My son was referring, of course, to his end-of-year school concert, which we had attended the night before. And the question wasn’t an easy one to answer. My son had read a beautiful poem about Maths that he composed himself (yes, about Maths. Numbers are very poetic, you know), but Johnny Li was a violin prodigy, and his performance had nearly brought me to tears.
The poem was possibly the best poem about Maths I had ever heard (and to be fair, I did hear three that night), but Johnny was a genius. How to answer?
“I always love your performances more than anyone else’s performances,” I said truthfully. My son rolled his eyes.“Yes, I know that, Mum. You enjoy them because I'm your child. But which did you enjoy most?”
“They were both good! But I enjoyed yours most.”He still wasn’t satisfied. “Okay, but if you didn’t know me, which would you think was the better performance?”
Oh for god’s sake. Why the fuck does he have to ask me these types of questions? How the hell am I supposed to answer that?“How the hell am I supposed to answer that?” I asked, which possibly isn’t the approved way to speak to a twelve year old boy, but as he doesn’t seem to follow the rules when talking to me, I’m not sure I really care.
“Just tell me the truth, Mum. I can take it.”“I can’t answer. I don’t know how to answer.”
“If Johnny did my performance and I did his, which would you think is better?”Um... er.... “The one you did,” I said finally. I was pretty sure that was the right answer.
“So you’re saying his violin playing was better than my poem???”“NO! I didn’t say that! I said I’d like the one you did better!”
He tried a different tack. “Okay, so what if a stranger read out my poem and then a stranger played Johnny’s violin?”“Would the stranger be a good or bad violin player?” I asked. This was getting really confusing.
“Good. As good as him.”“But did you still write the poem?”
“No, someone else wrote the poem.”“I’d like the poem better. It was brilliant. Far better than that violin playing.”
My son looked satisfied, and he smiled. “Okay. Can you pass the milk?”
And I knew that – this time – I’d won.