Monday, December 03, 2012


Our nine-year-old gets up to things.

His older brother is a teenager, and has gone quiet. But he is not inscrutable. The little one is literally inscrutable. He is my flesh and blood and kith and kin and I have no idea what's going on in there sometimes.

He is currently sitting in the dining room. It's the only really warm room in the house. He's eating a waffle and reading a Calvin and Hobbes compendium aloud to no one -- or everyone, including one sleeping person. He also has handy a giant book of New Yorker cartoons that he reads by the hour. He reads them over and over, but never laughs at those. He reads them like a stock report. Then he turns to a giant, 1000 page visual dictionary he stole from his brother's room. He reads them all like morning newspapers.

After he's done eating and reading, he'll probably watch physics lectures on YouTube on an elderly laptop we keep in there. I have no idea why he watches physics lectures on YouTube. He doesn't seem to think there's any difference between physics lectures and the Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys for entertainment purposes. He often sits impassive while watching the most absurd thing in a viral video, like it's instructional, then laughs at gravity drawn on a whiteboard. None of this has anything to do with his schoolwork. He does all this stuff before his schoolwork. Whenever I see those whiteboard animation lectures that are popular in college nowadays, I can't help noticing that they're perfectly suited to a nine-year-old's attention span and interest, as long as it has nothing to do with school. Parents are blowing 40 large on Sesame Street Science class for children that shave and drive and occasionally procreate. 

He likes lists and like things, like many small boys. He favors flags right now. He's fond of drawing each one in Microsoft Paint. He draws all sorts of things in Paint. He's the last person in the world to use it, I think.  He exhibits a behavior I admire. He'll be interested in something, so he'll try to reproduce it in every medium at his disposal. He likes Calvin and Hobbes, so he draws them in crayon, and then in Paint, and then he assembles giant totems of them out of blocks in Minecraft, and then he gets outre and draws the giant, blocky versions of them he made in Minecraft in Paint again. Then he erases is all and starts in on something else.

I do not spend as much time with my children as I'd like. I am always around, but I am busy. Yesterday I took a moment to try to teach the little feller something on the drums. His older brother had learned the guitar parts of a song, but the drumming was, I thought, more complex than anything the little boy had ever heard. I showed him a video of the fellows playing the original song, and it was a regular music video, not just a performance, and he was giggling uncontrollably at the way the rock stars presented themselves. He did not know that they did not intend to appear as clowns. He thought they were the circus. He wanted to watch it forty times, but wouldn't pay attention to the musical part. He could wear out a stone, that boy.

I painstakingly learned the drum parts and went upstairs and haltingly worked them out on the drum set. It took me fifteen minutes or so to get through it, slowly, once. It was deuced difficult. Then I went and got the little weirdo and stood him next to me at the drum throne and tried to teach it to him. He wiggled all around, and looked at the ceiling like there was money up there, and fidgeted enough for me to ask him if he needed to go to the bathroom, and he looked out the window, and generally ignored me until I was exasperated. I could tell he wanted to watch the video, and all this other stuff I was on about was superfluous.

We do not force any musical instruction on the kids. They play because they want to, or don't. I got up because it was pointless to continue. He sat down and played it, without error, right away. I hate that little kid sometimes.

He wants to be funny. He's still unsure exactly how to be funny. He says riotous things at dinner, and we all laugh until tears come. He starts after we do, and laughs more uproariously than we do, and then gets stonefaced and says, "I don't know why that's funny," and we laugh at that, too.

I advise you to get a little boy or two and watch them. They're better than television, and use less electricity.


julie said...

"He could wear out a stone"

Ha - yes, I know that feeling...

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Wonderful essay.
Please never ruin it by revealing it was a Motley Crue song.
@JoanofArgghh linked me here, btw. And I'm very glad she did.
Thanks for a great little read.

Andy said...

Mine will be 2 in February. He completely freaks me out, because I can see that he's the only one in the house who isn't confused about anything. His 4 year-old sister is the only one who can keep his attention, and she does it with books that she can't yet read. 2 years old and 4, and they're only still when they're reading together. Go figure.

It's amazing how little it seems they need us.

Expat(ish) said...

My oldest (now 17) once wandered by me with a screwdriver in his hand - age two. About 30 seconds later it sunk in and I went running. He was lying under my desk trying to take the legs off.

Looked at me: Can you get me the other kind of screwdriver?

But no way they use less electricity - just he bathing and cleanish clothes....


Leslie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie said...

My very precocious 20 year old daughter was a binky baby. She had a binky in her mouth all the time. And, she had an older brother who spoke for her, so she never said anything. Ever. She just watched. (My mother was freaked out.) When she was about 18 months old, we were shopping and she was sitting in the cart seat, looking around. When we got to the checkout, she pointed her finger at the lighted marker, and said, "FIVE". I looked at what she was pointing at...and it was the number 5 check out sign. Inscrutable.

Sam L. said...

What you need to do, Mr. Sippi, is go up to him and say, "Those DRUMS! They're driving me MAD! MAD, do you hear? MAD!" Then slap your own face and say "Thanks. I needed that." Alternate that with "It's quiet out there. Too quiet. The natives are up to something."

Gotta keep the little devil off balance.

Sam L. said...

Friend of mine told me he was in the garage doing something. Four-year-old son asks for a screwdriver, and he gives him one.
Sometime much later, goes to garage for chainsaw, and it falls apart as he grabs the handle.

vanderleun said...

He's one of the two sons I wish I'd had.

Thud said...

You are a rich man Sipp, rich indeed.

Rob De Witt said...

Ah, yes...

While awaiting my daughter 47 years ago, my wife one day decided we needed a baby rabbit. Having no television, we got our laughs watching the baby bunny tear about the apartment, leaping at random intervals.

Two years later we got the same effect watching the kid chase the rabbit about. Side-splitting, and cheap entertainment.

Eclecticity said...

Awesome. E.

H. Gillham said...

I taught high school for 33 years, public. They're all hilarious for different reasons.

There is nothing more humbling than your own [even though I don't have any]. When one of my nephews was not quite two he told me this [we were visiting his family in DC]:

Nephew: Do you know why the Washington monument is not on the beltway?

Me; No.

Nephew: Because it's in Washington.

Then he burst into laughter.


This post made me all warm and fuzzy, btw. You wrote with such pride and heart. It's a precious relationship -- the love between a parent and child -- God given. I hate it that some waste it... you, my friend, aren't.

dadofhomeschoolers said...

and you wander away muttering "Don'tlookatmeIjustlivehere", and go look at the goldfish, cuz they are the only thing in the house that's dumber than you are.
I know the feeling very well.

Dad of Homeschoolers

Rick in Wisconsin said...

My boys also loved Calvin & Hobbes (me too!). Sounds like your sons would enjoy, especially your older son.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Rick- Thanks for reading and commenting and buying stuff.

My little boy loves him some Khan Academy: The Kids Are Playing X-Box Right Now, And The Bigger One Is Using A Real Guitar.