My third child is eight years old. It’s a wonderful age, but the girls’ night moms agree: it’s a hard age.
This child is quite different from our older two. She’s spunkier, she’s bouncier, she’s a little more musical. She delights in the ridiculous. She has strong opinions and she loves to express them … strongly.
She has a summer birthday, which means she’s been eight years old, all school year long. That’s third grade around here. And ever since she entered third grade last fall, she’s been saying she never wants to be a fourth grader, because fourth graders are bratty.
Will and I weren’t overly concerned. It’s exactly the kind of preposterous opinion she delights in proclaiming loudly at the dinner table.
But as the end of the school year approaches, she’s been saying it more often.
You’ll love your fourth grade teacher, we say. Your friends will move up to fourth grade, too. Those fourth grade boys you turn up your nose at will all become fifth graders. You’ll make a terrific fourth grader.
We were having the same conversation about this in the car last week (of course). I kept repeating the same things: You’ll love your fourth grade teacher. Your friends will move up to fourth grade, too.
Lucy finally cried out in exasperation: But four is bratty!
Wait a second.
Four is bratty? I asked.
YES!! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!
Moving forward on a hunch: What’s three?
Um, kind of stern-faced.
What color is Tuesday?
She didn’t hesitate: Orange.
What color is April?
Since the fall, we’ve been trying to figure out what lay at the root of Lucy’s objection to fourth grade. We wondered if she was uncomfortable growing up, getting another year older. Some kids are like that. Or if she didn’t want to write a certain essay, or read a certain book.
We wondered if she was being contrarian for its own sake.
But that’s not what’s going on at all. She has synesthesia, or at least gives a darn good impression of having it. The scientists call this “a perceptual condition in which information between the senses is blended.” No one else in our nuclear family has it (no surprise; though it does run in families, only 4-5 % of the population has it). I’ve wished I had it since I was a kid. I had several friends along the way who did, and I envied their ability to quickly, reflexively describe why Tuesday is navy blue, or how 9 looks like a grumpy brown bear.
As an adult, I read and loved scientist David Eagleman’s book Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. My favorite tidbit is when he explains that many of the world’s best memorizers of data—like those who can recite thousands of digits of pi—are synesthetes. Their brain does more than catalogue a long stream of numbers; thanks to their synesthesia, they can remember a story. Each number has a color, shape, and personality, and stories are much easier to remember than abstract streams of data.
I have no idea what this means for Lucy’s future, or for her impending rise to fourth grade. (Although I know some people I can ask.)
I do know that the problem is entirely different—and much more interesting—than I understood it to be last week.
I’d love to hear your tips, advice, stories, and all about what color Monday is for YOU in comments.