“Guess what?” Sophie asks us, her mouth full of cheerios.
“What?” replies Kevin.
“Chicken butt?” I suggest.
“No toilet talk at the table, Mom,” Sophie reminds me.
She’s one to talk.
“What?” says Kevin, emphatically, herding us back to the topic at hand.
“There’s someone in the Super Bowl who’s from [neighboring town].”
Kevin looks stunned. He does not even know which teams are in the Super Bowl. Neither do I for that matter. Sophie puffs out her chest with the confidence of a child who has just demonstrated she knows more about something than her parents do.
“Soph, what teams are the Super Bowl?” I probe, appearing to Kevin as if I am testing the veracity of her claim on football knowledge. I wanted to have a little fun, since I happened to have a little insider information. Yesterday, when I picked her up from nursery school, I read on the bulletin board that her class voted for who would win the Super Bowl.
“The Ravens and the 49ers,” Sophie answers, as if EVERYONE knows that.
Kevin shakes his head in disbelief.
It is a strange thing when you realize that your child has a mental life outside of your own. One that you only get glimpses into, spontaneously, in unsolicited moments, apropos of nothing.
I give Kevin the backstory. “It was a math lesson,” I explain. “They tallied up the votes.”
“So who’d you vote for, Soph?” I ask.
“The Ravens.” I could have guessed that.
“Because of the name?” I press.
“Mmmmhmmm,” she answers distractedly, already bored with the conversation. Too many questions.
“Where are the Ravens from?” I just can’t help myself. I keep digging.
She shrugs, “Don’t know.”
After taking another mouthful of cereal, she reconsiders, “Kenya.”
“The Kenyans are going to play soccer in the Super Bowl,” Sophie informs us, sagely. Kevin and I stifle giggles. She is our daughter after all. However, I know just enough about football and Kenyans to understand that this is highly unlikely.
I happen to know they are also studying Kenya in school. Sophie’s Kenyan name is Akala, which, she told me, means, “likes to go on nature walks.”
There is something particularly charming about how children synthesize new information and incorporate it in their fund of knowledge. Sophie knows little of football, but many of her friends play soccer. So that is her frame of reference for a team sport. And I love how she mentally stitched together the two lessons she learned that day. Children are always looking to integrate what their learning into their experience of the world. They think in terms of the big picture.
Before we can set her straight, Sophie says, “Me and Mimi lost playing in the Super Bowl,” continuing the conversation.
“You mean the rest of the kids picked the ‘49ers?” I try to clarify. Apparently, the rest of her class must already have a frame of reference for football, Super Bowls, and pickem pools.
“Yeah. Just me and Mimi and Jack and Eva were in the Ravens,” she affirms. “Almost all the girls picked the Ravens because they were purple and the ‘49ers were red.”
Ahhh. I see. I prefer purple over red too. I know whom I’m rooting for in the Super Bowl.