Bad Brains: When Clever Looks a lot Like Stupid.

My first job out of grad school was at a nanny agency as the office entertainment (not my actual title). I fingerprinted nanny candidates and wrote witty profiles for wet-nurses. It felt like meaningless work with a shitty commute and no chance of advancement, so I decided to take some time off to focus on my writing *bwah-ha-ha* and they asked me if I’d be up for a part time nanny gig to make a little eating money.

Kids? What the hell, I thought, Kids love me. I was still basically one of them. (prolonged adolescence, anyone?) This was the best decision ever. I mean, aside from pursuing an actual career and experience in my field. Other than that, best decision ever.

So began a year of rediscovering all the crazy fun stuff I did as a kid, like catching lizards, riding bikes, and digging up clay soil to make little bowls and crap while pretending to be cave-people. And why WOULDN’T we drag the mattress off of the bed and lean it against the wall as a crash pad? When you have the bad ideas of a six year old boy and the strength & resources of a twenty-three year old…it’s nothing but sunshine and head injuries, I tell you what.

But the thing about bad ideas – they don’t stop at six. Or twenty-three.

One hot summer day, I’m taking a break from tear-assing around the yard on a creaking purple trike to watch the kid get some slip ‘n slide action. I’m just watching because the dad is working from home and even at an immature 23 I have the sense not to risk my job security by stripping down to a bikini in the back yard. I know how that movie ends.

So dad comes out after a while to tell me I can split for the day, and we’re talking about Aiden’s reading skills or something, and dad’s watching the kid slide down the slip ‘n slide and he gets this faraway look in his eye that I know all too well, having been partially raised by brothers. It’s a look usually followed by “hold my beer,” or “camera’s running, right?”

“It’s not as fast as I remember it being,” he says, “when I was a kid.”

I shrug. “We never had the real thing. My grandpa just taped garbage bags together and then cried about the lawn.”

“Weeeeeeeee!” says the kid.

“I have a great idea,” dad says. And he goes inside. When he comes out, he’s holding a bottle of dish soap. I back away slowly. He squirts it all over the slip ‘n slide.  “This’ll make is even MORE fun!” he assures Aiden.  “WAY faster.”

The kid looks concerned. He’s six. At this point, he’s never been to a water park or on a proper roller-coaster, so this thing is already plenty fast for him. But dad is watching, so he runs, slides, and immediately starts wailing because now he has soap in his eyes.

Faster, yes. More fun? Not so much.

Faster, yes. More fun? Not so much.


Why do guys always have to improve the slip ‘n slide? Because most men, Ralph Nadar being a possible exception, have this squirrely condition that drives them to make everything they touch more dangerous/awesome. My grandmother (mother to three boys) used to call it “Bad Brains.”

“It’s not that they’re stupid,” she would say, shaking her head in the ER waiting room. “It’d be easier – and safer – if they were just stupid.” Without this condition the world would probably not have bungee jumping, base jumping, drag racing of every type, or YouTube.

Wherever that kid is – now a teenager God help him – I’m sure he inherited his dad’s penchant for bright ideas. I just hope he uses his power for good. And remembers that goggles are an integral part of any speed sport.

2 thoughts on “Bad Brains: When Clever Looks a lot Like Stupid.

  1. Bad brains. I like that. My eldest is only 5 and has already been to accident and emergency 3 times, including one CAT scan, and they were just accidents, not doing dangerous stuff on purpose. Hopefully his risk assessment skills will already be highly developed before he hits the teen years…

    • Yeah our parents were on a first name basis with the local urgent care staff. And back then nobody wore helmets and we spent a fair amount of time in the back of pickup trucks. Best of luck.

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