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2009-10-01 digital edition

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2009-10-01 / Community News

Crying Over Spilled Brains

I had hoped this would be the year. Unfortunately, thirteen is apparently not the year when my new teenager stops spilling his brains all over everything.

The boy is smart - really smart. However, there doesn't seem to be enough room in his head to keep all the stuff he knows. As a result, every time he learns something new, facts unrelated to the conversation at hand come spilling out of his mouth like a newly opened soda bottle that's been wallowing around the back of my minivan all afternoon.

He can't help it. Some people are sponges for knowledge and just soak it up, but when the sponges were passed out, my son was in the library looking for a book on quantum mechanics. As a result, his brain is a finite vessel; like a coffee cup. If you keep pouring coffee into a cup, it has to, eventually, start spilling out. You just don't want to be too close when it happens.

Unfortunately, my son's brain tends to leak while we are all in the car for a two-hour drive. It must be something about the motion that makes it do that.

Mom: Is everybody excited about going to the beach?

Son: Did you know that the thing that causes black holes is smaller than a marble?

Mom: Honey, we were talking about the beach. Have you got anything relevant to say about that?

Son: It was the grains of sand that got me thinking about black holes.

Mom: Ye-aah, happens to me all the time.

However, the dam had broken and I knew that every piece of superfluous knowledge that he had seen or heard in the last week would come out of his mouth and be forced into our ears.

Son: Did you guys know that a Swift never lands except to lay eggs?

Sister: What if it wants to sleep?

Son: It sleeps while flying.

Sister: Wow. That must be dangerous.

Son: Not really.

Sister: What if it flies into a big mountain?

Son: I bet you could turn daisies into roses with enough crosspollination.

See, that's the thing. If he'd stay on topic, there would be at least one person in the car who might be able to carry on a conversation with him. But, after he's spewed his piece of knowledge, he gets tired of the topic and moves on without warning anyone. Because our limited expertise is in different areas, it's like playing Hot Potato and he's always the one tossing the potato.

Son: Mom, did you know that strawberries aren't a fruit?

Mom: Yes, son, but what's that got to do with daisies?

Son: Dad, I need to make a cloud chamber, can you help me?

Dad: Maybe when I'm not behind the wheel of a car going 65 miles per hour.

After a particularly long lecture about cloud chambers and Van de Graf generators, he got on my nerves and I had to interject.

Mom, exhausted: Please don't just spew facts, honey. I don't want to hear about everything you know about a subject unless I've asked a question. And you can probably use that rule of thumb for just about every person on the planet.

Dad: If you are reading and want to share a factoid, that's fine.

Mom: Yes, but limit your factoid to ten words or less, not 40 paragraphs.

Dad: A conversation is supposed to be two-sided. You have to allow room for someone to ask questions.

My son was quiet for an amazing five minutes then suddenly said:

"Galaxy falling. Death to all."

My husband and I looked at each other, totally bewildered.

My son explained, "I'm saving some stuff for later, in case you have any questions."

Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker.

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