Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In which I try unsuccessfully to NOT talk about my kids

I thought today was my 1-year Blogiversary. It's not (that blessed event is apparently actually on July 10th, according to my archives), but my error in memory caused me to go back and read a couple of my old posts. And now I feel the need to apologize because, dude, I was much more interesting and funny before my life became focused solely on my kids (and let's be honest, that happened at least a good month or two before Lucy was born, when third trimester exhaustion left me unable to think of ANYTHING other than getting the baby OUT). Then, I had descriptions of awkward haircut experiences and home improvement projects, and even a little political commentary. Now, it's all, "She sleeps! She doesn't sleep! I have nothing to say, so here, cute pictures!"

So, since my life still revolves entirely around getting one 10-week-old little girl to sleep or eat for a few more days, I will harken back to my past in the interest of sharing non-kid related (for the most part) thoughts. I will relate some embarrassing stories about myself. With a (tenuous) purpose, of course.

Sibling rivalry with multiples is always fierce, and I certainly admit that my sisters excel in ways I do not. But I think it can be justifiably argued that, in high school at least, I was the best student of the three of us. Graduated 6th in my class (not too shabby in a fairly competitive, upper middle class community where all kids are expected to go to college), 1430 on the SATs, etc (yes, none of this is embarrassing, except perhaps the fact that 14 years later I still remember all this stuff, but I'm getting there, I promise). My mom always attributed my scholastic success to my "fine scientific mind." It was a phrase she used often, up until the time she realized that, even with a Ph.D. in Biology, I was never going to "cure cancer" (another phrase she often trotted out). I always just thought my success was because I had a good memory (had being the operative word here, as I now have a rather mediocre memory, thanks likely to too much alcohol in my wilder days) and was able to take tests well.

Best student or not, I always felt insecure about my assumed intelligence, as though I was putting on a smart act, and people would one day find out I was dumb as a rock. And it's true that I'm lacking in the big picture/common sense department. I share with you now a couple of embarrassing examples as testament:

I did not learn to tell time until the 7th grade. This is true. I faked it until then. Digital watches were a staple. You see, I was on solid ground during the first half of each hour, when the little hand is aligned with the number of the hour. My downfall was the second half of the hour. If the little hand is halfway between 1 and 2, and the big hand is on the 9, does that make it 1:45 or 2:45? I kid you not, I did not know. Understanding finally dawned for me when I started taking Spanish lessons. In Spanish, in the first half of the hour, you would say "Es la uno y media" (It's one and a half, or 1:30). After the half hour, you switch to saying "Son las dos menos quarto" (It's two minus a quarter, or 1:45). Somehow, this led me to finally understand that after the half hour mark, the little hand starts moving toward the next hour. So even though the little hand is between the 1 and the 2, it is most definitely 1:45 and not 2:45. Crazy, eh? I'm not sure how this concept escaped me in the first or second grade, whenever the topic was first introduced.

Second example: I'm not sure exactly when I realized my error in thinking with this next one, but it was certainly only within the last 10 years. For a very long time, the advertising prowess of the M&M corporation flew completely over my head. I always thought their ad campaign that M&M's "melt in your mouth, not in your hand," was completely ridiculous. Those delicious red, yellow, orange, green, brown and tan (remember those tan M&M's?) candies ALWAYS melted in my hand. WHAT were they talking about? Clearly those candy engineers needed to work on their hard candy coating, as it was not holding up as advertised. Eventually it dawned on my that what those tricky M&M ad execs where trying to tell me was "Yes, we realize that our candy coating COULD melt in your hand, but our candies are so gosh darn delicious that there will be no TIME for them to melt in your hand. You will stuff the whole bag of sweetness into your pie-hole as fast as you possibly can." Ohhhh, now I get it...

There are plenty of other times in my life where I have demonstrated such a lack of, hmm, would we call it common sense? It made me unsure of myself a lot, still does, in fact. So it was never reassuring to continually hear about how smart I was, how I was destined to do something noteworthy. Like anyone else, I'm really good at a couple of things, pretty darn sucky at some other things (like telling time, apparently), and just OK at all the rest.

I've been thinking about these old knowledge quirks of mine lately because of Finn. It bothers me a little that all of the staff at his school keep going on and on about how smart he is (see, I had to turn it back to my kids, after all, couldn't stay away). I mean, they really do go on about it (mostly to us, I think, I don't believe they say these things to Finn directly but I don't really know). Some parents might be opposed to such high praise on the grounds that it might make their child lazy, as if they don't have to work as hard at school because they are naturally smart (don't worry, I am not confusing daycare with school here, this is all hypothetical future stuff). Other parents might see nothing wrong with it - I mean, aren't we SUPPOSED to encourage our kids? Me, I'm worried it will give Finn feelings of inadequacy someday. It's a lot to live up to, this "smart" label. I love my child and recognize his awesome qualities more than anyone else. But he's a 2-year-old with great speaking skills, not a genius. I want to make sure he has the space to find out on his own what he's good at (and what he's bad at), and praise him for the things he does, not the things he might do one day.

Did well-meaning family members and friends scar me a little with praise? Who knows. Maybe I'm just inherently insecure. If so, hopefully Finn and Lucy managed not to get those genes from me. One thing is sure, though - you can bet that I'll spend a little extra time helping them with their homework during the time unit.


  1. Shhhh. I am also not as intelligent as people give me credit for. I was also thinking about something while reading about your concerns for Finn. Teachers in Cameron's school tell me how sweet and good she is. Could that also be a trap? I think so!

  2. Wait, my hours are so low they are going to fire me. And that was before I realized I'm probably not smart enough to make partner. So, what is this competitive crap - did it backfire...? Probably good that my kids are "behind" - lower expectations. :)

  3. What a bunch of nonsense from all of you! YOU ARE ALL SMART! And, of course, I take some credit for that. Nobody ever told me I was smart, but I knew I was. . .and still am. In the thinking area, that is. . .have yet to pump gas successfully, however, and can't open any package without help. . .today, for instance, I almost threw a newly purchased thermos cup away. I couln't screw the top on--tried for 15 minutes, then asked a friend for help and she realized I had the top on upside down. So there!! Lots of love. . .

  4. Ironic that it was seventh grade when you learned to tell time- because I distinctly remember that it was seventh grade when I finally caught on to the when to use "a" and when to use "an" rule:) Everyone works at their own rate!

  5. To this day I will not admit how old I was when I realized you could not get worms if you ate candy before noon (a myth my mother told us).

  6. I didn't realize until college that a male cow doesn't have utters. Sad, but true.