Monday, May 14, 2018

Genius Children

All parents have had those moments. The moments where, against your better judgement, you come to believe that your child is “extraordinarily gifted.” They say or do something that you convince yourself is unparalleled in the entire history of human development. You are cautious, and even preface your declarations with, “I know I am not entirely unbiased, but…..” and then you proceed to lay out your case for intellectual sainthood.

A week ago, my five-year-old son and I were reading his exhaustive encyclopedia of Marvel Superheroes. We were discussing the origin story of The Incredible Hulk and when we got to the section about anger being the catalyst for transformation, my son seemed to retreat into deep self-reflection. He asked me to re-read the passage again, with special emphasis on the part where Hulk returns to Bruce Banner once his anger subsides.

Without a word, he rose from the couch and disappeared into his room. After several minutes of searching, he emerged with a Little Golden Book about The Avengers. After manically flipping through the pages, he finally stops and turns the book toward me. Pointing accusatorily toward the illustration of The Avengers, he observes that The Hulk is pictured with a smile on his face. How, he demanded, could Hulk’s anger have subsided to the point that he was smiling and yet he still had not returned to Bruce Banner? This book stood in clear defiance of the parameters outlined by the Marvel Encyclopedia.

As he stared at me expectantly, I mumbled something about there probably being a time-delay since The Hulk might be momentarily pleased with something without fully being devoid of anger. This seemed to temporarily pacify him and we were able to move on, but I could tell that he wanted to dig deeper into it.

That evening, as I was relating the scene to my wife, I could barely contain my glee. After all, think of the cognitive horsepower necessary to discover and questions such a seemingly insignificant discrepancy. I began to worry that the specialists may want to start him at Princeton before he is ready. How would he handle being away from home at such a tender age? One of us would have to quit our jobs to accompany him to the inevitable television interviews and TED talks.

When I woke up the next day, I got my future Macarthur Genius Grant recipient a cup of milk and went back to take a shower. Still glowing from the forthcoming accolades from the academic community, I walked back into the living room and heard the sound of laughter.

Following the source, I found myself in our guest bathroom. What I found was my son and his younger sister knelt over the toilet bowl with their heads barely visible. I immediately demanded to know what was going on, but both of them had become incapacitated by giggles. Certainly, given my son’s recently demonstrated cerebral acumen, this was the gleeful conclusion to some sort of breakthrough experiment.

When the laughter finally subsided, he explained to me that when he “went pee-pee really hard” into the toilet it made bubbles. Upon discovering this, he had invited his sister into the restroom to see which one could pop the most “pee-pee bubbles” by blowing on them within a given span of time. He indicated that the “pee-pee bubble game” was already one of his favorite things.

Somewhat dejected, I made a mental note to cancel the calls to Good Morning America. When I rejoined my wife in the bathroom, she asked what the noise was and I barely had the heart to explain that our son had invented a game that revolved around the creation and popping of urine bubbles.
In hindsight, I obviously fell into the trap that all parents are subject to. Certainly there had been warning signs that “Pee-Bubble-Pop” was on the horizon. Just a few weeks prior, I had received a note from his teacher asking us to address the fact that our son had repeatedly referred to another young man as “fart-poop.” I had managed to keep a straight face the following morning while looking a grown woman in the eye and assuring her that we have “addressed the fart-poop.”

I cannot help but think that God had some hand in the juxtaposition of my son’s Hulk revelation and the toilet-bowel incident. Several years ago, he had exhibited a trait (which I cannot recall the exact nature of) that I had interpreted as a sign of his accelerated intellect only to have it canceled out within the hour as I had to implore him to stop licking dried paint from the sidewalk.

The truth is: I am thankful to be his father. He is every ounce a 5-year-old boy, capable of both great leaps of cognition and prodigious use of bodily-function terminology. If he is ultimately categorized as extraordinary, I hope it is for his courage in the face of injustice, his integrity in a world seemingly devoid of it and his kindness to those who have no reason to expect it. In the meantime, I will work tirelessly to perfect my ability to say "fart-poop" with as much gravity as such a situation requires.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The High Chair Fiasco

After the birth of our 3rd child, my wife and I found ourselves in need of a stand-alone high-chair. She found a well-reviewed model from Amazon and soon it was on its way. I was about 10 minutes into assembly before I realized that a crucial structural component of the item had been damaged in transit.

The prospect of attempting to repackage this monstrosity was daunting to say the least, and it seemed silly for one broken part. Fortunately, the manufacturer had included a flyer meant to address the very conundrum I found myself in. It implored me:


So I gathered all of the pertinent model information and called the number. At first, things were looking up. I was told that they would get that part out to me and in short order my first-world crisis would be averted. Then, they informed me that they no longer sold that model and could not get me the part, but they were willing to offer me a comparable replacement model.

My wife selected a replacement from the list that they sent me, and I called back in to get the ball rolling. The representative told me that all I would have to do is comply with their warranty destruction policy. It would be easy they said. Just takes a few minutes. They promised to e-mail me the details.

Several days passed without word, so I called back in and it was explained to me that I would need to go to a website to schedule a “video-chat destruction.” This was to ensure that the high-chair was no longer functional and couldn’t be sold. I pointed out that if the item was functional, our entire correspondence would be unnecessary. Be that as it may, they were adamant that I go to this website and schedule a time.

When I got the link, I was presented with an option for a 20-minute session or a 30-minute session. When I clicked the 20-minute session, it was booked out for the next few months; so I backed up and selected the 30-minute. Now I was given an option for a 2:30 PM weekday slot almost two weeks out. Because the exact nature high-chair desecration process could not be revealed ahead of time, I was left with two options:
1.      Take time off work in order to sit at home and further disable an already worthless high chair.
2.      Transport the entire contents of the box to work and explain to my supervisor why I needed a half-hour break to video chat with a complete stranger while defacing children’s furniture.
Furthermore, I did not understand why this process would take 30 minutes. Was there a sacred blood-oath involved? Would the company provide a proctor? I countered that if they wanted complete and total obliteration, I could simply write “fragile” on it and give it back to UPS. This comment did not play well with the home office.

I asked if there was a fast-pass option for people whose children were being forced to sit on the floor like an animal while the rest of their biological family dined at the table like civilized humans. (There was not.) Finally, they agreed that at a predetermined time they would text me and I could immediately send back detailed photos. While the process was still shrouded in mystery, they did tell me that I would need the seat cushion, the safety straps, and the chair-back. I was also asked to have a sharpie and scissors on hand. My inquiry as to whether or not explosives would be used went unremarked upon.

So, on the fateful day, I was contacted by an unidentified number via text and asked to cut a 1-inch square hole into the seat cushion and submit a photo. Then, I was instructed to take the sharpie and “draw over” the sticker with the model number and submit that picture. Finally, I was asked to cut the straps so that they could no longer properly restrain an infant. I placed a Michael Bolton CD jewel case in each of these photos for scale.

It should be noted that none of these actions would render the high-chair unusable, just less safe for a child unfortunate enough to be placed into it. The entire ordeal wreaked of spycraft. It was as if John Le Carre had been hired as a warranty compliance manager.

Then I got to wondering; who was supervising these people on the other end of the video chat? What if one of them goes broken arrow and starts making outrageous or inappropriate demands?

Customer – I guess I do not understand why I would need to remove my shirt and refer to you as “Big Daddy Cornbread” for the remainder of this process……

Warranty Rep – Look, I have two crib annihilations and a sit-n-spin bonfire after you so do you want a functional high-chair or do you want to spend the rest of our allocated time together arguing about semantics?

Once I had provided proof-of-death, I was told that they would begin processing my order and I should expect the new high chair next month. Trying to be as diplomatic as possible, I explained that one of the compelling reasons that I ordered the item from Amazon in the first place was that I would receive it within two business days. I lamented that by the time I got the replacement high-chair, there was a good chance that it would no longer be developmentally appropriate for my child. They placed me on hold to confer with their “team.” In my mind, this involved the president of the company being choppered in from his summer home for an emergency meeting.

In the end, they relented and agreed to “put a rush on it” and my child was able to join us at the table. In hindsight, I suppose I owe “Big Daddy Cornbread” an apology.