I came across a blog the other day called Raising Smart Girls that I needed to explore, since my husband and I raising two of these creatures ourselves, and read an entry about how the author was having trouble making friends and finding people to talk to, who shared some of her interests and were intellectually challenging. And I thought: hmmmm--because I've felt like that at times. But then her conclusion--"I'm just too smart for my own good"--kind of put me off a bit, maybe because I've found myself thinking that, too, and it's a trait in myself I don't like much. And that got me started thinking about all the things I have learned about in my Motherhood Life which are really valuable, and which I have proven time and again to be no damn good at. Mind you, this list doesn't mean that the people who are good at these things are dumb--far from it. But people who are good at these things tend not to be people who hole up with books and their Phi Beta Kappa key, worrying about the dearth of Smart People to talk to.
Anyway, here's what I came up with:
1. Community organizing. A good community organizer is a person who will listen patiently to someone who is a total nut case, and make them feel valued, and manage to enlist their support in a worthy group endeavor. The world is full of eccentrics and oddballs and quirky characters and tedious old people and blowhards. Super-smart people tend to fidget when one of these walks in the room; super-smart people tend to think, Get to the point, goddammit! when they are listening. Super-smart people have lapped the track three times while these folks are just making it to the first turn, and having to sit around and wait for this other person to understand that what they're proposing can't be done, or isn't worth doing, makes super-smart people want to bang their heads against a wall. Super-smart people find it hard to remember that everybody deserves to be listened to, and that all kinds of people have valuable experiences and points of view to bring to the table.
2. Seeing into the future. Super-smart people tend to forget that, being human, they are never working with a complete set of data. They take success at a small set of predictions to mean competence at much bigger predictions. History is full of brilliant people who confidently predicted a future which failed to materialize--though sometimes they did get parts of it right.
3. Dealing with knuckleheads. My guilty secret is that I like to watch "Judge Judy" when I get a chance, because that lady is really good at slicing her way through a thicket of nonsensical babble and getting to the heart of the matter. Judge Judy is one of those people who does not suffer fools gladly, and it's hilarious, now and then, to watch her cut some preening nincompoop down to size. "You lived under their roof for three years, you took money from these people to buy a car and never repaid them, and now that you've moved out you want your set of Ginzu knives? Get over yourself. Judgment for the plaintiff." But while this is amusing to watch, I suspect it's not very socially useful. In fact, I think it's kind of corrosive. Nincompoops will go on being nincompoops, and will loudly defend their RIGHT TO BE NINCOMPOOPS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and the rest of us can all look down on them--but in the meantime, nobody is addressing the problem of just how this 25-year-old mama's boy is ever going to become self-reliant, or just why this 18-year-old girl has three babies by two different men, and now that she does, how is she going to raise them. Ministers, social workers, guidance counselors--people who hardly ever are described as "super-smart"--get stuck with the last job, and the low pay scales for these professions reflect the amount of value society places on the incredibly valuable work they do.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. It's just what I came up with.
My bottom line: intellectual giftedness--the kind of smarts that enables people to talk about Hegel and plan intergallactic expeditions and find cures for rare diseases--is a wonderful, amazing thing, but we tend to value it at the expense of a lot of other things equally wonderful and amazing. In the world my daughters will inherit, being able to build a sturdy door frame may well be more valuable than the ability to compose a lovely sonnet. It takes all kinds of smarts to make the world go around--and while I see that I have two kids with lots of the kind of IQ that college admissions officers will someday value, I hope I can teach them to value other ways of being smart beside their own.