Most of the time when I write a post about another publication’s work it is with the intent of making fun. Today, though, I’m in a good mood, perhaps due to the success of my burgeoning Theodore Ross media empire—please see here and here (oh, and to the New York Times commenter named Charles Bronson who suggested I “man up,” “pretend that [I] have something remotely resembling testosterone in my blood,” and go “cry in my grande soy latte,” thank you, sir, you made my day). Instead of my usual lazy, critical fare, I want to write a minor appreciation of an article by Dahlia Lithwich at Slate.
Basically it’s a satirical take on how children seem to have an innate sense of legal complexities. I’ve written a bit about this in the past, but I think Lithwick does a more precise job of capturing it:
Children have an amazingly intuitive grasp of complicated legal rules. And a freakishly inventive ability to improve on them. My first criminal-law professor taught us everything we needed to know about criminal intent by reminding us of the kindergartener’s hierarchy of self-defense. First: “I didn’t do it.” Second: “I did it but I didn’t mean to.” Third: “I meant to do it but I didn’t plan it.” And finally: “I was upset at the time and I promise I won’t do it again.”
My one quibble with this article, which is well worth reading in its (not overlong, okay, Matt?) entirety, is that I don’t know that kids really understand legality innately so much as they really, really get the difference between fair and unfair.
It’s something I always remind myself of in my myriad wrangling, haggling, and Cold War maneuvering with JP. He knows the fair when he sees it, he’s keeping score, and in the future, when the psychologist’s bills come due (I may be paying), I’ll have to account for all my parental injustices.