One of our babysitters left a biology flash card at our house a while ago. Laylee found it under the couch last week and was fascinated to read all about osmosis and cellular structure.
“Someday,” she said in a theatrically rapturous voice, “I’m going to find out what this all means.”
“You can find out right now,” I say, “Let me see what it says.”
“Oh mom. This is about science. You wouldn’t understand. I’ll ask Dad when he gets home.”
Um. Excuse me. Somewhere along the way Laylee has decided that I don’t know anything about math or science. Is it because I don’t work as a software engineer every day? Because I clean toilets? It better not be because I’m a woman.
She got quite the unexpected lecture that day about how smart I am, how well I understand all things math and science-related, and about just exactly how osmosis works in a cell. Did she know I tutored other students in math and science all through high school? Did she know I got a perfect score on the science portion of the ACT? Was she aware that I interned at an oil company as a geophysical technician while still in high school and was offered a full-ride engineering scholarship? She did not. She does now.
As much time as we spend with our kids, sometimes I wonder how much they really know us. How are we projecting ourselves to them? When Laylee’s doing her homework, I frequently ask her to have Dan check it because I’m running around getting dinner ready and I want him to be involved in her schoolwork. She probably assumes it’s because I don’t understand her oh-so-complex third grade algebra.
Now I’m thinking it would be a good idea to have Dan stir the sauce while I check her math facts. She already knows he uses math and science every day at work. He can bond with her by spending time sweeping the floor together after dinner. He’ll probably find a way to turn it into a math lesson anyway. That’s how he rolls.
Dan has an enduring fascination with the way things work. He’s always asking questions and answering questions no one’s asked yet. He loves to teach the kids anything, to get their little minds whirring.
I do this sometimes but it doesn’t come as naturally to me. My mind is just on other things. I’m more likely to teach them about why we vote or how to organize their backpacks neatly than why the leaves change color.
I think this needs to change. What we talk about and how we spend our time tells kids what we value. And it’s not that I can’t value neatness or civic duty but I have to broaden my repertoire to show Laylee that she can do anything she sets her mind to and that being a mother does not preclude her from being an intelligent woman. We need all the intelligent women we can get raising children in this world.
Science and math aren’t the only important kinds of intelligence but if I have them in my arsenal, I need to let my kids know. Having knowledge and not sharing it with your children is, in their minds, as bad as not having it at all.