Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Complicated

I picked up Eli 8.11 (version 9.0 coming on Saturday) from Harry Potter camp today and we went to see Ramona and Beezus.

[an aside: there were people with chairs waiting outside the theater in a line. I asked the lady at the concessions counter what they were waiting for, and she said, "We have a sneak preview of Cats & Dogs 2." Then she started laughing.

"There are grown-ups in line for THAT?" Eli asked.

She laughed again. "If it's a sneak preview, they'll line up for anything," she said.

Eli smacked his forehead with his palm.

End aside.]

Sometimes kids change so quickly that it's difficult to sort out all that's happening to them. For parents, I mean.

Eli is the sweetest little boy in the world. The biggest stubborn mule, too. He's giving. He's demanding. He's gentle. He's tough as nails. He's sincere. He's sarcastic.

It's complicated.

A few weeks ago, we had a long conversation about good and evil. We were talking about one of the kids at his school, the kid who gets picked on by everyone else in the class because he's awkward and downright mean. "He's evil," Eli said.

"I don't think so," I said. "It's more complicated than that." Then I explained how I'd seen that kid do a few things that definitely weren't evil. "Sometimes people are both," I said.

"How does that work?" he asked.

"Let's say a guy commits a crime," I said, "but all the money he makes from the crime go to charity. Is he good or evil?"

"It depends," Eli said. "What was the crime and how much money went to charity?"

"See," I said. "It's complicated."

Eli was silent for a few seconds. "Oh, YEAH," he said.

We decided to come up with the most complicated situation we could, and after a few minutes of discussion, we wound up with a man who commits a murder to get ten million dollars. He's never caught, but he feels so much guilt over what he's done that he uses all the money to start a foundation that teaches kids to read, and over the years, tens of thousands of kids learn to read because of what he did.

"Good or evil?" I asked.

"Both," Eli said. "He's both."

"Good answer," I said. It was the most serious discussion we'd ever had about morality, maybe one of the most serious discussions we'd ever had about anything.

The next day we had a long discussion about what would happen if a guy jumped off a trampoline into a wall made out of marshmallows.

"Could he eat his way out?" Eli asked. "How far could he jump into the wall from the trampoline?" His questions were every bit as detailed as they were about the good and evil scenario, even though we were talking about something completely ridiculous.

Last week we were talking about zero. I've totally forgotten the article I read, but it mentioned that some civilization had invented the concept of zero centuries before the commonly acknowledged date. I told Eli about it, and he wanted to know more.

"Zero is pretty sophisticated as a concept," I said, "because it has two uses. It can be used as a number, but it has another function, too."

"It's a placeholder!" Eli said. Even though that's not a simple concept, by any means, he immediately knew what I was talking about.

One more example of what an almost-nine-year-old can be like. He's playing hockey now, and in addition to his regular hockey skills class, he takes a two-hour goalie class once a week. Remember, he just learned how to skate in March, but being a goalie fascinates him, and it's incredible how much he's progressed. And he's fierce between the pipes--in that two hour workout, he's the only kid who gets better the longer he's out on the ice.

He's fearless.
After the movie today, though, all he wanted to do was talk about the cat. There was a cat named "Picky-Picky" in the movie, and the writers created a scene where Ramona discovers the cat dead. It was pretty appalling, really.

"Dad, I can't believe Picky-Picky died," he said. "She doesn't die in the book."

"She doesn't?" I asked.

"NO! And that scene made me cry, when they had her funeral, but the whole time I knew that the writers had cheated. So they made me cry, but they were fakes."

"I didn't like it, either," I said. "They didn't need to do that."

"Picky-Picky didn't die in real life, did she?"

"No," I said. "Animals never really die in movies."

"But how could they film her dead like that?"

I laughed. "They just filmed her asleep," I said. "Cats sleep eighteen hours a day. That was the easiest scene to film ever."
"Oh, yeah," he said, and laughed. "I'm glad she's okay," he said.

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