I expect my children will become smarter than me. Even if we all took trigonometry, most of us forgot it. So when our kids start talking tangents, we know the time has come for us to stop helping them with their homework. We are of no use to them anymore.
But when high school is still far away and our children are still content to play Angry Birds and LEGOs all day long, we think we are still safely smarter than our kids. Until they date and drive, there is still a chance that we know more than they do. Or maybe not.
When our son, Wheeler, was 5, I happened to mention to my husband that “something” our friend had been worried about was “benign.” Our 9-year-old asked us what the word meant. Our 13-year-old scolded him for not knowing. Then he replied, “I bet Wheeler knows.”
Sure enough, Wheeler schooled us all.
Around that same time, Wheeler explained DNA to me. I was driving and he was safely strapped away in the backseat or else I would have made him draw the hexagonal structure he was describing. Because the truth is, I was lost. He was going too fast for me.
This was extremely humbling, if not humiliating, for a mother enrolled in law school. Benign I understood. DNA I did not. I will never forget that day, thinking to myself, “Geez, my baby boy knows way more than I do.” And then I realized, “That. Is. Awesome.” And other words like “scholarship” and “Harvard” came to mind. And then, even better thoughts surfaced like, “Wheeler cures cancer.” And then I didn’t care if I was a dope and if my son IS smarter than I am.
Imagine the results if we could harness his power for good. His spin on the world is unreal. When one kid is disgusted by dog poop, Wheeler will point out that it doesn’t emit any harmless greenhouse gases. When another kid complains about going to school, Wheeler is taken aback, “How are you going to learn everything if you don’t go to school?!” And when another kid is symptomatic for the flu, only Wheeler will volunteer an explanation of small pox instead, complete with history, symptoms and treatment.
So, he’s pegged to be an environmentalist, a truancy officer, or a doctor, I suppose, but Wheeler will tell you he wants to be a scientist.
There may not be many 8-year-olds who want to hang out with my son right now and hear about how the Earth was formed, or how the lifespan of canines varies with body mass.
I do know he will have an audience one day who will be fascinated by his knowledge. Meanwhile, he can tell you how blood is made. I forgot it was made in the bone marrow. It took me a while to figure it out. Not my son. He’s already got it figured out. And my hope is that he can figure out the whole world someday. Especially that cancer part.