Monday, August 18, 2008

Smart or Stupid?

Someone emailed me a quiz this morning with that title - you know, just one of those fun, brain challenging things that get passed around the internet. I wasn't offended (so don't worry, person who sent it), and don't even know if I should be offended (on behalf of Finn), but it did make me sigh a bit. I didn't take the quiz, as I'm really not interested in knowing how smart or stupid I am. I figure I'm smart enough. I've always considered myself a person of above average intelligence, although I am convinced that I've lost IQ points in the 6 years since I traded my intellectually stimulating career in for a life of diapers, play dates and The Backyardigans. But I wonder how much it even matters.

So many things are called into question since Finn's birth and diagnosis. I've been thinking a lot about the qualities I've always valued in other people and myself - and most notably in my kids. Intelligence is definitely near the top of the list. I admire a smart person. I'm rivited by people who are articulate and well-informed (a particular person in my book club comes to mind . . . ). One of the things I am most deeply attracted to in my husband is the fact that he's extraordinarily bright and well spoken (not that he doesn't swear like a truck drive just like I do - definitely another admirable quality if you ask me).

I have some super-smart kids. I've always taken great pride in the manifestation of their intelligence - the awards at school, the placement into the program for gifted children, the stellar report cards, the reports and stories they write that blow my friends' socks off. Where does this leave Finn, though? I have high hopes for Finn, and I will do whatever I can to help him reach his highest potential . . . but how do I, as a parent, continue to take pride in the accomplishments of my kids with above-average intelligence without devaluing the child who has been medically diagnosed with a lower than average intelligence?

And why is a person's worth so tied up in his or her intelligence anyway? I think that's exactly why the terms "retard" and "retarded" are used so much as insults in society at large - because a person who isn't at least of average intelligence is viewed as less than.

It's one of the harsh realities that has become a part of our life as a family.

Along with the pride I have in my kids' intelligence, I have high expecations for them too. I expect them to be honors students as they get older. I expect them to go to college and find some manner of making a living that utilizes their best abilities. I envision them getting married and having their own families some day.

What can I expect of Finn? That's the big mystery. But I do know that he will never be in GATE (in fact, it will probably be accomplishment enough just to get him mainstreamed in regular school). He will never be a doctor or a lawyer or President of the United States. Maybe my other kids won't either, but they at least have that potential. I've been made to understand that Finn does not even have that potential. He may fall in love some day, and he may even get married. But he'll never have kids and be a parent himself (not that one has to be smart to be a parent, as evidenced by Britney Spears), and it's questionable if he will ever even be able to live on his own, independently.

So I've just started wondering about what's really important and worth valuing, and how will we find a balance between celebrating our "typical" kids' accomplishments and our "special" kid's accomplishments without devaluing either one.


Nicole O'Dell said...

Hi there! Still reading every day. You said this and it sort of stuck out at me:

but how do I, as a parent, continue to take pride in the accomplishments of my kids with above-average intelligence without devaluing the child who has been medically diagnosed with a lower than average intelligence?

Maybe just a shift in thinking would help you find that balance. Instead of valuing a child's particular accomplishment (like entrance into a gifted program) for whatever the accomplishment is, per se', maybe start seeing it as being of value because of how hard he/she worked for it and how much it means to that child.

That way, you don't have to worry about any comparison between children. They are each rewarded on their own continuum of success.

I continue to wish you all the best and follow little Finn's journey. What a little joy he is. :)

Jodi said...

I think you'll be amazed by Finn's perspective on life and the world around him. He might not cure cancer or graduate with honors, but I do think he's going to be a thoughtful, insightful kid (much like the rest of your kids). He might even notice things and think about things in ways you've never considered. His successes might not come in the classroom, but life is a lot larger than school.