"O.K. now kitten, I want you to draw your face."
"But why, mommy? I don't wanna draw a face. I don't even wanna do this stupid art. Why do I gotta?"
I paused a moment, biting my tongue so as to not answer the question honestly. Telling my daughter that it was because some overly specified curriculum checklist had a line item for "Art: chalk drawing, face, self-likeness" wasn't the response I wanted to give. "Um ... it's because we're going to see if we can develop a fractal equation later that comes close to simulating a face and we need a target image to approximate."
Tami scrunched up her eyes as she often did when thinking deeply about something. "App wox eee mate?"
"Approximate. It means similar or almost the same. Making a copy that is close but not quite perfect."
"Okies mommy. I'll draw a face so we can go do some math! But it seems kinda dumb. We could just find somethin good on Google pictures much fasterer."
I smiled. Having a prodigy for a daughter was a challenge, to say the least. Tami was only 7 and she was already beginning to understand multivariate non-linear equations. When I had been a young woman myself, I'd not really started to grasp abstract mathematics until I was in grade 10, but my darling was years ahead of where I was at her age. At this rate, she would be extending my Ph.D. level work by the time she was 13 or 14. "Thank you sweetie. It will make the math much easier." For a second I glanced at my diplomas hanging there on the wall and drifted off into happy memories of being in graduate school. The thick gothic text of my degrees took me to another time and place. "Philosophiae Doctor, Theoretical Quantum Physics; Llola Lane" was a carefree world of warm and cozy libraries, busy laboratories, and dusty old lecture halls.
I watched my sweetie draw her face. It was very stylised and abstract. There was none of the raw abandon that children normally displayed when doing art. This was a carefully thought out process, performed with meticulous precision. Tami had none of the spontaneity of my little sister, Arwin. Hmmmm, I wondered if Arwin's band would be finished their world tour by Thanksgiving. I sure missed her and her partner and lead singer Iliana when they were on the road. But ever since her first album, "Bus Drivers Gone Naked" had reached triple platinum status, it seemed like she was always off recording or performing. I remembered her saying that their opening band, some has-beens called U2, were Irish and didn't celebrate Thanksgiving, so I wasn't hopeful.
I was glad I had the ability and the time to home-school my daughter. No public school teacher would have been able to keep up with Tami's abilities or to provide her with the attention she needed. I was thinking of sending her to a private school until our next door neighbour, Trinity, had suggested I try home-schooling. Trinity had just finished a review of home-school curriculums for President Obama's Educational Task Force and had assured me that it wasn't that difficult to do. My only problem was in motivating Tami. When she cared about something, she excelled and when she didn't see it as important, her effort level was miniscule, with correspondingly child-like results.
I looked at the curriculum checklist and grimaced when I saw the next item, "Language: creative writing, write a story about grapes." I had no idea how I was going to persuade my little precocious one to do that. I remembered when she was supposed to read Lillian Morpork's "The Caterpillar's Picnic" and had rebelled by wrapping the book in tin foil and putting it in the microwave until it caught fire. Try explaining that to a public librarian. My little munchkin could be such a devil sometimes ...
Tami laboured away on the eyelashes of her drawing, grinding the pink chalk deeply into the wooden surface of the chalkboard. After each lash she'd step back, pause, and then begin the next.
"What are you doing, sweetie?" I asked.
"I wanna make it abstacked like Pick-castle. But I didn't see any of her stuff in chalks, so I gotta imagine what it would look like if she did it."
I smiled at my little feminist. To Tami, everyone was a woman until she was told otherwise. "Pablo Picasso was a man sweetie, not a woman. "
She sighed. "Oh! Too bad. I guess thats why his art is all heebie jeebie then. Man stuffs messing with his brains like wif Unca Sven. Do I hafta finish it now mommy?"
I laughed. Ever since she'd learned basic endocrinology, Tami was using hormones as an excuse for everything. When Sven had given her some Blue Stilton last week, Tami had declared it "tasted like mouldy worm snot." She then suggested that Sven only liked it because "man stuffs had eaten his brains like a zombie," which meant that she thought testosterone had affected his intellect. Seeing as he was currently back in New York chairing the General Assembly of the United Nations, I doubted the accuracy of my child's beliefs. My only real concern was where her current fascination with zombies had come from. But her question needed an answer, "Yes sweetie, please finish your picture. You've got 5 more minutes and then we have to go pick up Trybil at work."
"YAAAAAAAAAY!" Her shout of joy almost deafened me. "Can me and Trybsie go on the computer tonight? She said she'd show me how to do dynamuck algoes so I can make an edit distance cal-queue-lay-tor." She enunciated the last word carefully because it was important to her. Though she sounded like a child and slurred a lot of words, she could be precise and exact when it suited her.
"That depends on how tired your sister is, Tami. If Trybil is too tired, she might just go up to her room and finish off her acceptance speech for her Nobel prize next month. But, if she said she was going to program with you, then I suspect she probably will. Now finish your drawing quickly so we can go."
Tami picked up the chalk and scrawled on a nose, paused, then quickly drew some tears. "She's crying because you won't let her go to Auntie Zoo Zoos Cannabis party either. Can we go get Trybsie now? Puhleeeeeeeeeese?"
I snapped a quick photo of the chalk art on my iPhone. I'd print it out tomorrow, label it, and put it in the file folder for artwork. When the Ministry came to check, they'd see evidence of every item on the checklist being completed. I wasn't going to have my daughter's future derailed by some administration-bound bureaucrat fixated on rules more than principles. The photo taken, I picked up my purse and stood up. My sweetie was already standing by the door, her pink iPad in hand, ready to head up to M.I.T. where her sister was waiting. It would be a relief when Trybil turned 16 and got a driver's license. But, for now, my daughters needed me and I was supremely happy to have been blessed with the most incredible children in all the world.