conundrum: not just our favorite wine

The other day, I tried to define "conundrum" to my nephew. He seemed genuinely interested in learning what it meant, and thoughtfully guessed whether it was a negative word or a positive word. I was impressed - he's six, and for a second the only way I could tell was the bright blue ice cream smeared across his face.

Looking back on the conversation, it was probably a totally normal one to have with a child that age. Still, I was in awe of his thoughtfulness, and I think I know why: my intelligence litmus test is whether or not my usual student can tell the difference between a bone and a bear.

It's no wonder I'm now convinced my 6 year old nephew is the next Stephen Hawking, considering how smart I think my dog is. I was so excited when I realized that Ike had figured out who Y was. For months while Ike sat staring out the window that faces the street, I would tell him, "Y's home!" whenever Y's car came down the street. If Ike wasn't at the window when Y pulled into the driveway, I would call Y's name and watch the dog race for the window to watch the car approach, tail wagging. I was so proud - he knew our names.

One day, we decided to test Ike's knowledge. When we were both at home, we called out Y's name. Ike's ears perked up, and he ran for his window. My heart sank - Ike didn't know his best friend's name, in fact, he thought "Y" was the name of what he did all day - sitting by himself, gazing through the window, waiting for something to happen.

How will this affect our precious child dog? Will years of having a best friend who he basically defines as an empty void turn him into an angry adolescent dog who gets into trouble? Has he already become our worst fear? Take into account exhibit A:

In case you don't know, that is a paper cutter. Main use: scrapbooking. Other uses: beheading symbolism.

Are we already missing the signs? What does this mean?

This, dear nephew, is a conundrum.