Logic need not apply here
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s Note: Alex Miller is on vacation. This is an encore presentation of a column from 2006.
Those of us with children in the preschool range know that trying to apply logic and reason often results in stick-your-head-through-the-wall frustration. As the kids get older, they mostly grow out of the super-illogical ” even though traces of it can still be found in tweens, teens, young adults, middle agers and even nonagenarians.
The trouble period is when the kids get to be 4 or 5, and they act reasonably most of the time. This makes their instances of logical lapses harder to deal with, since we’re not coping with them on a regular basis, as we were when they were 2. That’s the age when illogic and conniptions are rampant, and you find yourself explaining things like why they can’t pet the gold fish or open the car door while driving down the highway.
I hit a logic bump the other day with our 4-year-old, who caught me in the kind of trap I thought I was too experienced a parent to fall for. It was one of those mornings when he was moving at the speed of mud, taking about half-an-hour to eat a small bowl of cereal. A sloth eating a goat could’ve beaten him, and gone back for seconds.
Hovering over him, anxious to get to work, I whisked the bowl away as soon as the last Froot Loop (or whatever) disappeared past his angelic lips. I made sure to ask if he was done, since he occasionally likes to slurp the remaining milk.
He assured me he was. I dumped the milk. As it flowed down the drain, he changed his mind.
Now, there’s no real way to reproduce the flavor you have in the milk left in the bowl after you’ve finished cereal. It has a special cache; it’s your milk from your cereal, and I figured there’d be no way Andy was going to go for my hastily splashed replacement milk straight out of the jug into the bowl.
For a nanosecond, I toyed with the idea of putting some cereal in the milk, then straining it out to proffer at least a facsimile of leftover-cereal milk. But it turned out he was more concerned that I hadn’t replaced the milk with the exact amount that had been there just previously.
“Was it more or less?” I asked, my voice even and calm, even though I was just this side of a frustration so intense that I was eyeing a spot on the kitchen wall for head insertion.
He wasn’t sure. I dumped a little out. He screeched. I added a little more. He screeched louder. I dumped all of it out again, scooped him up and said something like “enough of this nonsense, you’re going to school!”
I then had the unenviable task of brushing the teeth of a child in the midst of a meltdown.
I know what they say in the parenting books about this sort of thing. I shouldn’t have gotten into it in the first place. His first decision, the conclusion that he was done, should have been the end of it. I went for placation and got on the fast train to frustration. Silly me.
In an interesting coda to this story, that same night, Andy spilled his milk and, while he didn’t cry, he did ask a pointed question or two about whether my post mop-up replacement fill was of an identical quantity.
I should give this child a beaker, or a graduated cylinder to drink from in the future. Maybe this isn’t an attempt to drive his parents batty but, rather, an early indication that his interests will lie in chemistry or biology, thus helping to reverse the precipitous decline of U.S. students entering the math and science fields.
First, though, he’s going to have to work on this logic thing. I think you need it for trigonometry and the like.
Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2920, or email@example.com.