The Brains of the Family

Joaquin, my firstborn son, is a very sweet soul.  He loves babies and old people.  He is the most patient and humble person in the house.  He loves making people cards and and paying them lavish compliments.

He also loves tanks, catapults, light sabers, swords, Nerf guns, soldiers, knights, and ninjas.  His ultimate bedtime story would involve a knight saving baby Jesus from a Lego castle created by an evil wizard in an armored tank.

If you come across such a story, let me know, ok?

He’s a sweetheart.

Sometimes, though, he comes up with some doozies.  And they’re all the more memorable coming from sweet little Joaquin.

Like the time we visited Sea World, and while the adults enjoyed their complimentary beer in the “brewmaster club” (which I just learned is a fabulous tradition they’ve since killed- a moment of silence, please), an exhausted and sleepy three year old Joaquin looked around and asked in an angelic voice, “Where are the womens to bring me some food?”

While I found that one hilarious, the gems coming out of six year old Joaquin’s mouth this past week were slightly less so.

On Thursday, for example, as I wrestled with a malfunctioning computer program, Joaquin walked up behind me and asked what I was doing.

Irritably, I told him that I was trying to fix something on the computer.  A not-six-year-old would have picked up on the tone of my voice and slowly backed away.  But not Joaquin.  Oh no.  He stood there for a moment, extremely close, and watched me.  I tried to bite my tongue and not take my frustrations with Photoshop out on my son.

But then he went and did it.

“Mommy?”  he asked.  “Why are you even trying to fix that?  Daddy’s the brains in the family.”

No, really.  That’s the exact words the boy used.

“What?  Joaquin what do you mean by that?”  That tiny voice in my head warned me to say these words gently, so as to not shut down the conversation.  Judging from the immediate tears in the boy’s eyes, I failed.  I tried again.  “Baby?  What do you mean?  Do you mean that Daddy is the head of the house?”  Oh, that must be it!  He must have heard that phrase before, and it just got twisted into “brains of the family.”

He stared at me for a moment, tears welling up, up, and finally spilling down his cheeks.  He shook his head no.

“No.  Just that Daddy has the brains in the family.”

Aaaaannnnnd there went my temper.  Poof.

“Joaquin.  You know ladies can be smart too, right?  Like, women can have brains in their heads and often times the brains actually work?  That we’re good for more than just cooking for you and cleaning for you and helping you get dressed?  That women can do all sorts of things, and that Daddy wouldn’t even be able to figure out what was wrong with this computer program?”

Award for Overreacting Harpy Mother of the Year?  Yeah, I’ve got that one in the bag.

He just kept looking at me, not saying anything.  Finally he drew a deep breath and shakily asked, “Then you fixed the computer?”

Which would also fall under the category of “Way Wrong Thing to Say”.

That was Thursday.  Friday morning, while I was in the bathroom putting my contacts in, I could hear this tender exchange between father (who had been filled in- with great detail- about the “brains of the family” incident) and son.

“Son, when you told Mommy that I had the brains of the family, what did you mean?”  Ken must have done a better job with that gentle voice thing, because I could hear Joaquin answering instead of just crying.

“I just meant that you’re smarter than Mommy.  She always asks you how to do things.”

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Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at

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  • Sarah Mae

    I love your children, I can’t wait till I am less poor and we can come see them. 🙂 I love you guys!

  • I’m suuuuuuuure what he meant is that they all love you SO much and for SO many multi-faceted reasons that he is unable to pinpoint just one specific reason that they all love you so much.  Yes.  I’m certain that’s what he meant.

  • Lisa S

    I. Cannot. Stop. Laughing. 

    Your life is that of sitcom. Our poor kids!!

  • Another awesome Donaldson story! I sincerely hope you are saving all of these to show the grandkids!

  • Mdonald811

    Sometimes, it is best to not question their comments.  sometimes, it only makes things worse.  You do know how much they all love you and that has to be enough when they have trouble expressing it.

  • Judy

    We all love you because you are funny,witty, compassionate,loving, and strong…that is what Joaquin wanted to say…

  • Marsch79

    You need to remember he said, “Do you know why we al like you?” and he meant it.  The story is still funny, though.  He’ll figure it all out one day!

  • And once again, you don’t have the answer!  🙂  Ask Daddy.  I’m sure HE knows!

  • idea

    If he were to inherently prefer men over women would you allow him to be himself fully and love him unconditionally? Without discrimination or attempts to mold him into the exact son / boy / man of your image?   

  • Dear Idea,
    I’m not sure what you mean by “inherently preferring men over women”, or how it pertains to this particular story.  This story was an example of 1. me being cranky and short tempered  and 2.  my son demonstrating a “you’re not smart enough to fix it, why try?” attitude.

    Neither are productive, and both should be corrected.