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Am I Smarter Than A Three-Year-Old?

Last week, the four of us were sitting
around the dinner table while Maddie regaled us with a story about
a recent discussion with her friend Elise. Apparently Elise had
seen something and told Maddie all about it in front of
Elise’s mother, who then quickly stepped in and said,
“That’s not true. I know you think you saw it, but
it’s not true.” Maddie was enjoying leaving that part
out, and I reminded her that Elise had been told that her tale was
not true.

Maddie looked at me and said, “Elise told her mother she
agreed with her, but she doesn’t really. She knows more than
her mother does here.”

I know what Maddie meant – that
Elise had more information in this situation than her mother, who
hadn’t witnessed it, had – but it clearly struck a
different chord with Cora, who spoke up for the first time at
dinner, about something only peripherally related to what we were
discussing. What follows is the actual transcript. If, you know, I
did transcripts.

Maddie: “Elise told her mother she agreed with her, but she
doesn’t really. She knows more than her mother does

Cora puts down her dinner and turns to stare at me intently, one
hand on my arm to command my full attention. “Mommy, you know
that I’m smarter than you, right? Because it’s true. It
really is. I really am smarter than you.”

I stare at her, mouth agape, and she sees I am having trouble
digesting this. So she pats me patronizingly (and, to her mind
probably, comfortingly) on the arm and says, “I’m
sorry, Mommy, but it’s true. I am.” And then turns back
to her dinner.

What stopped me in my tracks, completely derailing any reflexive
guffawing or dismissive “Oh, honey, all grown-ups are smarter
than kids”, was that she’d changed Maddie’s use
of the words “knows more” in reference to Elise’s
mom to “smarter than” in reference to me. No one can
argue that I know more than Cora – I have stacks more
knowledge of statistics and handy tricks like how to tie shoes
shoved throughout my brain cavity. But she didn’t say she
knows more than me – simply that she’s smarter than me.

How can I definitively answer that? Do I throw down a Scrabble
challenge right there? Demand to compare IQ scores? How can I prove
that I have superior intellectual capability than a human who still
can’t pee in the potty all the time?

But at the same time, how can I be sure I do?

We laughed, and I told the story to friends, but I gotta tell you,
this is still itching at me under my skin. When that kid learns to
read polysyllabic words, it’s on.

Triple word scores, here I come.


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