My boy’s genius is beginning to show – one piece at a time

It’s only three months since the ordeal of putting together my wife’s 32-piece jigsaw of Ireland left him frustrated and defeated. Now my son’s hands are a wonder of locomotion, his once chubby fingers dextrous and nimble. The picture of this one is a lion, which he should know because he has done this jigsaw, conservatively, 8,000 times, but he never seems to be aware of this until he places the final piece. Then, my little genius stands back, delighted and shouts ‘Lion!’.

He started in earnest a few weeks ago and now finishes new jigsaws faster than I do. I’m wary of those people who proclaim their children’s intelligence, because it’s usually borne from love, rather than an objective assessment. Often I know these kids quite well, so it stretches my credulity to think of them as innately brilliant, especially if I’ve recently seen them trying to eat batteries. It has, therefore, been humbling to discover I’ve been wrong all this time: some children actually are just really smart and special and it’s merely a coincidence that one of them is my perfect son – the undisputed jigsaw genius of Hackney.

My wife is excited by what his propensity for jigsaws can be extrapolated to. He’s a demon at jigsaws, sure, but I’m unclear how this could be used in other contexts. Jenga, I guess, and Tetris, I suppose. But will this make him good at algebra or calculus?

I’m more literal, so would be delighted if he just became increasingly good at jigsaws. I’ve Googled the world championships and am happy to report these are extremely competitive tournaments. The top ranked British player is Sarah Mills at No 4, two of the top three are Czech and more than half the Top 200 are Spanish. That league table doesn’t list a single player from Ireland, which is sad news for Irish puzzlers, but makes me think I could enter him as Irish to carve out his own niche, while also offering tribute to Ireland’s proud history of stealing back our diaspora for sport.

I’d take it seriously, you understand. I can see myself now, standing on the touchline at his big tournaments, wearing a tracksuit, whistle about my neck, only dropping my handmade ‘GIVE PIECE A CHANCE’ placard to pump my fist when he finished the corners, or whatever it is a proper Jigsaw Dad does. Offering him moisturiser for his hands, keeping him hydrated, telling him to get out there and express himself, one small unit of cardboard at a time.

I’d be supportive, but not pushy. You don’t create the next Jana Hanzelková or Kateřina Novotná by piling the pressure. He’s enjoying his newfound genius, and if he takes me with him to a life of fame, fortune and segmented puzzling, what’s the harm in that? Like a cartoon lion, emerging upon completion of a 24-piece cardboard grid, it’s all about seeing the bigger picture.