Katie and I darted around, across, then back around and back across town last weekend, trying desperately to shorten my to-do list.
The conversation started even before we’d pulled out of the garage.
“Hey, Mama?” Katie asked from the back seat. “Do you think that you’re smart just because you know a lot of stuff? I mean, not YOU, just people, like in general.”
“What do you mean, love?” I asked.
“Well, there’s this kid in my class. And he’s REALLY smart. Or at least he THINKS he’s really smart. And he sure likes to tell everybody that he’s really smart. Cause he knows like every fact in the whole world.”
“Do you remember the word for that?” I asked. “We talked about it once. There’s a word for people who are what’s called ‘book smart’.”
She scrunched her nose and stared hard into her memory bank. “Oh, shoot, what was it, Mama?”
“Erudite, baby. It means ‘book smart’. It’s a great word.”
“Oh yeah, erudite. I couldn’t remember it. But anyway, being that kind of smart doesn’t necessarily mean you’re smart as in clever, right?”
“Nope, it sure doesn’t. Some of the most erudite people I’ve met in my life were not the least bit clever. But meanwhile, there are folks out there who have never read a book in their lives who could solve a problem in ways we could never dream of. There are a lot of different ways to be smart. You learned about that from Ms C’s presentation, remember?”
“You learned about all kinds of different ways that people are smart. Knowing stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. And those were just talking about how people learn – how some people are number smart, while others are word or nature smart. Remember all of that?”
“And I think there are even more ways to be ‘smart’. For instance, I think you can be spiritually smart too.”
“Well, there’s self smart, Mama,” she said thoughtfully. “That one’s there.”
“What, Mama? Why’d you say ‘Wow’?”
“Do you think self smart is the same as spiritual smart?”
“Not exactly,” she answered. “But I think they’re very similar.”
We drove in silence for a minute, each of us contemplating the similarities between knowledge of self and connectedness to the Divine. Cause, ya know, that’s how we roll.
As we pulled into the parking lot of our first destination, any deep thoughts succumbed to the mission at hand. There are apparently far more interesting things to a nine year-old (oh fine, and her mother – ‘ooh, look, cute stuff we don’t need, but it’s cheap!’) at the local Target than God and self-actualization. Go figure. But I wasn’t worried. I knew the conversation would wait patiently. They always do with Katie. If she’s got something to say, it will come.
By the third errand of the day, she asked me to turn down the radio again.
“That boy I was telling you about – the one that everyone thinks is the smartest in the class. He’s not very nice. And that’s why I think he’s not really that smart. Does that make sense?”
This time I scrunched my nose as I thought, trying to follow the winding path of a nine year-old’s logic. I was stuck. “I’m not sure I understand, pumpkin,” I said. “Can you explain what you mean?”
“Ok, so here’s an example, Mama. One day my friend “A” and I were trying to figure out a problem together. And it was kind of hard for us, but we were doing our best to come up with the answer. So as we were figuring it out, we said a couple of answers that weren’t right.”
“Well, that’s OK, baby. Often when we’re working on a …”
She interrupted me impatiently. “I know, Mama, I know. It’s FINE. But, this is why I’m telling you the story – because when we said the wrong answer, I heard him say, “Idiots” under his breath at us.”
“Well, that’s not cool at all, Katie. I .. ”
She didn’t wait to hear what I had to say. “I know! That’s what I’m saying. So here’s the thing, Mama. I don’t think that if he REALLY was smart, that he would be mean like that. Cause I think if he REALLY was smart, then he’d be SMART enough to know NOT to call someone an idiot just because they haven’t figured out an answer yet, you know?”
She looked at me with an earnestness that nearly broke me in two.
“So do you get it? I’m just saying that I think that if you’re REALLY smart then you’re smart enough to have learned to be nice to other people.”
I didn’t answer right away, but reveled in the moment. In my girl.
“Mama, why are you laughing?” she asked.
“I’m not, baby. I promise you I’m not. I’m just smiling.”
“Oh, OK,” she said. “So do you get it, Mama?”
“Yeah, baby,” I said. “I get it.”
We drove for a moment.
“I couldn’t agree more.”