Spock, They Ain’t

Children are some of the most logical people on Earth.

Assuming, that is, that children are the only people on Earth.

Of course they aren’t, which makes living with them baffling at times.

I’ll use my two boys as examples.

It’s been raining. A lot. On Saturday, my mom and I returned from a rainy trip to the store and after a series of suggestions between adults, my umbrella was placed open in the hall shower to drip dry. It didn’t rain on Sunday so I didn’t think about my umbrella until Monday morning when I prepared to head to work in the rain. By then, I had forgotten about the shower.

I looked for my umbrella near the front door, where it is usually stored, and it wasn’t there. I asked my husband if he had seen it. He hadn’t. I texted my mom to ask where she had put it. She reminded me that my dad had placed it in the shower. After checking the bathroom and not finding it, my husband asked Daryl, now 15 years old, if he had seen the umbrella in the bathroom. He said no.

Later that morning, I was bemoaning the loss of my umbrella and wondering how it had disappeared from the bathroom.

“Oh, that was your umbrella?” Daryl asked.

“Yes.”

“It was in the shower so I moved it next to the toilet.”

“So when you were asked if you had seen my umbrella in the bathroom, you said no because you didn’t know if the umbrella you saw in the bathroom was mine or not.”

“Yeah.”

“Because umbrellas are such a common presence in the bathroom.”

“Well! I didn’t know!”

The umbrella, in case you are curious, is still missing.

But let’s move on to Hal, the newly-minted 10 year old. Double digit age has not enhanced his logical reasoning skills either.

Last night, we overheard the boys arguing over a charging cable. Daryl was telling Hal to not use Daryl’s charging cable without asking and Hal was claiming that since Daryl’s phone was at 40% and Hal’s Kindle Fire was dead, he ought to get to use the cable even though it wasn’t his.

“Hal! Come here!” my husband called from another room. “Do you need a charger?”

“No,” Hal responded.

Jane (now a legal adult, by the way) and I chuckled.

“You don’t need a cable to charge your Kindle Fire?”

“No.”

“Is your Kindle Fire dead?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a charging cable for it?”

“No.”

“So you need a cable to charge your Kindle Fire.”

“No! I don’t!”

Umm. Ok. The three of us just shook our heads and laughed as he walked back down the hall.

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Not 14 Minutes

It was time for Hal to take a shower.

“Are you watching a video or playing a game?” I asked.

“Watching a video,” he replied.

“How much time is left?”

He clicked on the screen and studied it for a minute. “It’s… It’s… not…” He hesitated.

“How much time is left?” I asked again.

“Fourteen minutes.”

“Ok, I’m going to make a deal with you. It’s almost bedtime. You hurry into the bathroom and take a shower. Be quick but make it a good one. Make sure you scrub your armpits and use soap. Take a good quick shower and then brush your teeth and I’ll let you stay up to watch the rest of your video.”

A few minutes later, I heard him talking to his older brother about what was happening in Fortnite at that moment.

“Hal! I said to hustle! You aren’t going to get to finish watching your video.”

A couple of minutes later, he still wasn’t in the bathroom.

“I’m serious,” I said, approaching him from down the hall. “You are using up all of your video time. It’s already your bedtime and you are wanting me to let you stay up for another fifteen minutes after taking your shower.”

“No! No! Not fifteen minutes!” he protested.

Inside my head where he couldn’t see, I rolled my eyes.

“Ok,” I said, barely holding onto my patience. “Fourteen minutes. It’s essentially the same thing, Hal.”

“No! It’s not fourteen minutes!”

Now confused, I said, “You told me it was fourteen minutes.”

“No! I said ‘not fourteen minutes’.”

I waited for him to say more, but he just stared back at me like that cleared up everything.

“What? How is that useful information, Hal? ‘Not fourteen minutes’ tells me absolutely nothing. ‘Not fourteen minutes’ could mean ten seconds, or ten minutes, or fifty minutes, or forty-eight hours. Why would you tell me ‘not fourteen minutes’?”

Jane giggled from her adjacent room.

“Well, you know, you look at a video and think, ‘that looks like it’s fourteen minutes,’ but it’s not.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know, it shows that the video is fourteen minutes long but you’ve already watched some of it so you don’t have fourteen minutes left.”

“Ok,” I said, finally understanding where he was coming from but not regaining my patience. “That’s when you look to the left and see how much time has already passed. What did that number say?”

“Nine minutes.”

“Ok, then that means you have five minutes left. Now that would be useful information. Hurry up and take your shower and I’ll let you finish it.”

I stopped by Jane’s room after. She looked up from her homework and said, “I just have not ten minutes left on this, mom. Not ten minutes. Ok?”

Selective Idiocy

The serial nature of the teenage mind never ceases to amaze me.

Sunday morning, as we prepped for church, I found my son sitting on his bed wearing shorts but no shirt or shoes and watching videos on his phone.

“Why don’t you put a shirt on?” I asked.

“It’s in the dryer.”

“Okay, well we need to leave in 15 minutes or daddy will be late to choir.”

“Okay.”

Fast forward 15 minutes.

“Come on! We need to go!” I called out.

“My shirt is still in the dryer. It has another minute on it.”

“It’ll be fine. It’s close enough. Go ahead and put it on. Let’s go.”

“But I still need to put my shoes on and brush my teeth.”

“And why didn’t you do that while you were waiting on your shirt?”

*Shrug*   (Seriously, no words. Just a shrug.)

It’s like his brain went: Must get dressed. Underwear on. Shorts on. Shirt wrinkled. Put in dryer. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….

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Like it absolutely couldn’t proceed to any other step until the shirt was on. Even though they aren’t sequential steps. There’s absolutely no tooth-brushing dependency on wearing a shirt.

Encore performance – later that afternoon. He came into the house claiming to be done mowing and weed-eating. I dragged him back outside to point out all the places that I knew had not been touched. (He’s yet to get all the grass cut in a given outing. Or in two or three redo’s for that matter.)

Among other things, I pointed out the basketball goal.

“I weed-eated that,” he said.

“Where?” I asked, staring at the taller-than-the-other-grass-around it blades surrounding all four sides of the goal’s base.

“There,” he said, vaguely pointing in a circular motion around the base.

Exasperated, I retrieved the weed-eater and in my shorts and sandals, demonstrated a proper, albeit slightly unsafe, weed-eating job. “That’s how it is supposed to look,” I said.

He just stood there with the mad-at-the-world-you-are-so-incredibly-mean-and-unfair teenager look he has perfected in recent months.

Since the weed-eater ran out of gas as I finished, I told him to get it filled up while I moved the cars off the grass so he could mow. After an attempt to open the tricky gas cap failed, he moved to sit on a bench and wait it out.

“Go get your dad to help you fill it back up with gas,” I said.

As I finished moving the first vehicle, I saw him sitting on the bench.

“Where’s your dad?”

“I’m going to mow first.”

“Seriously, Daryl! Don’t just sit there. You can still get him to help you fill up the weed-eater while you wait for me to move the cars. Otherwise, it will all take longer because you’ll have to go get him after you mow instead of doing it now while you are waiting anyway.”

He went back in the house in a huff.

I think I’ll call this condition Selective Idiocy. When a capable person knows they must complete an undesirable task yet deliberately engages in steps to draw it out as long as possible, as if they are too dense to put together the most efficient way to complete the task. Add that to the general teenage conditions of moodiness and disconnect from the world around him, and you have the perfect recipe for Parental Frustration Overload.

When Logic Meets Fandom

“How was school today?” I ask Jane after picking her up from a friend’s house one recent school evening.

“Fine.  Clara sang Steal My Girl in Yearbook today.”

“Umm.  Okaaay…?”

“I didn’t expect her to know it.”

“Why wouldn’t she know it?”

“Because it just came out two weeks ago.”

“But you obviously know it so why wouldn’t she?”

“It’s a One Direction song.”

“So?”

“So it’s a new One Direction song.”

“Maybe she’s a fan.”

“No, she’s not.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because most people think One Direction is just a silly boy band.  And I looked at her following list on Instagram.”

“So?  Just because she’s not following them on Instagram doesn’t mean she’s not a fan.”

“Um.  Yes, mom.  It does.  Instagram and Twitter are how you find out when new albums are coming out.”  (This is said in that “you just don’t get it” teenagery tone).

“Ok.”

“So that’s good that she knows it.”

“Why?  Why is it important to you that Clara likes the song?”

“Because that means they are good.”

“No it doesn’t.  It means Clara was exposed to it and she liked it.  That’s all it means.”

“No, it means it’s being played on the radio.”  (She’s starting to sound irritated).

“Not necessarily.  She might know someone who is a fan and she was listening to it with them or she found it on YouTube or something.”

“No.  She heard it on the radio.”

“Ok.  And that makes you happy why?”

“Because that means they are good.”

“No.  It means their song got played on the radio.  They are One Direction.  It’s reasonable to expect their songs to get played on the radio.  But it doesn’t mean that they are ‘good’.”

“Yes, it does mom.  They don’t play bad songs on the radio.”  (Now we are dangerously close to an explosion).

“Ok.”

You see, we were having two different conversations.  I was having one about logical deduction, trying to get her to see what counts as proof and what doesn’t.  I was trying to get her to think scientifically.  To consider what minimum information can be gleaned from the evidence gathered.  To look for other explanations for the data.

She was trying to build a case about why her favorite band is this generation’s Beatles rather than New Kids On The Block.  And, in her mind, I was tearing that down – trying to prove her wrong.  So she was getting frustrated.  Having recently learned my lesson, I chose to acquiesce rather than continue the one-sided logical analysis I was attempting.  I mean, I may indeed think that One Direction is more like NKOTB than the Beatles, but that truly wasn’t the point I was trying to make.

Applying Logic To The Pizza Patron

I took my boys to the local CiCi’s pizza buffet recently while Jane was at volleyball practice.  Daddy was out of town, the week was going poorly, and a friend’s organization was having a fundraiser night there.  Even though it’s not a place we often visit, that was motivation enough to go.

I think we’ve been there three times in the last year.  The most recent time was in December, when we encountered a woman that we used to attend church with.  She had her youngest child with her at the time.  We said hi to her and she stopped by our table later to chat and comment on how big our kids were getting.

Well, lo and behold, guess who was at CiCi’s again the night we returned?  Yep.  The woman and her youngest child.  I walked over and said hi and she said, “Wow.  You guys are here again?  Do you come every night or something?”  I laughed and returned the question.

Some time later, Daryl asked me under his breath, “Do they come here every day?”

“Who?” I asked, not knowing whether he had noticed her or not.

“The blonde woman that we saw last time,” He responded, still speaking quietly as if he suspected there might be something wrong with her.

I laughed.  “You know, she asked the same thing about us.”

He took another bite of pizza while he considered what I said.  “You know,” he said, “if you apply logic, if she came here every day, then she would know that we don’t come here every day because she wouldn’t have seen us; so since she asked the question, that proves she doesn’t come here every day.”

“And since we asked the question of her, it proves it for us too,” I said.

“Right.”

When it comes to common sense, chores, consequences, etc., my children are every bit as illogical as the next child.  That’s why I relish so much the moments like this when I see them working things out on their own and drawing logical conclusions. It means they are thinking and learning and eager and willing to do so.