Once in a while I would express some off-cuff quotes to my two young boys, sometimes vulgar and not so prim and proper for kids of their age, and they were all ears. Perhaps I advocated a laissez-faire form of learning for these two boys or perhaps I felt that they learnt faster when lessons were given to them at the one moment in time.
The boys just loved to hear my wise cracks. If My Excellency would be within earshot, then there would be trouble for me and I would have to endure a harsh reprimand from her to teach them kids properly. So when something cropped up and I needed to impart some wisdom to the two boys, the three of us would herd together closely and conspire in a hush-hush manner on the basis of strictly-among-us-girls only. We would immediately ‘freeze’ upon the sudden appearance of My Excellency, but truth be told she always had an uncanny ability of having a nose into our affairs when we did not want her presence.
A case in point…
Some many years ago a long time friend invited us to her house, My Excellency, our two boys and me while my eldest daughter was away, to taste her home baked cakes. My two boys were then of age 7 and 9. Connie, our close friend had a son, who was one year junior than Wil, my youngest son.
Connie was just plain Vanilla with ordinary looks. Although educated only to the equivalent of a Grade 7 level, she was an intelligent woman who possessed a killer’s innate of marrying for security. Her husband was a professional engineer who amply provided for her because she followed her instinct that to get to a man’s heart was via his stomach.
Much as she was an excellent cook, she was long on mouth and short on ears. While we were savoring her lovely layered fruit cake, she just kept talking on the achievements of her son at his kindergarten school. And we had heard it for the umpteen time, how smart he was, how hard working he was, how obedient he was and how this and how that, just the same old song playing on the same old recorder. But we always maintained our social grace as we understood how proud she was to bear her husband the only son after a decade of marriage and spending a fortune on an IUI fertility lab as well as for her lovely home baked cakes.
Just then her son walked into the dining hall. He greeted us courteously and sat besides his mother. Connie told us that recently her husband had been teaching him all about dinosaurs. She asked him to relate to us how many dinosaurs had he identified. The young boy then rattled off a number of names, Allosaurus, Aucasaurus, T-Rex, Velociraptor, Sellosaurus, et cetera, et cetera and et cetera. Wow, a 6 year old kid who could memorize so many names. Then Connie told us that his Dad had also taught him multiplication tables up to 6. He then recited Multiplication table 5 and 6 to the pleasure of his mother.
“Smart Boy”, I said encouragingly.
“What is 7 times 6?” I continued.
He began to fumble, unsure of himself and looked timidly to his mother for support. He had no answer for that. By then Connie was an unhappy mother and her countenance darkened for an instant as her son had just stood down on her.
My Excellency sensing some great calamity was about to happen quickly came to his rescue and said that 6 times 7 was the same as 7 times 6 and the answer was 42.
Poor kid with such a demanding mother – another Tiger Mom!
Then her son went up the stairs to his room and the two ladies took the plates to the kitchen, leaving me and my two boys watching a cartoon program on TV.
I took hold of their shoulders and whispered mischievously to them, “B.F.D”
“What is that, Pop?” Cal, my eldest son asked eagerly.
“Big F**king Deal”, I remarked.
The boys roared with laughter. It was not that they were sadist to see the mother of the boy being thrown off her high horses but it was the three macho words that I so spoken that bedazzled them. Bad, bad, Rabbit Dad to use such language. Anyway, I already knew that they had been doing that among their friends so that it was of no use trying to impose some sanctimonious decency in a between-us-girls situation.
Unbeknown to us, My Excellency was watching us from the kitchen. I doubted that she had heard us but she could always smell a conspiracy five miles up-wind when we were huddled together like this. But then, in her infinite wisdom and understanding, she retreated back to the kitchen to give company to Connie.
“Look boys, learning things by rote, ie by hard memorizing is really no big deal. You have to learn by understanding. It is better if he spend his time reading a book then by memorizing the thousand of dinosaurs’ names just to please his mother. That type of learning is only for the nincompoop.” I told them with a grin and with a heavy emphasis on the last syllable ‘poop’.
Cal was by now very excited and would like to learn more. “What is that again, Pop?”
“N.I.N.C.O.M.P.O.O.P”, I spelled it out to them.
“Now you go figure it out what it means”