Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Letter from this smart person with smart kids

I subscribe to a variety of blogs.  Far too many blogs probably, but I like to read and i'm too cheap to subscribe to a bunch of magazines, so when I find a good stream of articles, I like to hold on to that.  One of the blogs I subscribe to is API Speaks.  What is this?  It's the blog put out by Attachment Parenting International.  If you don't know what Attachment Parenting is... well... maybe that's just screaming for another blog post from me on the topic.  But regardless, that's what I was reading this morning.  And the title of today's post was "Letter to that smart person with smart kids".

And, despite the risk of alienating a bunch of my readers with my fantastic ego, I'm going to go ahead and write a letter back. 

So, here goes.

Dear Mom of Breaded Ear Boy,

Go ahead and watch me, but know that I'm watching you too.  We may be studying ancient Egypt this summer and growing tadpoles in the yard, but I can't figure out for the life of me how you manage to keep your laundry pile under three feet tall and keep your dirty dishes from covering more than two of your available kitchen surfaces every single day of the year.  There is something to be said for brainy type stuff, but the first thing that people notice and judge you on when they walk in your house isn't the scroll of hieroglyphics you and the kids just made, it's the giant pile of crap blocking the entrance to the kitchen.

Teachers may be happy with your kids test scores, but they aren't very happy when you are constantly interrupting to drop of your kid's lunch they forgot, or to drop off your kid so very very tardy.

Teachers also hate it when you ask too many questions.  When you provide too much input.  When you prepare your kids too well for school.  There's nothing worse than a kindergartener who already knows all their letter sounds and numbers to one hundred.  A kid like that is just a burden on the classroom.  Either the teacher has to go out of their way to give your kid special work, or they have to deal with a kid who is bored through the first three quarters of the school year (and the behavior problems that accompany chronic boredom).

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that genius level intelligence is not all its cracked up to be.  I know I might get some flack from people who have or know someone who has less than average intelligence.  Someone who has to struggle constantly.  But let me just tell you, the grass always looks greener on the other side.  The world is set up to accomodate the masses - average people.  So if you are on either side of average, things just get difficult.

And being extremely smart doesn't guarantee you anything in life.  It doesn't mean you'll be happy, affluent, successful, fulfilled, loved... any of that sort of thing.  Sometimes it even gets directly in the way of those things.

For me, I am watching and wondering about things like a good work ethic and organizational skills.  Because from where I sit, it seems that being able to work hard, persevere, and organize yourself and your environment are far more useful traits than just plain old intelligence.  There are plenty of people "at the top" in our society who aren't stupid per se, but they definitely aren't geniuses.  But they work hard.  These are the things that I am taking notes on.  How can I get my kids to take pride in their work?  To try their best and persevere when things get tough?  To be organized and responsible so that they aren't plagued by chronic clutter, tardiness, and general chaos like me?

So Breaded-Ear Mama, don't worry so much about intelligence.  And like someone commented on your blog, I think sticking bread in your ear is a sign of creativity and thinking outside the box, not something to be worried about.  If you're really wondering about bedwetting and purple crayons, I'll tell ya.  I wet the bed until I was about seven I think, maybe older.  My oldest wet the bed until he was in kindergarten.  How did I handle it?  I put a pull-up on him and waited for his body to catch up.  No big whoop.  And my kids tend to shy away from crayons on the furniture and walls.  They prefer black Sharpies.  What do I do?  I buy thrift store furniture so I don't have to have a coronary when they do it, and I stock up on Magic Erasers and extra touch-up paint for the walls.  A cute throw blanket thrown over the furniture or rearranging so the artwork doesn't show also works.

You don't need a Mensa membership for that.

And how did I get my kids where they are now?  I didn't.  They did.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.  And you can lead a kid to intellectualism, but you can't make him learn a darn thing if he doesn't want to.  But there is something to be said for leading them to the water.  Give them opportunities.  Don't just offer them soccer this summer, offer them chess camp and a class about mummies.  Maybe they will say "no, thanks" but then again maybe they will say "CHESS camp?!  I've always WANTED to go to chess camp!!!!"

Sometimes I'm watching the tadpoles grow legs all by myself because the kids would rather play Barbies than learn about frogs.  Sometimes the books I check out for them from the library never get read, but then again sometimes they do. 

Speaking of reading, I would say that the single thing that has taught me the most in life, is my appetite for books.  It doesn't have to be "smart" books either.  Yes, you can learn great things from books about quantum physics and classic literature, but you would be suprised about how much information you can pick up from magazines and "junky" books too.  So encourage your kids to read. Read to them, buy them books, give books as rewards and as gifts, go to the library.  And read to them as much as they want.  Anything that floats their boat.  I think when it comes to reading, quantity is more important than quality.  Because if they become voracious readers, they will eventually begin to crave the more quality stuff.  They will learn to discern between good writing and bad writing, interesting stuff and boring stuff.  They'll find their way to the classics on their own.

That's what I do anyways.  I can't make them drink, I just make sure water is available for them should they get thirsty.

Love and happy thoughts,

Mom of the Boy Who Ate Dog Poo

P.S.  I know what you mean about putting pressure on yourself.  My kids are smart.  I have four and the least intelligent one is maybe average or slightly above average.  But I knew my alphabet at 20 months.  So when my kids aren't learning their alphabet until three or four or five years old I ask myself, "Where did I go wrong, they have SUCH good genes!"  How's that for pressure?


  1. I LOVE THIS BLOG POST!!!!!!!!
    Ultra love it. My hubby was one of those kids that had trouble with school, is ultra-intelligent, and has a score of learning disabilities.

    He's a maintenance tech for an apartment complex. Daily he has to come up with ways to fix stuff for next to nothing and daily he uses his genius self to do this thing. Does he make piles of money? HELL NO! But, he's happy. So there ya have it, there's gotta be people out there fixing stuff, genius or no genius.

    Amen to this, preached it very well!

  2. Awesome post! My wife and I are huge book nerds and I've been taking my two-year-old to the library since she was an infant, so, I am so with you on the exposure front. We are fans of the high and low arts in our house, "Criterion Collection's: The Red Balloon" on Monday night, "Barbie's Fairytopia" the next, and a big old Eric Carle book party the night after that. I don't think you can ever expose kids to too much cool shit -- be it books, movies, museums, or music, whatever -- so, thank you for reinforcing that with your kick-ass letter!

    You rock!


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