Sage suddenly looked up from his grilled cheese sandwich and fixed me with a gaze that was eerily intense for a five-year-old.
“Eleven is the first big number,” he announced.
I was startled, having never before associated grilled cheese with mathematical ruminations. “Wouldn’t the first big number be ten?” I asked. “It’s the first number with two digits.”
Sage regarded me with an almost parental combination of pity and barely contained frustration. My ignorance taxed him sorely, but after a moment, he resolved to take the high road and explain the obvious in a loving and patient manner.
He held out one hand. “Imagine I’m holding ten berries,” he began. “Now let’s count them.”
He counted to ten, pointing at each invisible berry as he went, then returned his gaze to my befuddled face. “That didn’t take very long, did it?”
There was clearly only one correct response. “No,” I replied obediently.
Satisfied, he continued his explanation. “Now, imagine I have ELEVEN berries in my hand. Let’s count them.”
He repeated the procedure, stopping at eleven, and regarded me triumphantly. “That took quite awhile, didn’t it?”
Again, there was only one correct response, and I gave it. “Yes, it did take quite awhile.”
Sage’s point was unequivocally proven. Just to make sure I got it through my sluggish adult brain, he added, “So THAT’S why eleven is the first big number.”
How could I argue with that? More specifically, WHY would I enter an unnecessary argument with a child who clearly could not be swayed?
Sage consumed his pudding in thoughtful silence while I contemplated my brief sojourn in the mysterious landscape of Kid Logic.