Tuesday, January 27, 2009

my child's greatest talent

The more faithful readers may realize that here at the Drunken Housewife, we tend to beat a topic into the ground (as well as talk about ourselves with the lovely royal we). Give us a stick and an equine corpse, and we'll sing a merry tune as we whale away. Remember when this blog was just about elevators, entry after frigging entry? Well, right now we're focusing on the scarily advanced nine year-old Iris Uber Alles, at least until we become concerned that this blog is going to traumatize her or cause her to stick us in a substandard nursing home in our dotage, where there won't even be cocktails.

The other day I wrote about my fears for my academically brilliant daughter, who is prone to bragging insensitively about her intellectual abilities, causing me to wince and worry. Many of the readers had wonderful advice, including Amy, who suggested I send Iris Uber Alles over to the house of another mother from her school, whose beautiful manners and social graces I admired. That suggestion made me laugh out loud. Why? Because Iris is given to passionate hatreds, and this gracious and warm woman is the mother of Iris's current Enemy Number One.

Iris's vitriol sparks her into rants. Spit flies from her lips and her voice gets higher and louder, as she spouts on and on about her enemy. Lola loves to get her fired up and often inquires in a sweet, piping voice, "Any Annie Patrick stories today?" [name changed to protect the feelings of a child who is no doubt a perfectly fine human being]. This hatred goes so far that once a woman of the same surname was coming over, and Iris got me to ask her ahead of time whether she was related to a little girl in the third grade at Burke's, because Iris was extremely freaked out over the possibility of a relative of Annie's setting foot in her home.

Why does Iris Uber Alles hate this particular little girl? When asked, Iris can cite numerous offenses, which include (1) the other child, who is being raised as a devout Catholic, told Iris, who'd exclaimed "God!", that she shouldn't use the name of the Lord in vain; (2) she was astonished to hear Iris doesn't go to church and thinks Iris should; (3) on a field trip to a Chinese restaurant, she told Iris she shouldn't put her elbows on the table; (4) once Annie told Iris she shouldn't call President G.W. Bush "Shrub", and as Iris explained to me with raising volume and shrillness, that was just hypocrisy on Annie's part because although she was offended by Iris's flippancy, she went on to later herself copy Iris and refer to the outgoing president as "Shrub"; and (5) some incident between the two about Jesus, which I can't recall the details of and don't want to ask Iris about because if I get her started, she'll be ranting and raving for some time. However, I can't help but notice that all of these offenses occurred AFTER Iris had formed a strong hatred of Annie (I am sure there have also been eye-rolling and sarcasm on Iris's part towards this other girl).

Iris's father, the Sober Husband, likes to egg Iris on and went so far as to coach her on some aggravating remarks about Jesus which could be dropped into the classroom conversation. After I stopped laughing, I begged him not to encourage Iris, and I tried to be the voice of responsible parenting. "Iris," I said earnestly, "You are going to offend a lot of people if you go around making remarks about Jesus. People are not going to like a little girl who mouths off about Jesus." This devolved into a debate pitting the family's believers, Lola and me, against the family's agnostics, the Sober Husband and Iris, rather than the discussion on social graces I wanted, but it's probably just as well. I should save my time and energy. There's nothing but time which will get Iris past this hatred.

Iris has had enemies since she was four. As a preschooler, she made a comic book starring herself and then-best friend as superheroes defeating two particular boys she disliked (in the comic, Iris's superpower was tattling!). And, of course, there's her arch-rival, her little sister. "She ruined my life!" sobs Iris from time to time. "Why did you have to have her? I hate her!"

In kindergarten, she had a vociferous, burning hatred for a particular little girl. This hatred literally kept Iris up at nights at times. She wrote down a long rant where she told off that girl for everything wrong with her, and Iris worried that sometime this girl might come into her house and find this document. I assured Iris, when these worries arose, that in the unlikely event her mortal enemy came to our house, I'd let Iris know ahead of time so she could hide the rant. Iris was often angry, unbelievably angry with this child, and I used to console her by making up happy endings to the situation. Iris felt that this girl should be expelled from school after she was made to apologize to Iris for her various offenses at a school-wide assembly, and Iris was always cheered up when we imagined that assembly. "And then she'll have to walk out alone, with everyone looking at her, and I'll be there." This hatred lasted well into the second grade, when eventually Annie supplanted the original object of animosity and became the new Iris Enemy No. 1. Now, as far as I can tell, Iris has nothing but indifference for her former chief enemy.

When Iris was in the first grade, I had occasion to meet with the head of the lower school to discuss a number of issues, and I told the head about that hatred. The head was rather astonished and took time to muse over it. "We don't see that at those grades," she said. "That's really a hatred, isn't it? We just don't see that level of intensity starting at kindergarten. We don't see that normally until upper school."

Forget all those parents of violin prodigies or tiny tennis champions: since kindergarten, my child has been hating on an eighth grade level.


Anonymous said...

First, I already hate Annie Patrick and I don't even know have to know reason #5.

B. Scarily-smart Dad is my hero. I've educated my son in the same manner.

hughman said...

hating so hard is only the sign of someone who will eventually get caught in the web of social intricacies where Iris's smarts will only prove for naught. which is a good thing. the Mean Girls in school are rarely known for how good their grades are.

i was a Smart Kid too and graduated from HS at 16 but became "funny" and a theatre geek to hide it (and the truth that I was gay).

she's still very young. i would just give her time. there will be plenty and bigger targets for her to hate as she ages.

Dread Pirate Davi said...

You must be so proud. =/ I can't imagine having to deal with that. I wish you luck, and hope you survive her childhood.

In all seriousness, you and the Sober Husband seem to be really great, if just a tad unorthodox, parents. I'm sure you'll pull through this, and both of your children will grow up to be smart, lovely, well-adjusted women. =)

Anonymous said...

After reading this, I'm fully 100% convinced at this point that you absolutely MUST take Amy's advice and get Iris immediately over to that other mother's house.

Do it.


Your readers crave and deserve the plethora of wickedly funny blog posts that this would no doubt generate.

Who knows, it might also do both of these little girls some good.

Freewheel said...

Giftedness and sensitivity go hand-and-hand.

I think another characteristic that many gifted kids have is the inability to just "drop it" and move on. That kind of locked-in focus is wonderful when engaged in an academic subject, but not so great when it comes to personal relationships.

JKG said...

I understand from my sources that Dr. Evil was much the same as a child. I suspect you may be raising the world's next great super-villain.

I would feel a little ambiguous about this, myself. On the one hand, Iris will probably rain down untold destruction and evil. On the other hand, we'll be compelled to assume ecologically friendly practices, adopt vegetarian eating habits, and refrain from informing our politics with 2000-year-old stories.

It's probably a wash. Plus, in the meantime, we get these wonderful stories.

Anonymous said...

She's a very passionate individual, indeed.

One of my daughters was like that growing up.

Her outlet was making home movies. In those, she was the heroine and was often forming social action groups to combat whatever was bothering her. One that I recall particularly well was a mock documentery about gangs, where the person (gang member) who didn't listen to her was shot. Shades of Iris, there. :)

On the subject of being intelligent and yet bitter, she put me in place very well once.

Upon being complimented for her wide range of knowlege by a sweet lady, who unwisely included me in the praise by saying I must spend a lot of time reading with her, she announce in an aggrieved voice, "No, you're wrong! Everything I know, I learned from TV!!!"

Some personality traits seem to be coupled in a mysterious way. Highly intelligent people appear to also be blessed/cursed with an equal amount of sensitivity, leading to many perceived instances of slights that must be avenged.

You're doing hard work and doing it well. :)

I'll be tuning in for the future tales of Iris and Lola.

Anonymous said...

I am severely LMAO, signed, Joyce

artemesia said...

Sounds to me she's just being a child

Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds awful.

That is horrible behavior from a child. I would get her to a child psychologist.

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