Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Number One!

Ulysses still hasn't quite gotten the hang of that classic form of adult-child interaction, the "How old are you?" conversation. And I think I finally got a clue as to why: it turned on his interpretation of what the whole conversation is about.

Adults used to ask me how old he was, and I would answer. Then, as he got a little bigger, they began to ask him, instead. Knowing he wouldn't, I would answer for him: "Two," and later, "Three." I began waiting for him, giving him a chance to respond for himself, but eventually I would be the one to supply the answer.

I've been trying to teach him, or at least to rehearse it enough that the answer will come automatically, but always, he either ignores me or looks at me skeptically.

"How old are you, Ulysses? You're four! When someone asks you how old you are, you can say, 'Four." Say, 'I'm four.' 'I'm four.' How old are you, Ulysses?"


"How old are you?"



So earlier this week at a reception -- it was the campaign victory party for Kelda Helen Roys on the evening of the election for State Assembly, held at a local restaurant -- when we struck up a conversation with a woman there, I wasn't surprised when Ulysses answered her, "How old are you?" with his usual friendly, smiling silence.

"How old are you?" she repeated, adding helpfully, "Are you four? Or five?"

"No," he said, firmly. Then, raising aloft his index finger so that his chest puffed out a little, he announced, "I'm Number One!"

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