Sunday, May 04, 2008

with great power comes great responsibility

All parents think that their offspring are smart. I think that it's natural, you are so proud of your kid's achievements. But if your kid does exhibit some kinds of natural talent, then comes the stress - entirely self inflicted of course. If Sophie and I were the one of the 1 billion people who didn't have access to clean water I would be more anxious to make sure she was not one of the children who died every 15 seconds because of it, and I wouldn't be having this kind of angst.

Anyway, in relation to passing on to Sophie what my dad teasingly calls my "bourgeois angst" appears at 2 main levels. The first and probably most important one is to figure out that it is not all about her. We involve her in a lot of charitable giving and it's probably all to assuage my guilt at bearing a biological child. If I have just increased the population on our resource-scarce world, then at least I hope to have increased it by one altruistic individual that would give back to it.

The second level is a much more personal issue, which is my own responsibility in relation to raising Sophie. I don't believe in nor do I want to raise a Judit Polgar, so I have no desire to emphasize a particular skill. Just having a well-round and happy kid is a lofty enough goal.

The problem for me is that she's actually alot smarter than I would sometimes wish. In the sense that she has a great capacity to teach herself, and if I don't get a handle on directing this great thirst to learn, then I realise she's fairly indiscriminate about new things, and I don't want her to learn any wrong values or something.

I realised only today that she can add and subtract integers between zero and 5. Not just recite the formula, but actually tell me that if I have 5 blocks and take away 1 I will have 4 left (without actually having to count them). She kind of just did it in her head. I was wondering if that was a lucky guess so I tested it with a few numbers before she got bored of the game, but it was no guess. She actually counts - and she's not even two yet.

This would have been less spooky if I had been teaching her all this, but the reason why I am filled with this sense of eeriness is because I just haven't. On questioning the nannies, I realise that nobody else has taught Sophie math - she kind of just figured this out all by herself. So the thought that really does scare me - what else as she been learning without any of us realising? She must have just learned this simply by observation. Which makes being her parents somewhat akin to living in a goldfish bowl as we are the subject of constant scrutiny.


Xavier said...

Her calculation capacities a bit remind me of my own brother, who at age 5, before entering "CP", was able to calculate things like "25% of 200" or "250 + 50%", all in his head in about 10 seconds. Probably small beer for S when she is 5.
Anyway, he grew up in a well-rounded guy who will graduate from his studies in quantitative finance in a few months :)

For what my advice is worth, cheer S when she performs well, but don't tell her she is a "genius".

Irene said...