This is in response to Ann's blog posting on "value". Click here to read Ann's original post.
I, too, have been guilty of bragging that Jamie is "so smart." I also usually like to do it in his hearing. Unfortunately, he doesn't believe me. His school bases who is intelligent on what kind of grades a student gets. Well, he has ADHD, so his grades have pretty much been crap (and I really mean that other four-letter word that means the same thing, but is not mentioned in polite company). But he is one of the most inquisitive kids I know, and thinks so far "outside the box" that he's thinking in a rhombus or whatever.
He is also one of the kindest, most sensitive people I know. If you hurt, he hurts, and won't stop hurting until he can "make it all better" for you. I have never heard him say or been told he had said anything negative about people who look, act or are physically different from him. But he is the first one to get his feelings hurt when someone else points out something about him that is different. If he notices someone on the playground who has no one to play with, he'll go ask if they want to play with him (his teacher told me this). Unfortunately, often he is the only one left playing alone. It seems the other kids don't like him because he talks "too grown up."
Yet despite the fact that he has a vocabulary to rival that of most fifth-graders, has repeatedly demonstrated his awareness of others' feelings, constantly volunteers to help with clean-up duties and other chores at school and daycare, he is not considered "intelligent" at school. The administration barely wants to consider him "perceptive."
I used to think like so many others. I was considered (and still proudly think of myself as) very intelligent in high school and even in college. Sure, I'm considered a bit of a freak, but I've learned to accept that. But, after watching Jamie struggle, I know that intelligence is more than the grades you get. It's the ability to perceive the world and people around you. It's the ability to empathize and sympathize with others. It's even common sense (of which I have very little).
I'm realizing the only reason why I got good grades was because I had an older sister and brother who read to me constantly and played school with me. I only got good grades because I've learned how to take tests well. Jamie doesn't. I can be very sympathetic to people, and other times I'm so self-absorbed and self-centered that I wish I could bop myself over the head with something when I realize it later.
Some very very very intelligent people fail every test they take. Some extremely intelligent people can't do normal, everyday things. Like my brother recently commented, "Albert Einstein could barely tie his shoes."
So, thank you, Ann, for reminding me of something I've slowly been coming to learn over this past year. I'll still tell Jamie at every opportunity I get that he's very smart. But I'll also remember to tell him how kind he is, how sweet, how loving and how thoughtful.