The Most Positive Child in the World

Posted on July 2, 2011


Happy birthday to my son, Optimist Prime, who turns ten tomorrow!

I don’t mention Optimist Prime as often as my seven-year-old, The Fonz, because The Fonz is more likely to get in trouble and say something funny when he gets caught.  Optimist Prime is more likely to go to bed on time without being asked, read a book over watching TV, and give me tax advice.  The Fonz gives me funny, absurdist counsel and Optimist Prime tells me to invest in commodities.  Tax advice and commodities are harder to make funny.

He’s so wise.  Sometimes I wake him up in the middle of the night with a pen and pad of paper and ask him what he thinks I should do with my life.  Last week I talked about making a decision but decided to do something else on “second thought”.  He replied, “Sometimes the second thoughts are the best thoughts.”  I don’t know what that meant but it sounded smart so I wrote it down.

Some parents are annoyed when their kids are smarter than they are.  I’m absolutely relieved.  I have two files on my desk titled: Retirement and The Purpose of Life.  I haven’t told him I have these files, but he’s so smart I expect he’ll figure it out for himself and any day he’ll walk into my office, pick up these files, and say, “Well, let’s see what we can do about giving your life some meaning.”

He’s genuinely the most positive person I know.  Multiple teachers have thanked my wife and I, saying things like, “I’m so glad to have Optimist Prime in class.  I’ll tell the class we’re going to learn about genes and everyone groans, but Optimist Prime looks around with a giant grin and says, ‘Awesome!  We’re so lucky to get to learn about genes!'”

I wish we could take some credit for his sunny disposition.  Many parents argue over nature versus nurture, but I’m here to tell you that Optimist Prime has settled the debate by being a genuinely nice, obedient kid with almost no direction from his parents.  Sometimes I even encourage him to do the wrong thing, just so he won’t get teased by other kids.  A month ago my wife was out of town and I took my two sons to dinner.  On the way to the restaurant I dared both my kids to see if we could get anyone to sell us a baby.  The Fonz was game and the two of us asked many couples if we could hold their babies and then asked how much money they wanted for the baby.  Optimist Prime was embarrassed and tried to talk us out of it the whole evening.  He won’t go along with the crowd, even if the crowd included his dad.

About five times a day he tells me I’m the greatest dad in the world.  If you heard him say it, you would know he wasn’t just sucking up.  He says, “I’m so lucky.  I’ve got the best dad ever.  So many kids have boring dads.  My friend Evan’s dad just comes home after work and looks at the computer in his underwear.  My dad plays catch with me and plays video games and doesn’t sit around in his underwear.”  He’s not a suck-up.  He’s just a genuinely happy person.  All I have to do is wear pants and he thinks I’m the greatest dad in the world.

All his compliments have gone to my head, and I find myself increasingly competitive with other dads.  When he comes home from a friend’s house I ask, “What was Jack’s dad doing?  Did he play video games with you?  Did he say anything funny?  Was he drinking beer in his underwear?  I bet he wasn’t wearing a smoking jacket like your dad, right?”

I recently finished writing a juvenile literature book and let Optimist Prime read it first.  A lot of writers will tell you to get an unbiased opinion on your manuscript, but I also suggest starting with an incredibly positive, supportive friend or family member like my son, Optimist Prime, who said it was the greatest book of all time.  I take his opinions seriously because he reads 200 books a year.  He gave me a two page critique and at the end included a note that read:

Thank you for the very best book I’ve ever read.

I love ya man.

The book is amazing and you’ve worked so hard on it.

Thanks, Dad.

I keep this note on a bulletin board next to my desk.  If I never get published or reach a broad audience, I’ll still feel satisfied I reached the most important reader.

Posted in: Family