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It comes at a price.

In Bryce's new favorite Super Friends episode, Superman and Wonder Woman shrink down to a microscopic size and go to the center of Aquaman's brain to apply the antidote that will return him from his state as a "prehistoric beast" (read: a shark with arms and legs) back to his usual svelte and confident Anglo-Saxon aquatic humanoid form. After a recent viewing of this episode, as he is wont to do, Bryce was playing out his favorite scene inside Aquaman's brain, and I smirked to John, "so rather than simply filling a syringe and giving Aquaman a shot, they decided to SHRINK Superman and Wonder Woman and send them into his brain?" He explained, "Well, they had to apply the antidote directly to the CENTER of his brain - that type of operation could have killed him!" I was still skeptical: "Huh. The center of his brain?" Bryce piped up, "Yeah, mom. That means the middle! You know, just like the sun is at the CENTER of the solar system. And just like the sidewalk at the pool is between the two pools."


John and I never know what to say in times like this. We end up numb and silent, staring at each other, then looking around nervously and trying to seem natural. Uh, yeah. Good examples, Bryce. So, is it dinner time yet? How about those Blue's Clues? What we're thinking as we stammer all over ourselves is OHMYGOD HE'S ONLY FOUR! WHO TAUGHT HIM THAT ANYWAY? DON'T TELL THE FBI ABOUT HIM OR IT MIGHT END UP LIKE THAT TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE WHERE THEY KILL THE SMART KID TO KEEP HIM FROM OVERTURNING THE DICTATORSHIP.

The other day, the day Bryce was banished to the living room during Quinn's nap, he wanted to play Batman, and decided he should make a mask. I am decidedly uncreative and unartistic when it comes to anything I have to physically draw, cut, or glue. I got him some black construction paper and with my crude, pathetic skills, managed to cut just the FACE of the Batman mask out for him. I thought he'd be fine with that, but NO. NO, NO, NO! He needed a way to attach it to his face! I tried and failed to tape some other pieces of paper together to fashion a sort of hat to hold it on to his head, and then gave up and told him he was on his own - he could either use the face to play Batman while Quinn finished his nap and I did some work (the standing rule at missed nap times), or he could do something else. I heard him rummaging around for a while, and when I went to check on him, he was using John's expensive archival album tape to try to tape the mask to the side of his head. He had become desperate enough that he'd actually put tape over the eye holes, thinking he'd simply stick the mask to his eyelids. I tried not to laugh and praised his ingenuity, then told him we'd get some string later in the day to make it a real mask. He said no, he wanted to keep working on it. About 20 minutes later, he came into my room looking dejected, tired, and frustrated, and said, "That mask I made is useless! I tried to stick it on to my hair but it just kept falling off! And then I put it over my nose and it got a tear in it!" The more he talked about it, the more his eyes flashed and his hands flailed wildly in an effort to express his disgust with the whole experience.

When I told John about Bryce's "useless" comment later that night, he said, " That poor kid. He really is a tortured soul." And it's so true. We joke about it and spend most of the time (when he's not awake and transferring his angst onto us) actually laughing to ourselves about the amount of intensity exploding out of such a small, young being. He's frighteningly bright, articulate, and intensely challenging, but at his core I almost picture him as some sort of misunderstood political prisoner, constantly enduring harsh reprimands or the callous ignorance of the masses for beliefs and expressions he just knows are important enough to battle over because of the legacy they'll undoubtedly bestow. (Unfortunately for our complicated relationship, I am the "harsh reprimands" and the "callous ignorance of the masses." Bummer.)

When he's defining "center" in three different (accurate) contexts, we shake our heads in disbelief, giggle, and feel grateful that he has so much with which to work. But when he's unable to keep any semblance of control over the emotions that are too great for his small frame to adequately hold, or when he's beating himself up over an inability to create something "perfectly," or when his peers have no idea how to talk to him and his face falls in confusion and disappointment, we're reminded, again, that the frustration and challenge we feel is only a fraction of what he's experiencing. He has gifts, yes; but he pays dearly for them.