There Are Different Kinds of Smart

Last night we sat down to dinner, it was my husband, his parents, The Goon Squad and me.

Or is it myself? Or I? If I had known I would be writing for a living I would have paid more attention in English class.

Ian was in mood and he was speculating on how long it would take an asteroid to get to Earth. Then he turned to my father-in-law and said “Papa, what is the speed of light?”

And my father-in-law said, and I swear to the Gods I am not making this up or exaggerating, “The speed of light is 187,300 miles per second.”

How did he know that? (And I looked it up. He was right!)

Then Ian said, so how long would it take light to get from the moon to Earth?

THEN my father-in-law started doing math in his head. “Hmmm, well 240,000 miles divided by 187,300 miles per second…”

I stopped him right there. “Wait. You know the speed of light and the distance between the Earth and the moon off the top of your head?!?”

As I pondered if I thought my father-in-law was the most brilliant man in the universe or some sort of savant  my thoughts were interrupted by my four year old’s announcement.

“I am the smartest one in this family!”

We all laughed.

“No, I really AM the smartest one in this family.”

Since I try to to bolster his confidence I said “Oh really? You are the smartest person in this family? Read what it says on Nonny’s sweatshirt”.

I can’t remember what he said, but it wasn’t even close.

Then I said “Gabe, can you read what it says on Nonny’s sweatshirt?”

And my husband really can read so he said “Outer Banks, N.C.”

He said it like that too Enn Cee.

Because my excellent mothering skills and confidence building are matched only by my maturity I said “Oh! BURN YOU, IAN!”

Then my son, who is still only four, who must have picked up on sarcasm somewhere says “Well, I’m not the “reading” smartest.”

Yes. He used air quotes.


Where did he learn air quotes? Listen, I have a fairly good idea where he picked up on sarcasm and talking smack at the dinner table, but the air quotes? That is a mystery.

Now that he has mastered both air quotes and the f word in one week I can help but wonder what will be next. Evil laugh? Deviant art? Prank phone calls? Song parodies? Dirty jokes? That fart noise with his hand in his armpit?

At least he will be popular in middle school.

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  1. Just as there is a fine line between clever and stupid, there is (sometimes) a fine line between smart and smart-ass.

  2. Be glad he got the idea of air quotes on his own. I had to explain them to Miss Pink the other day and it was hard to do. “It’s when you don’t really mean what you’re saying…”

  3. The air quotes tell me he’s been watching old SNL Chris Farley clips. And belittling kids is part of parenting; tear them down, build them up, repeat.

  4. Not to defend nerdiness in any way, but there are certain numbers that you use so many times when getting an engineering degree that you eventually memorize them. Speed of light, distances, velocity when something falls.

    I had hoped the spaces in my brain that contained this information would eventually be replaced with something more useful, but 15+ years later I can still tell you how to convert miles to km without looking it up anywhere.

  5. Don’t overlook the fact that he is aware that there is a speed of light. And he is interested in that.

    I would die laughing if my kid used air quotes correctly. Love it.

  6. Air quote loose their cutness by the time the hit 2nd grade… but for now, enjoy them :)

  7. There’s book smart and then there’s street smart, with air quotes. I gotta tell ya, I think the “street smarts” fare better in life. They pick up on nuances and are so adaptable. And this is coming from a middle school teacher!

  8. “myself” is usually either reflexive or intesnive. If reflexive, the subject must have already been introduced: “I (subject) shot myself (reflexive) in the face a little.”

    If intensive I think the subject still needs to be introduced first: “I (subject) got dressed in this pink tutu myself (intensifying).”

  9. Dude. I just had my own f-word incident today. Niiice.

  10. Air quotes – hahahaha!

  11. So, seriously, why the fuck does your father-in-law know all that shit off the top of his head? Is he some kind of spy for NASA? Does NASA have spies? Maybe that’s the NSA … hm.

  12. If you can teach your children the fine art of sarcasm and air quotes, your job is done.

  13. Send my son home to me immediately!

  14. See, this is when it starts to get fun!

  15. I’m not as smart as your father-in-law, but I do know that you used the word “me” correctly in your opening sentence. Backpacking dad is really smart too, but I think he made it sound a tad confusing with all that reflexive and intensifying hocus-pocus…. :) If you want to check yourself, just break it down to the most basic form of what you are trying to say. “He sat down to dinner with me.” After you do that, you can add in anyone else you want: We sat down to dinner. It was my husband, the in-laws, the Goon Squad, 2 dogs, 4 cats, the neighbor lady who is always snooping around in our garage, and me.

    See? Easy……. :)

  16. So totally the guy in middle school.

  17. Oh I love your family so much. I have been trying lately to prove my 6yo is not the smartest person in the world, just because he knows what 10,000×10,000 is (try it, adults often guess wrong, except your FIL I imagine). Because I too am so mature.

    And my dad used to be like your FIL, but seems to have lost a lot of it right when I need him for the science fair projects :)

  18. If he learns to make that fart noise with his armpit, do you think he will teach me? I’ve always wanted to be able to do that.

  19. My husband is a network engineer that majored in physics and the cello in college.

    I majored in Opera Performance,gestate in my pajamas and blog about my ta-ta’s on the internet.

    We have the “Different kinds of smart” conversation on a REGULAR basis. :)

  20. Probably from TV. Like I’m sure SpongeBob or Patrick uses air quotes.

  21. I’m going to go with rubbing his hands together with an evil grin on his face accompanied by a manaical “And now I will take over the world…” laugh.

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