Earlier this week, Ava took her IQ test.
Max took his while we lived in Jackson, and while he went on to be in the gifted programs both there in Madison and here after we returned home, all he knew is that he’d done well on the test and got to be in fun classes to play chess. He never knew specifics, and that was okay by him because he never had any basis for comparison.
I’ve always known my kids are smart. Not in the cliche mom “my kid is better than your kid” way of knowing. I totally recognize that my kids have flaws – they’re about as far from perfect as I am from the arctic tundra. But the smarts they’ve got. Common sense is a different story, as evidenced by the wax on the curtains or the persistent rumor that one of them (I won’t say who, I have integrity) once tasted pee.
Like I was saying – smarts. They’ve got ‘em.
My sister and I were far enough apart in age that while we were competitive (maybe it was less competitive and more me being jealous), it was never realistic competition.
But Max and Ava aren’t far apart. Almost exactly two years.
And their competition is very real. Over everything. Toys, chores, privileges.
Therein lies the rub.
I guess inside I’d always known this was coming – the day we’d have to get down to it and find out which of them was technically “smarter.” I kept myself from thinking about it, actually, because I kept telling myself it was like trying to compare candle flames.
It had to be recorded, though. Max’s test was long since taken, and as much as none of us really talked about it, Ava had to follow.
I still remember taking my IQ test. Puzzle blocks, checkmark boxes, and a dim building that smelled of carpet and mold. I remember misspelling “kitchen.” I left out the t. I knew it the moment I did it.
So in preparing for Ava’s test this past Tuesday, I really didn’t know where to start. I wanted her to do well but at the same time I didn’t want her to feel pressured. We decided a practice test would be a good idea, and let me just tell you now – free children’s online IQ tests pretty much don’t exist. I picked one thinking it would be appropriate, and it was going well…until Ava asked me what “lubricate” meant.
Tuesday came. We went in a monsoon to the test place, and Ava disappeared into a tiny office with a sweet little lady who knew her when she walked in. That was a good step, she felt like a celebrity.
Now let me say – I’ve always been under the impression that one thing you never, ever did was reveal a child’s IQ. Something about altering expectations or something. Like if they know their magic number is 25 they won’t try as hard because they think they’re not capable and if their number is 175 they won’t try as hard because they think being a genius paves the way. Basically it’s all based on keeping the kid from being lazy.
I didn’t find out my IQ until I was in high school. I don’t remember why I found out when I did. I may or may not have lied about it ever since.
Apparently sweet little IQ test giving lady never heard about secret IQs, because she came out of that office oohing and ahhhing over Ava’s wonderful results, and repeating her score over and over and over.
So there it was. Ava knew her number. Max didn’t. And this presented a problem, because one of the numbers was definitely higher than the other.
I’m not going to draw out the suspense. We told Max his number, and since then I’ve been kind of conflicted.
I want my kids to feel good about themselves, and so now what? The lowerscore kid (let me clarify, though, both numbers were totally decent and landed them both squarely in the gifted category) feels bad because they’re the “dumb” one?
I don’t want that. But I don’t want to minimize the accomplishment of the “smart” kid, either. They both deserve to feel good about themselves, right?
To be honest, this is probably not something I really need to worry about – Ava had trouble operating the dustpan earlier, and Max is a little too entertained by burning leaves with a magnifying glass.