It’s Hard Work Being His Favorite.

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“Mommy, You’re the Best.”

“Hey Mommy………..I love you.”

I hear each of those phrases at least forty-eight times a day.

Noah likes me. A lot.

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And by a lot I mean he really prefers to be with me at all moments.

It’s utterly precious until it’s not.

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All the honest Moms out there say “here, here.”

“Not” starts somewhere around 10am in the morning when I need just a second or two by myself.

But that is an unreasonable request, he quickly lets me know.

And I have to ask…

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So to have a tiny second to myself, I try gifting him with the lovely bonus of a break from school. And I steal away to my room for just a second of silence from his incessant talking and questions and talking and questions.

But he comes and finds me.

During break time.

It’s as if he doesn’t understand that break times are for Mommies.

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So I do what any normal mom would do.

I take a shower.

Thinking that this is the one place I can have a moment alone.

Until I start to get out of said shower.

And notice a tiny set of blue eyes peeking from the other side of the cracked door.

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I scream.

Naturally.

Because my brain doesn’t immediately compute that it’s the stalker I birthed from my own body and not some other more nefarious stalker.

Which makes my tiny stalker cry.

“Mommy! You scared me!”

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Yeah. Because I wasn’t scared at all.

So we get in the car to do errands.

Where it becomes most apparent that he can only process thought if and only if he thinks out loud with the preface of “Hey Mommy….?”

After which he’ll wait 3 seconds for an interested answer.

I don’t give it. Because I only have so many interested answers a day and he’s already used them up before I get out of bed.

So he continues without feedback.

“Hey Mommy….did you know I once forgot to put my goggles on when I went down the slide at the pool?”

“Hey Mommy…I really like Pokemon.”

“Hey Mommy…you should really see mine and Ali’s city on Minecraft.”

After the first few Hey Mommys my brain feels like Louis C.K.

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After ten more Hey Mommys (and we haven’t even gotten out of the neighborhood yet) I feel like Klum.

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At Hey Mommy number 25 (we might have made it to the interstate by now) my insides are full-on Snape.

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Halfway through our 20 minute trip we reach Hey Mommy number 53 and all I hear and see and feel and am is Schwarzenegger.

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It’s rough being so thoroughly loved. But it’s precisely why we become Mommies.

Trading Professional Snacking for Soccer.

Last year when Ali started back in gymnastics, I asked Noah what he might be interested in doing. We had not gotten him involved in any organized sports yet, and even though I didn’t at all want more commitments in my life, Mommy Guilt was getting the best of me.

But he quickly said, “I’d like to eat snacks.”

A fine sport if I’ve ever heard one.

But this year, he was very much wanting to play soccer. And even though two practices a week plus one game a week screamed against my very soul (OH the horrors of commitment!!), I signed him up. He was especially excited to play because he would be on his cousin Andi’s team, who happens to be his current favorite cousin.

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I mean. How cute are they? This was right before their first practice and right after I googled “Where do shin guards go?”

I’m a pro soccer mom. Obvs.

The first practice consisted of Noah giddily running up and down the field, playing with Andi, and turning quite deaf from excitement when, the one time he did kick the ball, the coach kept yelling “Stop!! Stop!!! STOP!!!!”, as Noah kicked the ball off the field, past the bleachers, and to the back fence of the complex.

We had a talk about learning how to actually *play* soccer – it takes some seriousness, but that the game would be fun.

The next few practices went slightly better, although he was still at moments distracted by the pure joy of his situation.

The morning after he received his jersey, he came in my bedroom and whispered giddily, “I’m number 24!!!!”

There’s really nothing more thrilling than knowing that you’re important enough to be a number.

Finally, the first game arrived.

It was a beautiful night, the skies unseasonably hot with anticipation of what would go down beneath them.

Before the game started, Noah made sure to…inspect the nets. While Andi silently judged her cousin’s sports prowess. She is a soccer beast, after all.

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He started the game on the bench, taking his job as Chief Gatorade Guzzler quite seriously.

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By the time Andi needed a break from her ferocious playing, Noah had nearly finished his bottle. His bladder was going to LOVE it when it was time to play.

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And soon enough, Noah got his chance. It took a bit of coaxing from the sidelines to remind him to follow the ball. And watch the ball. And kick in the right direction. But he got there.

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And you may not be allowed to use hands in soccer, but his blue-Gatorade-tinged-tongue got FULLY INVOLVED.

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Let’s look at that face of determination a little closer.

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Their team played hard and lost significantly.

But you know who didn’t even realize what the score was?

This guy. Because he was in soccer heaven.

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Thankfully, he had his cousin there to keep him grounded. And to inform him that they lost. And to make his happy heart swell with even more soccer pride.

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Unearthing a More Colorful Brain.

“1 is red – right, mom?”

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This matter-of-fact question Noah asked Monday morning while doing his math (in my dirty dressing room floor as I hung up clothes) turned his school day on end. What followed was a fascinating day of me interrogating him while becoming more and more intrigued with his brain as he very factually and without hesitation answered all of my inquiries.

“Do all numbers have a color?”

“Yes!”

“0?”

“Black.”

“2?”

“Yellow. 5 is yellow too.”

“3?”

“Blue.”

“4?”

“Orange. And 6, 7, and 8 are purple, 9 is pink. 10 is obviously red and black.”

Now it made so much sense why, after deciding to use colored pencils for math a couple weeks ago, he had started to want to do more math each day.

“What about letters? Do they have colors?”

“Obviously. A is red. B is blue and pink. C is yellow and D is brown. E is orange and F is blue and purple.”

“Days of the week? Do they have colors?”

“Yup. Yesterday was a yellow day and the day before that was a red day. Wednesday is probably a brown day. Brown or beige.”

“So what about Saturdays?”

“What did I just say that they were?? Red, Mom!!”

I had just discovered that my six-year-old had grapheme-color synesthesia. AND I WAS TOTALLY GEEKING OUT.

Grapheme-color synesthesia: When an individual’s perception of numerals and letters is associated with the experience of colors. Like all forms of synesthesia, Grapheme-color synesthesia is involuntary, consistent, and memorable.

I’d heard about synesthesia in all its forms in my psych classes in college (a fascination that I pursued in my electives), and had more recently listened to a podcast about a woman with Mirror-Touch Synesthesia – a very real and terrifying condition that caused her to physically feel everything that she saw anyone else physically experience. Hug, punch, shivers, itches – whatever.

Synesthesia is a phenomenon where two or more senses are triggered by each other in an involuntary way. Color Synesthesia is the most common, and approximately 1% of the population experiences it. A theory is that it is associated from first memories of learning the letters – kids latch onto the colors of their refrigerator magnets, or the letters in their alphabet book. But this was disproven when they discovered synesthetes who couldn’t possibly have had those early life associations. I can’t help but wonder if there is still some connection there, and if more kids have synesthesia now that they learn their letters with blazingly colorful learning apps.

There are many more bizarre synesthesias, such as where you experience tastes when certain words or sounds are spoken, where smells have a color, when time has a spatial place around you, and where letters and other things are personified as little personalities. Often, people who are synesthetes will experience more than one type, so we had other fun conversations yesterday as well, such as,

“What color is the smell of chicken fingers?”

“What?? Mom! That’s disgusting!!”

“Where is Wednesday? Is it to the left or right of you?”

“I have NO idea.”

I found an online test for synesthetes and started Noah on it. It asks you to pick a color from the whole spectrum for each letter and number, randomized and multiple times, to see if you’re consistent with your answers. It was a bit long for a six-year-old’s attention span, however, so we haven’t finished it yet. But it was delightful to listen to his dialogue as he tried to pinpoint the colors.

“No…it’s a little lighter than that…more of a lavender. Mom, how do I get this to be lighter?”

“It’s more of a green-yellow. No, not that green. Not that one either.”

“9 is definitely pink. Not green. Help me get off the green!”

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What fascinated me most was his complete consistency. When he got to B on the test, he asked “B is blue and pink. How do I do that on here? Should I just pick one or the other?”

All day long I randomly asked him the color of numbers and letters and he’d shoot back, with complete accuracy, what he’d told me before. I kept a running note in my phone because there was no way I could possibly remember his answers from one ask to the next.

While he was taking the test, Ali walked in and asked what he was doing. I explained to her that Noah saw letters and numbers in color.

“Oh! I do too. 1 is blue, 2 is lime green – “

“WRONG!” Noah didn’t even look up from his test to inform his sister that she was categorically incorrect about the properties of numbers.

Ali wasn’t so convinced that letters had a color, but she did think days of the week had color.

She started going through her list, with very specific colors, like “Tuesday is lime green and light yellow mixed together” and when she got to Friday,

“…and Friday is sunshine yellow…”

Noah piped up, appalled, “What?!? That’s Sunday!! You’re so weird.”

I had never had a more surreal conversation with my children, and I was loving every minute of it. I had turned into psychologist mom and there was no going back.

I found this picture online and showed it to him.

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“What is in this picture?”

“Fives and twos.”

“How many twos are there?”

Without taking even a second to count, he said “there are six twos,” then pointed them all out. Because apparently, his brain comprehends them much bolder than my brain does.

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(I did ask him if he saw them in color or in black and he looked at me like I was crazy. “They’re black, Mom!!”)

The next morning, I had the kids separately make their color charts.

This is Ali’s:

Ali Synesthesia Chart

I checked it against my note, and she Ali stayed consistent with her choices, other than flip-flopping on 5 and 8 being light blue / dark blue.

And this is Noah’s. The really bold characters are due to the fact that they are supposed to be purple, and he wasn’t happy that they looked a little pink on first pass.

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The only deviation he made from the day before was that he decided that 7 was actually green, not purple. Additionally, he informed me that uppercase e’s are yellow, but lowercase are orange – and he preferred lowercase. I asked if all uppercase and lowercase letters were different, but he said only e and f – uppercase f is blue and purple (he got mad at himself for forgetting to add blue to it, although he did draw the dual-colored B), but lowercase is beige.

One interesting fact that I found while researching: although each synesthete has their own color-mapping, the majority make A red and O white or black. Noah has consistently told me that A is red and O is blue or black.

I have no idea what this brain phenomenon really effects, other than my children’s minds being delightfully more colorful than my own, but I’m excited to figure out how to integrate it into their education.

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As is, apparently, Noah.

So it might be worth the question – offhandedly, out of nowhere, to your kids:

“Hey – what color is the number 5?”

Report your findings immediately.

Note: an update can be found here.