainment and activity, she suggested I take RG to the zoo.

RG is now big enough to ride in a regular booster child’s car seat in the back of my car, strapped in with a regular adult safety belt, instead of the space capsule safety seat she used as an infant and toddler. Mommy brought the booster seat in to the house for me to use in my car.

RG often skips taking a nap at PRE-K. (RG has informed me in no uncertain terms that I am not to refer to her school as “preschool” any more.)  However, Mommy gave me strict instructions in regard to this day’s nap agenda: “Make sure she takes a nap. I am taking her to her swimming lesson as soon as I get home. If she doesn’t have a nap, she will be too tired and cranky by dinner time.”

RG at various times has been interested in fire trucks, trains, and ferries. Currently, for reasons I am not sure about, she is interested in pirates. I am not sure what she thinks pirates do. Her mommies are very selective and protective in what she is allowed to come in contact with in regard to her exposure to books and other media. She encounters a lot of literature, but she is not yet allowed to hear the Cat in the Hat books. Shielded from television as an infant and toddler, she now watches carefully selected videos with Mommy. Mary Poppins seems be at the top of her current permitted video menu. She watches it 15 minutes at a time in the company of Mommy (her birth mother and my daughter’s partner).

 I presume RG is not exposed to stories about how pirates of old murdered, stole, and raped. She doesn’t get to watch the news, so I am fairly certain she is also not aware of the present-day resurgence of pirates in such areas as Southeast Asia (Indonesia) or in Northeast Africa (Somalia), or how they are holding ships for ransom.

But RG does know that pirates hide treasure. That Tuesday morning, she had about twenty “pieces of eight” that she had gotten somewhere. They looked like silver dollars (some with John Kennedy on the face; some with Dwight Eisenhower on the face), except wrapped in gold foil. Inside the gold foil (I am pretty sure) were chocolate candies shaped like silver dollar-sized coins.

 As RG has a considerable sweet tooth, I am sure she would have been ripping the foil off if she had known about the candy inside. As she didn’t realize they were hidden candy, she played with them, hiding them as “pirate treasure” and then finding them again and letting me find a piece or two.

After awhile we played the board game CandyLand. RG won. (I didn’t have to fix the game; she won fair and square.)

As I am only 15-years-old in maturity, I am working on growing up as a retirement project. It’s kind of late as my chronological age will be 65 when I retire. One of the main goals I have set for myself is to learn how to cook.

However, this goal may be too limited. After the pieces of eight game and the CandyLand game, RG became bored. She said to me, “Grandpa, I am bored. Let’s bake a cake.”

I said, “I don’t know how to bake.”

RG replied, “That’s OK. We have a recipe. Just follow the directions.” My refusal to take this project on undoubtedly lowered Grandpa’s standing in RG’s eyes, assuming it can get any lower than it already is. On the other hand, her confidence and optimism is wonderful and inspiring. She is a role model and an inspiration for me in growing up.