Forty for Forty – #16. Am I Smarter Than a Second Grader?

I’m set in my ways.

I admit it. I have an opinion and I typically stick with it. Now, I can be open-minded at first blush but once I’ve garnered enough facts and made up my mind – it’s real hard for me to change it. That character trait will come into play big time in a future post (where I tackle religion – OOOOOOOHHHHHHHH) but in general, I realize I am a friendly, happy-go-lucky guy who every once in a while rises up to smack down a contrary opinion.

Now, I’m perfectly content to let people enjoy their own opinions – in fact, I cherish their differences and the journalist in me lives to listen and catalogue others opinions. That’s how I usually come to my own conclusions -by sifting through a mountain of evidence until I glean the truth that makes most sense to me.

But when I look back on my life, I can pinpoint specific examples where the contrary opinion seems so crazy that rather than just sit idly by and let it fester, I’ll rise to the occasion and try to disprove it once and for all.

Which is all the rationale I need for the year-long war I recently waged with a second grader.

Those of you who know me – whether from real life or just by following this site – know that I am a doting Dad to two sweet little kids – Aria (6) and Colin (8). And if you know enough about them then you’ve no doubt heard me tell the tale of Colin – who faced a major haul early on overcoming significant social/emotional delays and has made some huge strides. More work to come, of course, and probably forever; but there is no doubt, he’s come so far. Remember, there was a time when we thought he’d never speak. Of course, some of that was just normal parental anxiety imagining the worse the moment you detect even a hint amiss. But there was real truth there too and it’s something that we’ve all worked hard to correct or adapt.

That said, Colin has really opened up in school. I’m not going to run through it all again, if you haven’t already you can read all about it here, but suffice to say that a combination of Early Intervention services, complete inclusion in a standard everyday classroom, increased interactions with his sister and peers and of course a heaping helping of Mom and Dad’s affection – has brought our little man to some great heights. The boy who barely spoke is now a non-stop chatter box. And while he can shy away from brand new situations, once he warms up to new people, he’s right there engaging them in dialogue and play.

That has made him a beloved figure in his classrooms and any early season anxiety usually melts once he’s gots the lay of the land and gets to know his new teacher and fellow students. And that means, what I once thought impossible is now a blessed everyday reality.

So, from time to time, Colin will come home and regale us with whatever crazy thing has happened in the classroom. He’s a kid who loves to entertain and loves to laugh – and having seen it first hand – he seems universally accepted and befriended in his classrooms. It’s heart-tugging to a Dad who wakes everyday harboring a whisper of fear that the tide will turn; that his unique approach to life will be detected and the sharks will swarm. Hey – I went through school without a shade of Colin’s challenges and people found plenty to pick on me for. Most of us shield some insecurity that gets prodded when exposed to light. I could deal with it but as a Dad you fear that your kids won’t have the same strength. Of course, how often do they prove us wrong, am I right?

Anyway – this is a fairly light tale so that’s all the heavy exposition you need but I wanted to color in the background for where my mind races on some of the decisions I make.

Case in point – last year, just a few weeks into that Second Grade session, Colin came home babbling excitedly about some killer news he got from school. He told me he had conclusive proof that in 2012 the world was going to end – exactly the type of doom and gloom scenario that I try to shield these two innocents from on a daily basis. Who needs their blissful slumber haunted with that malarkey until it’s absolutely unavoidable?

Where do you hear that?,” I asked.

Of course, I already knew the answer. The same bastion of bad information that has sent him home questioning the true career tracks of Santa, the Easter Bunny and Ty Pennington. In every school, there’s always some punk ass kid threatening to knock down the entire house of cards. And the last thing I ever want is Colin obsessing over some trivial thing when he can be enjoying the finer pursuits of being a carefree kid. The less worry, the better – especially for my sensitive little guy.

Fortunately, we live in the Internet Age. Anything that can be proven can be disregarded on the web – sometimes in the same shoddy Wikipedia post. So, I told him we would consult the great and powerful dot coms. But first, I needed to know the facts.

Well – Joshua told the WHOLE CLASS that in 2012 an asteroid is going to hit the Earth and destroy it.

So, he and I hit the laptop and Googled, word-for-word, “In 2012, will an asteroid hit the Earth and destroy it?”

This returned thousands of hits – most from whack jobs flashing the theory their thumbs up – but up at the top was a link to NASA; specifically a page they’ve set up to dispute any wild and crazy ideas gumming up the Internet. And on this page, they immediately shot down the rogue asteroid chatter and then laid the foundation that if an asteroid were going to hit the Earth, our advanced warnings systems are so sophisticated, we would know years in advance and could formulate a plan of attack. In other words, we have a better chance of a ragtag band of drunken oil drillers blasting one of these things out of the sky than we do of a rampaging rock smashing a hole the size of Texas in Rhode Island.

And here’s where I knew I had played the trump card. If an expert says it’s so, my kids fall right in line. When a new movie is coming out – they ask me what review it got. That’s a little perk I gained when I explained to them that I used to review movies in college – which led to me explaining what a movie critic does. So, by the grace of Ebert, I’ll never see a Squeakquel in my lifetime. Same goes for when they used to splash like crazy in the bathtub – giving our whole bathroom a thorough rinsing. One day the plumber explained that the water could pour into little nooks and crannies, seep into the walls and cause all kinds of structural problems. From that day on, whenever the nightly bath threatened us with a new Waterworld, we’d bellow “That’s It – We’re Calling the Plumber” and with that, their devious schemes were laid to rest.

That was all Colin needed. He tucked the knowledge in his head for the next day and headed off to play with his sister. The next day, we got a report that he relayed the information back to the kid who took it all in and never offered a rebuttal. Asteroid avoided!!! We were saved.

Until a week later when Colin returned from school with some late breaking news. Turns out Joshua had gone back to the drawing board and detected a slight error in his previous calculations. It wasn’t an asteroid that was going to hit the Earth. IT WAS A PLANET!!! And not just any planet. Nope, Neptune and Uranus would have to sit this one out. PLANET X was on fast approach. According to Joshua, it’s been hiding behind the Sun for eons. Scientists only recently got wise to its little game of planetary peekaboo but now it’s too late. It’s going to crash into the Earth this December so get those New Year’s Eve Last Night preparations in order, ASAP.

With the knowledge in hand, I led Colin to the laptop and once again hit up Google.

“In 2012, will Planet X hit the Earth and destroy it?”

And once again, we were led to NASA’s official denial page where once again, they let it be known that if a rogue planet were threatening to bitch slap the Earth, we would have know about it at least two decades ago.

And because it came from the experts, Colin set his mind at ease and headed back to school, ready to counter Joshua’s pleas for doomsday. Returning home that day, he once again echoed the earlier exchange. Joshua took it all in stride and walked away muttering something about that damned “Ask Jeeves”.

And for a good month, all was quiet. Little by little, skirmish by skirmish, I had won the war. No Second Grader on the planet could match wits with my desire to get the last word in. Although I hated having to stoop to such childish games, it’s not my fault. He started it… that stupidhead.

Oh well. It was a nice victory while it lasted. But this second grader hadn’t gone running home to Mom. No – he had to go above my head. All the way to the top. One day, Colin returned with this:

“Joshua said  today that he was completely wrong. Planet X is not going to hit the Earth. EARTH IS GOING TO HIT PLANET X!!! And there’s nothing we can do about it. He heard it straight from M.I.T.”

How the hell am I gonna’ counter this? FREAKIN’ NERDS!!!!!

Comments now closed (2)

  • Nice Ed! I remember how much it bothered me that my kids were hearing all that end of the world garbage!

  • At least you didn’t climb on a bus and assault Joshua, unlike that nutbag earlier this week.

    Good story!