When did you realize your kids were smarter than you?
I don’t remember exactly what I was doing at the time, but I was looking at the computer. Might have been an important news story, might have been a cat video, I can’t remember.
What I do remember is the conversation behind me in the dining room. There was a hard-core study session going on at the kitchen table, and my Grade 7 student was reviewing some math problems while his dad took a shift as helper.
“So, in order to go from this product to that product, what did we do? We multiplied this by a hundred and this by a thousand to get those two numbers, so to get the new product we have to divide the new number by a hundred thousand.”
Um, pardon? They might as well have been speaking Mandarin, because I don’t understand a single word of that. I’m not even sure I’m quoting it properly, to be honest. Much as he tried, poor Wally Gillis was fighting a losing battle as my high school calculus teacher. I passed, but I think it had less to do with my mathematical prowess and more to do with him feeling sorry for me.
Anyway, back at the kitchen table, my son conveyed to my husband that he didn’t quite understand, which actually made me feel better for a minute. His father, the smartest guy I know and to whom math comes so easy, must be using an overly-difficult explanation, I thought. Dial it down for the Grade 7 student, dear, jeez.
Unfortunately, the next thing I heard was, “no, Dad, you’re making it complicated for nothing, it’s not even hard. You just take the decimals out altogether. Watch.” And then I heard a pencil scribbling furiously, followed by, “There. Simple.”
Not only did I underestimate the grasp my son has on math, I also underestimated how terrible I am at it. As his healthy, young brain cells were feeding off each other and multiplying in the dining room, my remaining brain cells were clinging to each other for comfort.
That was the point when I started to accept what I had seen coming for some time: my kids are smarter than I am. Like, a whole universe smarter, in many ways. I got my first taste of this years ago when I was no longer able to help my older son with high school-level math homework, but this product-division-decimal stuff took whatever confidence I had and left it back at a Grade 4 level where I belong.
And I am completely okay with that. My oldest son is graduating from college in a few months, so the dumber he makes me feel by explaining circuitry and electricity transmission, the more confident I am of his success. And the way my youngest son rolls his eyes when he’s blasted through mental math that I’m still counting on my fingers, makes me feel good about the direction he’s headed.
Now, by “smarter” I don’t mean common sense, life experience-smarter. We are talking about a generation that eats laundry detergent pods and mouthfuls of cinnamon, for fun. The same kid who can school me on subduction of the earth’s crust, had to be told last week to remove the spoon from the microwave before pressing “start,” so let’s not sell ourselves too short, parents. I can teach a master class on dishwasher loading, and I married someone who has forgotten more about car repairs than our kids will ever know, so we’ve still got the juice. We are seasoned professionals at life, in ways that will take them decades to figure out.
But much as I might like to wax poetic about my generation’s infinite wisdom, there’s no doubt that they’ve got us up against a wall when it comes to most other things these days. And to prove this theory, I employed the most rock-solid research tool I have at my disposal: Facebook. “When did you realize your kids were smarter than you,” I posted one day.
“When my 10-year-old laughed at an adult reference on an episode of Modern Family, and when I asked her about it, she was able to explain to me why it was ironic,” was one response.
“When my seven-year-old nephew hooked up my android box two minutes while I was still reading the instructions,” said someone else.
“When my then-4-year-old had to show me how to fix something on my phone,” was a popular one.
Oh well. I can think of worse things to happen than to have my children out-gun me in the brains department.