“Mother, I tire of the coding caterpillar.”
The words send a chill up my spine, not just because of the outsized vocabulary that sounds, frankly, unsettling, coming out of the mouth of someone who doesn’t even have all of her teeth, but because I know what’s next: she wants more. More educational toys. More knowledge. But I’m unable to keep up, and to be honest, I’m no longer sure I want her to learn more.
She already speaks more languages than I do, and I’m almost certain she’s been mocking me in Mandarin. Plus, the coding caterpillar taught her how to actually code. She built a functional robot out of an old Oscar the Grouch toy and a broken microwave. She shouldn’t be able to do that, right? She doesn’t even know how to pee on the potty!
However, she does know algebra, which is a pretty big problem because I no longer know algebra, and I think she’s starting to catch on. The jeering in Mandarin has intensified during math corner, and as we played with her tiny, fully functional chemistry set yesterday, I thought I picked up on a few suspect phrases in French as well. (At least I think; I barely passed French in high school.)
I want her to make friends—mostly to get a break from her growing, visible disdain for me, particularly when I have to google the answer to one of her questions—but whenever I plop her next to another baby in the sandbox at the park, she just starts babbling about the flaw in Einstein’s theory of relativity and complaining she prefers the kinetic sand at home.
Once we’re home, though, most of the kid stuff is made of wood—no plastic here. But I’ve discovered a downside of our ethically sourced, naturally dyed, educational wooden playthings: they hurt a lot when flung at me, which happens every time I take too long to bring the carob kale bars she enjoys eating during the only screen time we allow: Jeopardy!
She does very well at Jeopardy! I’ve stopped trying to answer.
But even a quiz show meant for adults isn’t challenging enough for her anymore, and during quiet time, as I watch her hungrily devour the books I bought her—Statistical Physics for Babies, Blockchain for Babies, the ABCs of Astrophysics—I wonder, What the hell was I thinking? And, much more worryingly, What is she thinking?
She’s very good at answering questions—even answering in the form of a question—but she won’t answer these: What is your robot doing? What is it capable of doing? What are you capable of doing?
She only offers a mysterious, chubby-cheeked smile and says, “You’ll see, mother. Soon enough, you’ll all see.”
And as I absorb those disquieting words, loosed from the mouth of a potbellied baby in a onesie adorned with the elements of the periodic table, I feel the familiar thwack of her wooden abacus hitting my cheek.
I’m late with the carob kale bars again.