Author Cynthia White
About 20 years ago, I remember the day I learned that my two children were smarter than me. When my son was having difficulties in school and he was not doing well, I passed him along with my daughter at the same time a professional IQ test. They were both in the “gifted” category with IQs of 141 and 140 respectively. I myself had done this test not long ago, and I knew I had an IQ of 126.
I said to myself in first reaction:
“Oh shit, what am I doing now?”
After this initial shock period, I felt resigned and motivated to stimulate them intellectually as much as possible. I did not jump for joy.
In our house, that meant they had a lot of books to read. I was very strict about bedtime, but in any case, they were entitled to 30 minutes more if they were ready to read quietly in bed, which was always the case.
Some people have an entertainment budget. I had a “books” budget. They always had new books from their school, but we also went regularly to the library. “You can choose four books each,” I told them. I did not care about the subject of the books.
I bought a huge blackboard, 120x180cm and I hung it in the kitchen. So it was easy to help with their homework, write things to each other, and make drawings. I tried to be creative to make learning fun. When they gave me a hard time on the varieties of apples I bought, I set up a “blind test”, in which they had several apples to taste. They had to try to identify their variety (they could not do it) and describe what they liked and did not like in each of them.
I have never tried to have them memorize or use flash cards. I had them regularly (in high school) practice “manual activities”. I pulled out a box of things like colored glue, dried macaroni, glitter, caterpillar and canson paper. Then I asked them to create something.
Since they were so smart and talked constantly, even after they got too old to nap, I insisted they have one hour of “quiet time” in the afternoon where they must be quiet in their room. It was done to preserve my sanity.
Since I was a writer, we have played a lot of word games and writing. We still do it when they come to visit me.
I encouraged them to practice team sports, which they both did. I also encouraged music lessons, but neither of them were very enthusiastic about it until a certain day, because they are now both accomplished guitarists. But they tried the guitar and the piano for a few months around 10-12 years. My daughter wanted to play the harp, but I could not afford it. By the time I had enough money to pay her for lessons, she had lost interest in this instrument.
I organized computer lessons for them. Home computers were new in the early 1990s and not everyone had one. I knew a computer scientist who came to my house and gave the two children lessons on everything they wanted to learn. I think my son wanted to learn some coding and some stuff on computer networks. My daughter wanted to learn a program like Photoshop. My son became the technician of his college and the assistant of the guy who ran all the computers in the school, which was very useful for him as he was wasting his time clowning in class. This teacher regularly sent my son out of the classroom to go to computer science.
There were difficult years when I was a single mother working. We played a lot of cards. I taught them at least half a dozen games. We often played games requiring 4 people, where I counted for two people. When they were small and I found the bridge too complicated, I taught them whist. We played spades, gin, memory (where you have to pair up with turned cards), some canasta and poker.
It is interesting to note that they are now both poker players in competitions, among others. When I remember what I did, I think I really did my best. My son then got his BAC of science he played rugby for Texas A & M University. He is happy and is paid in his work today (this is my definition of success). Not only does he have a job, but he also has his own start-up Karma Tribe, with which he hopes to make this world a better place. My daughter has just completed a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara where she was “Chancellor’s Scholar”, the highest distinction a student can get. She is also happy with a job.
Here they are in Las Vegas, a few years ago.
Whatever their potential and no matter what they do, I think the best thing I did was encourage them to count on each other and to appreciate each other, because one day I will no longer be of this world, but they will always be there for each other.