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On Being Smart

Smart is a word that’s come up a lot around our house. It finds its way in conversations between both kids and adults. My just-turned-five-year-old used it on several occasions yesterday.

She told me that her sister (who’s seven) “Isn’t very smart.”  I asked her why and she said, “Because she licked her lips. If you lick your lips, it just makes them more dry.”

It seemed funny to me that she would draw the conclusion that her sister must not be smart if she does something that doesn’t seem smart. Like, one action negates any smartness she might have. We had a discussion about how making a choice that isn’t necessarily a smart choice doesn’t make you not smart. I also told her that she and her brother and sister are all very smart.

This led to another thing she said, which was, “I’m not smart.”  I told her she was very smart, to which she replied, “But I don’t know anything! I don’t even know how to spell!”

This started a conversation about how being smart isn’t just about what you learn in school, or whether or not you can do things that your older siblings can do. Being smart, I told her, is that she knows things that surprise me. Being smart is that she figures things out on her own, and often forms opinions and hypotheses about things that are spot on.

I look at all 3 of my children and they’re all smart in different ways. Sean is very good at math, and spatial intelligence. He’s excellent at puzzles and building legos. He can finish a complicated lego structure in no time, and could spend hours coming up with new things to build. He’s also good at video games, but I don’t know if that counts… surely it counts for something, right?

Gracie is good at drawing. She could draw for hours and her drawings are (in my opinion anyway) pretty advanced for her age. Plus, she infuses a humor into her drawings, whether it’s a simple drawing or a several-celled comic. She’s very dramatic and silly and very good at accents (like someone else I know). She’s a very good reader – she puts inflection into everything and gives everyone a different voice.

Maddie is just starting to read actual words, but she can sit with any book and make up her own story based on the pictures. She sings a lot. She makes up songs constantly and changes wording in actual songs to make them funny and pertinent to what we’re talking about or doing at the moment. She remembers EVERYTHING and has always been so grown up with her conversations. I recently found a video of her at just two years old, and she was talking up a storm.

I was one of those kids (and adults) who always felt stupid. I had 1 brother who was always getting straight As, 1 brother who never cracked a physics book open and still got As and tutored the valedictorian in the same subject. All 3 of my brothers are smart about music (I never know what they’re talking about) and 1 who’s so well-read I’ve never heard of half the authors he speaks of. My mom always told me I was smart, and I suppose if I looked at myself through my mother’s eyes I’d be able to pick out things about me that were smart.

I know my husband’s smart. He’s incredible with math, with building, with figuring out how to wire the house and build a ceiling and landscape the house – and he’s great at his job.

No matter who we are, we’re all smart in different ways.

How are you smart?




2 responses »

  1. I’ve always been good at math, it has always come naturally to me. I see my son the same way and it makes me really happy to see myself reflected back at him.

    Beyond that, I think I am smart in recognizing who I should call a friend. {hugs}

  2. Great post! I think seeing things in different ways is something that is natural to me. And by extension, problem solving. Because if I can see a problem or challenge in a new way I am more likely to solve it.

    I tend to shy away from the use of smart because it so often implies something innate that can’t be changed. A person is either smart or not smart, yuck. We talk in terms of things that come naturally, or “gifts” and those that take more effort to master. With effort and time anyone can become more *smart* in an area that is difficult for them.

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