Good Mom (of Smartypants Kid) or Bad Mom?

Nerds, we are.
Mali is a smartypants, that's just a fact. But I don't think it's enough to be a smartypants and then be proud of that fact -- I think being smart and gathering facts without being curious -- & motivated by that curiosity to learn more more more -- is a waste of a brain. What do you think?

Trust me, I'm infinitely amused by today's Mali smartypants incidents (that my FB friends already know about, apologies for the recycle). Such as reading this month's National Geographic and freaking out about sea level rise and lecturing everyone in earshot about which global cities are going to be gone and why. Such as, when our refrigerator broke down, lecturing me on how exactly a fridge compressor makes the fridge cold. (Thank you, Beakman's World.)

And the following exchange:
Mali: "Isn't it ironic that Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning and has the word 'wine' in her name?"

Me: [pauses, has several thoughts] "Um, actually it's a sad coincidence." [explains irony]

Mali: "You mean like if a dog was run over by an animal rescue van?"

Me: "Sort of. Did you come up with that yourself?"

Mali: "Naw, it's from Paranorman."

Me: ><
But then on the way to dropping Iz at soccer practice, they started talking about the digestive system for some reason. Which ended with Mali saying, "that's what smooth muscle will do for you!" Iz started, then told Mali she was smart, because she's going into 4th grade and Iz herself didn't learn about smooth muscle until 7th grade. 

After Iz left the car, Mali asked me if I thought it was good that she was smart. And here's where I am again curious as to what you think. I asked her if she knew why smooth muscle was different from cardiac muscle. She said she didn't. So I told her that it was good to be smart and learn a lot, but that it wasn't enough to gather information and move on -- it was important to know why things are the way they are. I told her I was impressed by her autodidact skills (she knew about smooth and cardiac muscles from reading, not from school) (and then we broke autodidact into its roots, so she would remember not just what it means but why), but it was important to also synthesize and delve and go deeper and find out more. 

Is this unfair, for an eight-year-old? I guess I don't want her to be (more of) a showoff about what she knows. I want her to love knowledge itself, and pursue it for its own means, for her own use, not as a card or parlor trick. It is only OK to act like Hermione Granger if you learn like Hermione Granger, is my thought.

Please, opine. Thanks.


Experiencing Alternate Reality, Broughtons-Style

Imagine the luck of living in a world...

Where you get to see humpback whales lunge-feeding and spouting.
For nearly an hour.

Where dolphins accompany you...

...nearly everywhere you go.

Where there are no streets, just docks. And water.
(And sometimes, in those trees, bears. And bald eagles.)

Where you get served breakfasts like this...

...as long as you help clean up afterwards.

Where there is no better feeling than wind whipping your hair...

(Unless you are doing your best Deadliest Catch impression
and don't want the wind whipping your hair.)

(But most of us did want the wind whipping our hair.)

Where you get to learn contemporary methods of
swabbing the deck!

And, yes, there are rainbows.

Where your handsome spouse is in his element...

...and your girls are, too.

Where your family get to learn what it's like to catch their own food
(Sometimes your husband even finds Prince mushrooms
and you get to eat them for dinner.)

Where the sunflower seastars sometimes get to the crab trap bait first...

...and your girls get to go nose-to-antennae with tasty spot prawns
(we threw the teeny ones back)

Where this is a small salmon

And a 14 year old girl can catch four different
kinds of fish on a single morning

Where the days are long and magical

...and the nights are, too.

Where you're far away from just about everything.

And mail gets sent by fish!

It's a world that can't last, unfortunately.
(There was a boy who needed picking up from camp!)

So yesterday I said goodbye to the Broughtons.
They remain one of my favorite places on earth.

Sincere thanks to my in-laws for being such gracious hosts,
and to the wonderful crew that made our family's frolicking possible.
So so so so grateful.


The Coolness of Being Thirteen

Thirteen is cool, says my eldest daughter Gisela, who should know. She says thirteen is when people take you seriously, because you're finally a teenager. Thirteen is different. It matters. You matter.

For me, hers is a bittersweet declaration. I am astounded by the lithe, strong, clever, independent-minded young woman she is turning into, but I'll admit -- I really liked the before-teen phase, with kids who were not self-aware about coolness, still mostly obedient, who still looked up to me as the ultimate font of knowledge, had no hangups about hiking with Mommy, playing family geography trivia games, and agreed that Star Trek marathons are a fantastic way to spend quality time together. These days, she'd much rather code Tumblr themes.

Mine is a selfish perspective, admittedly. But I suspect many parents in my spot also long for the days when their now-skeptical, slightly haughty teens were still kids, as well as wide-eyed, trusty companions & sidekicks, even as we embrace the people they are becoming.

I write 'kids' because Gisela has a younger brother Leo, who is also approaching teenhood. She is a few months past thirteen, he has a few months until thirteen. Leo pushes those teen buttons differently than Gisela because he is not her, and also because he is Autistic with a capital A. While Gisela will now debate with me outright about choices and chores, Leo -- who reserves the right not to speak unless it really matters -- will merely give me a sidelong glance to let me know that he heard me but has no intention of complying, then take off in the opposite direction.

What thirteen has not changed is their relationship with each other. They have never known a life outside each other's periphery, have always had a deep affection and connection with each other (though they both bicker like jaybirds with their eight-year-old sister India). Gisela is one of the few people who can help Leo calm down when he's distraught and not able to self-soothe. Leo always accepts Gisela as she is -- he doesn't care whether she has the right shoes, makeup, or hair (all potentially earth-shattering choices for Gisela's version of thirteen), he's always glad to see her. I am glad they remain the sweetest of companions to each other, even as they push back at me, even though I don't hold them even remotely responsible for how that pushing back makes my heart ache.

But whenever that pushing back really hurts, I can always remind myself how lucky our family is, just to have all three of our kids so alive and so healthy. Gisela and I just returned from a trip to visit friends in Ghana, a country that has had many successful vaccine campaigns. However, it was very clear during our visit that other African countries still struggle to get vaccinations to all those who deserve protection from vaccine-preventable disease. Gisela's good fortune in being fully vaccinated was not lost on her.

I am also glad my kids are alive and healthy, because when Leo was first diagnosed with autism, I was one of those smart, well-informed parents who nonetheless blamed vaccines. I regret this lapse in judgment, hope my ignorance was not contagious, and now work very hard to share legitimate vaccine information (i.e., the evidence is against a link to autism) in the autism and parent communities.

And I will continue to hug both my teens as hard as I can, any time they will let me. Even if it's not always cool.

This post is inspired by Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that educates, connects and empowers the championing of vaccines as one of the most cost effective ways to save the lives of children in the world’s hardest to reach places.

During Shot@Life’s Blogust, 31 bloggers, one each day in August, are writing about moments that matter. For every comment on this post and the 30 other posts, Walgreens will donate a vaccine (up to 50,000 vaccines). A child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease. We can change this reality and help save kids’ lives!

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