A Laptop Naptime Mama

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Benny the Cosmopolitan Genius

Benny is not the brightest bulb in the palace chandelier. At least not according to conventional ideas about what constitutes a bright kid. For example, where other three year olds can count out a hundred cheerios from the Cheerio box, Benny’s grasp on numbers goes something like this: “1..2..3..7..8..14..15.” Similarly, when I find his little red toy car that’s been missing for a week under the sofa (and probably covered in dust bunnies and six month old, squished-up raisins) and say, “Here’s your red car,” Benny cries out with an empathic gasp, “NO, dat’s the blue car.” Oh, and getting him to distinguish between a circle and a square? Forget it. Benny lives in a land of circles. Every shape, whether it has straight side, curved edges, or 90 degree angles, is a circle.

Perhaps I should be enrolling him in a fast-track, special ed, one-on-one, intensive developmental leap-frog, gifted-but-unaware-of-it, program. But, you know what? I don’t give a hoot about his grasp on numbers, shapes, and colors. Because I know my boy is a genius. And not an ordinary kind of genius. Benny is an A-grade, valedictorian, summa cum laude, “Cosmopolitan Genius.” “Cosmopolitan Genius?” I hear you shout. I know, I know, you may not have heard of such a thing. But, I’m telling you, my son is one – and a pretty impressive one at that.

Instead of spending our time doing “what’s this shape?” drills with Benny, Brad and I have exerted our energies elsewhere. We’ve been encouraging him to become the perfect little New York City companion. Almost a second after he was born, we swooped him up into the Baby Bjorn and took him out to bars, restaurants, gallery openings, book readings, and cinemas. We kept at it even through those difficult toddler months where he’d run headlong everywhere and put any unidentifiable object into his mouth (although, we always stayed near the door for quick getaways and chose venues with music loud enough to drown out any toddler hysterics).

And now, it seems our efforts are paying off.

Although he’s just turned three, Benny is a class-act when it comes to frequenting the bars, restaurants, even art house cinemas in the city. If we go to our favorite Mexican restaurant, he sits happily at the table playing with his toy giraffe and zebra. When we attend readings at the local bookstore, he sits on our laps leafing through books borrowed from the kids section. And the other night, when we took him to Almodovar’s new movie, he sat quietly chomping on Goldfish snacks through the entire two-hour subtitled film.

But, of course, such genius comes with its downsides. Like Einstein and other geniuses before him, Benny has had to face his skeptics, doubters, and naysayers. He’s had to endure the tsk-tsks from fellow moviegoers, when he’s getting seated at the theater. He’s weathered scornful, bespectacled glances when he’s showed up at readings. And last night, for the first time, Benny found himself barred.

While waiting for a table at a restaurant we’d never been to before, Brad and I decided to order drinks at the bar. As we always do, we schlepped Benny onto a barstool and handed him giraffe and zebra. Benny sat happily playing, while Brad and I discussed whether to go frozen or on the rocks with our margaritas. Just as we settled on frozen, the barman emerged, face like thunder, and instructed us that Benny must be taken away from the bar...immediately. Brad and I exchanged worried glances and looked down at Benny. But there he sat, doing nothing untoward, sucking on the straw in his water and talking quietly to his animals. I looked back up at the barman and politely asked, “Er, why?”

“Because a bar is no place for a child,” he barked, “There’s too much drinking and cussing.”

I had to stifle a little smile (because I love the word “cussing”) and I was just about to point out that if “drinking and cussing” were not good for kids, then perhaps Benny shouldn’t come home with us – because in our home cussing and drinking have definitely been known to happen.

However, the bartender shot me a steely gaze and I was immediately silence. “And it’s against the law,” he barked.

At this point, I realized trying to sweet talk the barrel-chested, surly bartender into overlooking a law or two wasn’t going to work. And so we removed Benny from the bar and retreated out of the restaurant (we know, after all, when we’re not wanted). Benny trailed behind us, forlorn and bemused, clutching his toys to his chest, and narrowly avoiding plates of hot food whisking past his head.

It's tough to be a genius sometimes. But, perhaps one day Benny will take heart that he helped forge the way. And perhaps one day those tsk-tsks, withering stares, and silly laws will be a thing of the past. Three year olds will be free to bar-hop and movie-go whenever and wherever they please!

For more of Joanne Rendell's mommy blogs - including "Fishing for Poo," "Should Mommy's Wear Thongs?" and "What's that dangly thing between his legs?" then Click Here to visit her at the popular website, Get Crafty. To return to the Role Mommy home page, Click Here.


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