One day, when our older son was barely three, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. He was in the other room playing as I mixed up the batter. He must have smelled them when they were about half way through baking. He came into the kitchen and peered through the glass in the oven door. “Chocolate [chip] cookies!” he exclaimed. “Daddy, you’re a genius!”
Back then he pronounced genius “genjus.” He used to call me a “genjus” once in a while, when I did something really smart, like making cookies. I’m not sure when, exactly, he began pronouncing genius correctly. He kept getting smarter and smarter, which meant my intellectual pedestal became proportionally diminished.
By the time the boy began saying genius the right way, I rarely heard it used in reference to me anymore. He understood that a person could learn new things every day. This being the case, of course Daddy had learned a lot of things during his many days. That didn’t make him a genius; it just made him old.
During the past two years, the boy has spent his time developing his own genius, which is right and proper. He knows nearly everything now, which must be a good thing. He’ll know even more tomorrow, his vast knowledge knocking another block out of the height of Daddy’s pedestal. The once colossal Daddy gets more life-sized every day, which is necessary, but also a little sad to shrinking giants.
The other night we were at a restaurant. The boy ordered chicken strips, which is another way of saying he decided against the grilled cheese sandwich. As usual, he asked me to cut up his strips for him.
“Can’t you cut up your own chicken?” I asked. “You’re a big boy now.”
“No. You can cut it,” he replied.
I cut up half of his chicken and then moved on to my steak. After watching me cut off a few pieces, he said, “Daddy, I want to help you cut your steak.”
“You can’t even cut your own chicken,” I told him. “You have to be able to do that before you can cut somebody else’s steak.”
A few minutes later, he had finished the strips I’d cut for him. He picked up his fork and knife and attempted cutting up the rest. After dragging his food across the plate with his knife, he asked me for help.
“Try switching hands with your knife and fork,” I said.
“You have more strength and control in your right hand. That’s the hand you should hold your knife in.”
He switched the utensils and cut through the chicken with ease. His eyes lit up. “Daddy, you’re right! You are so right! You’re a genius!”
For one day, my pedestal didn’t shrink. It may even have inched higher. I treasure that day; I don’t know when I’ll see another like it.