How to Turn an Ordinary Kid Into a Genius

You realize that it is impossible to transform an ordinary person into a genius, right? People are either a genius or they aren’t. You can destroy their hopes of using their genius to further human knowledge but you as a parent can’t create genius where it does not exist.

What led to this train of thought?

Dr. Katie Bouman, the woman who developed an algorithm that turned the earth into a camera and took a picture of a black hole. At least, I think that is what happened.

I could send my kids to every math enrichment program from now until the rapture and they would not ever be able to do what that woman did. And I wouldn’t want them to because they have their own gifts to offer humanity.

Older Son can’t math but no one can herd teenager and middle schoolers like he can. Also, he understands political policy on a seemingly cellular level and can tell a badly crafted bill from the first paragraph.

Six loves science. I have a feeling he will spend his adult life blowing shit up (hopefully in a controlled environment.) When he figures out all the dangerous chemicals the US military encourages its chemists to experiment with…well, it will probably be, on his personal happiness scale, Christmas rolled into birthday rolled into Halloween rolled into just candy in general.

I couldn’t turn that kid into an art historian even if I wanted to.

The point I am making is that it might be a good idea to let our kids be the best versions of who they genuinely are rather than trying to turn them into our version of a successful person. I used to want Older Son to be an accountant but what a waste that would have been. He’s much better at what he decided he wanted to do. Also, as I said, he really can’t math. 

All the chess lessons in the world aren’t going to make a grand master out of someone who just likes to play a few games in the park of a sunny afternoon.

And I am not saying all this in defense of kids. I am saying this in defense of you, the parent reading this and maybe getting mad at me.

Please think about giving yourself a break. You don’t have to nurture every spark your kids have. I’ve met the kids of people who attempt to do that and those kids are annoying. You know I’m right because you’ve met them, too. And maybe there is envy when you hear all the classes and camps that kid took part in. I know I have felt that same envy but then something happens that brings me back to reality.

I remember that after about 18-20 years in my care, my kid is going to have to go out in the world and figure out how to be an individual human being without me. They are going to have to figure out how to nurture any sparks they develop after they leave my house. They are going to have to figure out what they are actually interested in rather than running after every little idea they have.

And that kid, you know that neighbor kid who lectured you on early Mesoamerican art at the last block party, they might not ever know what truly floats their boat because it was always someone else deciding how they were going to spend their time. That kid is also the reason you can start drinking half an hour before the block party begins.

I sighed Six up for dance classes because he asked for dance classes. I sighed Older Son up for photography classes using actual film because I thought it would be funny. Guess what, Six dances while he watches TV and Older Son still makes fun of me for the photography classes. It was hilariously funny making Older Son learn darkroom etiquette in 2015 but he would have been better served by a photography class using digital cameras.

Lesson learned.

And maybe the stuff you are trying to get your kid to do is stuff you actually want to do. Quit cleaning your house and instead sign up for the adult version of whatever class you were trying to get your kid interested in.

It’s just a thought. No pressure.

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