Home Page Home Page
Front Page News Digest Cardinal George Observations The Interview MarketPlace
Learn more about our publication and our policies
Send us your comments and requests
Subscribe to our print edition
Advertise in our print edition or on this site
Search past online issues
Site Map
New World Publications
Periódieo oficial en Español de la Arquidióesis de Chicago
Archdiocesan Directory
Order Directory Online
Link to the Archdiocese of Chicago's official Web site.
The Catholic New World


Feb. 4, 2007

Driving out 'dumb'

The other day in the car, Frank announced that when he grows up, he will not be a train driver after all.

Not that he doesn't like the idea of being the one controlling the train as it barrels down the tracks, braking at just the right time to pull up to each stop. He just doesn't have the necessary qualifications, he explained.

"I can't remember the order of all the stops on any line," said Frank, 6, who keeps in his desk drawer CTA maps and timetables for all of Metra's commuter lines. "I try, but I can't do it."

While I agree that it's probably good for train engineers (or "drivers" on the CTA) to know which stop is coming next, it'll be decades before Frank could possibly be in such a position-an argument that held no weight with him.

Nor did the thought that the driver could have a map of the line with him, listing the stops ("I couldn't look at it, because the driver has to always be looking at the tracks.") or that, being on rails, a train can't very well go the wrong place, so all he'd have to do is drive the train to the next stop and, well, stop.

I was oversimplifying, I know, and not many people grow up to do what they thought they wanted to do at 6 anyway. But the comment was part of a trend I've noticed from Frank recently: expecting himself to be able to master adult-level skills and information, and becoming discouraged when he can't.

It seems like with a half-year of kindergarten under his belt, he thinks he should be ready to move on to graduate school. Having a good grasp of the ABCs, he thinks he should be able to do algebra.

One night, he got caught climbing on top of his dresser after lights out, looking for his piggy bank.

He wanted to find out if he had enough money for a toy he saw in a catalogue. I scolded him and explained that it scared me, because no matter how valuable his piggy bank was to him, his head was worth more.

A few minutes after I tucked him back in, I heard him crying. When I asked what was wrong, he told me he was dumb. When I asked what made him think that, he said, "Because I keep doing things I know I'm not supposed to do."

That's the story of humanity, doing what we know we're not supposed to do.

So I told him that didn't make him dumb-if he was dumb, he wouldn't know he wasn't supposed to do those things. It just meant he was still learning impulse control.

By that time, I think he'd stopped listening because he didn't ask what "impulse control" meant. Then again, maybe he already knew.

But he didn't believe me, and went to sleep sad and disappointed.

It didn't last, of course. He woke up the next morning as sure of himself as ever, telling us with words and actions that he didn't need us to explain anything to him, thank you very much. He had the world figured out.

Now what I need to figure out is how to help him find a kind of comfortable humility, where he knows he doesn't know everything, and understands that he doesn't have to.

That's a hard thing for everyone, especially those of us who tend to want to know everything. Maybe we would all be better taking a page from St. Paul, who wrote of temptation and sin, but also wrote of trust in God.

Martin is a Catholic New World staff writer. Contact her at [email protected]

> Front Page