My nine year old son is really smart. He has a photographic memory and an insatiable desire to learn. Consequently, he is much smarter than I am in so many things. His mind is stuffed with random facts. He can describe the flag of Lesotho and recall the atomic weight of Berkelium. Just for fun, he reads books like, “The Art and Craft of Problem Solving” and each year’s copy of “The World Almanac.” He is a walking computer. My husband and I joke that we need to get him on a game show to make some extra cash. The problem with having a smart kid is that he knows he is smarter than I am. He’s lacking that sense of awe most kids have when confronted with their parents’ vast storehouse of knowledge. I can’t dazzle him with my brilliance or ensure his cooperation by telling him something he doesn’t know. For example, we were having an argument the other day about why it is important for him to go to bed at 9 pm.
Me: Son, according to the American Association of Pediatrics, your growing body needs 10 hours of sleep.
Son: Actually that finding is based on a sample population of 493 subjects in a study done by the University Children’s Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland and the results can’t be generalized to the entire population of the world.
Me: Well, um, their findings must apply to some degree because all growing kids need sleep.
Son: Yes, but the amount we need varies from person to person. Each individual has their own circadian rhythms.
Me: Well okay, I agree everyone has some individual differences, but we aren’t meant to stay up all night.
Son: Mom, circadian rhythms are endogenous and they can be affected by zeitgebers like daylight, but with the invention of electricity we gained the ability to manipulate the earth's 24-hour light/dark cycle to suit our needs.
Me: What the…..?!?!?
I have the sinking feeling that I am on the losing end of this argument, so I rely on my trump card: life experience. He can’t top my 50 years of life.
“You know son, I have lived on this planet 41 years longer than you have and I KNOW some things about life. For example, I KNOW children who keep their parents up all night have to live with the consequences of irritated, tired parents.” I see the wheels turning in his head.
“I KNOW that the majority of the humans on this planet sleep at night because they have to be awake in the daytime to go to work and school.” I’m really getting worked up now.
“I KNOW that if Dad and I don’t get enough sleep we can’t go to work and if we can’t go to work we can’t pay for the life to which you have become accustomed.” It’s beginning to dawn on him that parental power might have more to do with income than intellect.
He grudgingly replies, “Well I wish you could just download your life experience to me!”
Aha, light bulb moment for me. I gleefully retort, “What do you think I am doing every time I try to teach you something?” He gives me a dumbfounded look as reality dawns on him. He has been outwitted by his old Mom. I have turned the tide in my direction, I can download at will and he can’t complain. After all, he asked for it!