While my lovely wife was out of town this past Sunday, I was taking care of the whole nighttime routine for our 3 year old twins.  After their bath, we went to the couch for some milk, some pajama putting-on, and an episode of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” in Spanish.  We got situated and I turned on the tv.  The picture appeared, and before I opened up the list of saved programs to select Mickey y sus amigos, my son said, “That is baseball.”  It wasn’t though.  It was the channel that baseball had been on earlier in the afternoon when my parents were over and we watched the 9th inning of the Dodger game.  “No, that’s not baseball, buddy,” I told him, “It’s horseracing.”  “Horsies!” my daughter said excitedly.

I then proceeded to explain what they were watching and what was going to happen. I told them all about “the big metal thing called a gate” and how the horses would all run really fast and we’d see which was the fastest.  I explained about the numbers on the horses and that they all had names.  “Which one do you think is going to win?” I asked them.  “The one with the number 2 is going to win,” said my son.  “Number 4 is going to win!” said my daughter.  “I think number 1 is going to win,” I said.  “No,” my son replied, “number 1 is not going to win.  Only number 2 is going to win.”  There was a degree of certainty in the way he said it that made me pause.  “What if he’s right?” I thought to myself.  At that point, had I been a cartoon character, you would’ve seen flashing dollar signs where my eyeballs normally are.

Here’s the thing: I think both of my kids are quite smart, but in very different ways.  My daughter seems to really understand humor, and she makes up songs on the fly that actually rhyme.  My son, on the other hand, seems to have more of an engineer/scientist type of smarts, and he’s been known to open and close a drawer for 15 minutes just to take in how all of the mechanisms work.  “What did he see in the number 2 horse?” I wondered.  “Was the horse calmer while walking toward the gate?  Less calm?  Or was it just a gut thing telling him that’s the one?”  The horses started filing into their appointed spots.  “Maybe they will all win,” my daughter said.  “Oh, they can’t all win, sweetie,” I told her. I was glad too, because that would get in the way of our fortune-making.

I sat back, wondering if this was going to be one of those moments I’d prepared my whole life for.  The countless hours shooting baskets at my parents’ house with my tongue in different positions in my mouth just in case one of them made me shoot 100%. Fellow blogger MC Squared used to make fun of me that I would’ve been unhappy with finding something that only made me successful 99% of the time.  “I’m looking for true patterns,” I’d tell him, “and 99% won’t cut it.”  When the tongue positions didn’t work, I’d try different songs in my head.  It’s ridiculous, I realize this, but what if MC Breed’s “Ain’t No Future in Yo Frontin” somehow made me an infallible shooter?  My world and my knowledge of the universe would never be the same.  I can hear my lovely wife shaking her head from here (must be loud to hear a head shaking), saying the same thing as when I think I’m affecting the outcome of a Lakers game by the way I’m sitting: “It doesn’t work that way.”  But what if it did and we just didn’t know it yet because it felt foolish to randomly look for patterns?

In hindsight, I think it’s almost sad that I was looking for mythical patterns instead of thinking I might have superior intellect that allowed me to pick up on things mere mortals couldn’t.  Maybe that’s what was happening with my son.  He didn’t need MC Breed, he just needed his eyes, his gut, and an algorithm most people couldn’t understand but it happened organically in his cute little head.  Remaining pretty calm, I leaned forward and said, “Here they go!”  The horses took off, and our six eyes were glued to the screen.  I scanned the pack, searching for horse number 2, but he was hard to locate.  A couple of horses started to distance themselves, and before long, the screen only showed those in contention; neither wore a number 1, 2, or 4.  The 6 horse won handily (hoofily?), with all three of our picks finishing out of the money.

The triumphant jockey raised up in a celebratory fashion, prompting my son to say, “He is standing on his horse.  That is not safe.” I explained that it was ok, and I gave them both a kiss before leaning back into the couch.  “The next race is in 3 minutes,” I told them.  They were excited and 3 minutes seemed like an unbearably long time for them to wait.  We sat there for the next half hour, my arms around both of them, watching the horsies run really fast, and totally fine with missing every prediction. (Even when I crossed my right ankle over my left one.)

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