In the course of raising kids, moments come along periodically that crystallize your efforts into little prisms that reflect how your influence and their individuality have blended into a unique personality.
In these moments, you may be struck by the surprising brilliance of colors that results.
We see this often with Mr. Big Seventh-Grader, for whom the “Mr. Big” moniker is no exaggeration.
He’s always been something of a spotlight-seeker, someone who’s preternaturally comfortable as the center of attention. This is a trait that comes from neither Mom nor Dad, and it can be both amusing and infuriating to witness.
When he harnesses his talents, he can delight a crowd like a mini P.T. Barnum. But when the moment’s not right or he’s trying too hard, you end up looking around for a roll of duct tape.
One of the more entertaining examples of this trait occurred last week when he took a call from a telemarketer.
It’s worth noting, as anyone who has kids knows, that one of their most helpful tasks once they’ve reached an appropriate age is answering the phone and serving as the family gatekeeper.
We are able to avoid many annoying calls when caller ID reveals their dastardly identity in advance.
But some do slip through, the worst of which are those paid fundraisers who try to guilt trip you into donating money to causes that only end up seeing a tiny fraction of the amount you pledge.
There was a time when Mrs. Joetopia, in her haste to get off the phone around dinnertime, would pretty much hand out $10 to anyone if they would just stop hassling her.
To combat this, I printed out a list of the worst so-called charities in the country along with a couple questions to ask them when they call. I stuck it on the fridge so the whole family could use it as a reference.
Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Big Seventh-Grader had afforded himself of this useful knowledge and begun to apply it to his telephone gatekeeping.
Little did I know how that information, combined with my political influence and his own outlandishness, would one day coalesce.
It happened Wednesday, and the caller was the NRA.
Unfamiliar with that organization but trained to sniff out interlopers, Mr. Big Seventh-Grader immediately suspected the caller might be on our do-not-donate-to list.
But he also wondered whether it might be a legitimate group, like the IRS. (I told him later that the IRS never calls you at home. Never miss a chance for a teachable moment!)
So he asked the woman if she worked for a charity and, if so, what percentage of donations actually make it to the cause.
She said they weren’t a charity.
So he asked: What does N-R-A stand for?
Ding, ding, ding! Wrong answer.
To this kid at that moment, it was like underhanding a softball to a juiced-up Barry Bonds.
“Ohhhhh! Right-winging, bitter-clinging to our guns and our religion!” he declared. “Can I get a ‘hallelujah’?”
Yes, he actually said that, both parts. We had been watching Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement a few days earlier.
“Uh, hallelujah?” she replied.
But he wasn’t done. He doesn’t know everything about the gun debate, but he does know standards are being applied to weapons today that are far beyond what our founding fathers could have imagined in the days of flintlock muskets.
“When was the amendment written?” he asked next.
“Uh ... uh,” she replied, realizing what was afoot and getting fed up. “Are your parents home?”
“Sorry, we’re Democrats,” he said and hung up the phone.
Personally, I would have handled that with a bit more delicacy and a lot more diplomacy.
But he is his own person, and we love him for it.
As his aunt said later, “It’s nice when he uses his powers for good.”
Yes, it certainly is.