I know there are some people who enjoy going back to school and getting advanced degrees, but when I graduated college, I was happy to never, ever, EVER open a textbook again.
It’s not that I was a bad student. It’s just that no matter how much I studied, there were some subjects that simply would not take hold in my brain. Like, most of them. Fortunately, I didn’t think it would slow me down in life to not have a good grasp of math, science or history. But I neglected to consider that I might have kids who would need help with their homework one day.
“Hey Mom, do you know what a dodecahedron is?” asked my son as he peered through his math textbook.
I thought for a minute. “I think it’s a dinosaur,” I finally responded.
He looked at me blankly.
“That’s not right, is it?” I said glumly.
“It’s OK. I’ll go ask Dad.” He replied and went to find his father while I went back to counting whatever brain cells I had left after childbirth.
“Hey Mom,” asked my daughter a little later. “Do you know when the Ottoman Empire ruled?”
“They named an empire after ottomans?” I asked incredulously. “That is so awesome! Did they have one for loveseats, too?”
“You’re kidding, right?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“It’s OK. I’ll go ask Dad.” She said as I left to find her father while I gazed admiringly at our family room ottoman.
“Hey Mom, do you know the Law of Conservation of Mass?” wondered my son that same night.
“Yes,” I said firmly. “I think it has something to do with gaining weight in the winter and then losing it in the summer.”
My husband looked up from his magazine.
“Honey, did you ever actually go to school?” he asked.
I put my hands on my hips and glowered at him.
“Yes,” I sniffed. “And I did really, really well in the creative arts.”
I realized then that my family all thought I was a dummy. I knew that I was smarter than they thought – I just wasn’t book smart. So what if I thought a rhombus was a Spanish dance, or that Thomas Edison discovered electricity, or that Ikea was an actual city in Sweden. The important thing was I could do a mean rhombus and I was really good at using electricity and I liked Swedish meatballs. The rest of it was just useless, extraneous information.
“You know,” I finally said to them at dinner. “You guys all think you’re so brilliant. I want you to know that I’m an award winning columnist, a celebrated author, and a gifted storyteller. Just because you all know the difference between a trapezius and a trapezoid and I don’t, doesn’t mean you’re smarter than me.”
My daughter looked at me, took a bite of food, and then sighed.
“Smarter than I.”