A while back I read an article about a four year old British girl whose parents signed her up for Mensa.
It didn’t sit well with me. Not because I think that a four year old shouldn’t join Mensa. Not because I don’t think that she would benefit from meeting peers or from the resources that Mensa has to offer even their youngest members. But because I think her parents may be doing her a disservice with the publicity.
I’m all for seeking peers for my kids. Believe me, I understand wanting your children to forge connections with other kids based on something other than chronological age. But going to the papers with a story of a really young child joining Mensa is sort of jumping the shark, isn’t it?
We haven’t registered Bub for Mensa and we don’t intend to. That is his call, when and if he ever has the desire to do so. We don’t know his actual IQ (and the findings on these tests can be somewhat fluid depending on myriad circumstances). We do know that he’s an obstinate guy who flat-out refused to participate in one portion of the testing, thus skewing his score downward.
Despite the fact that he still qualifies for membership, I can’t imagine signing him up. But if I went and signed Bub up, I would absolutely not publicize the fact to the nation. I was troubled by the fact that it felt like the Guardian piece was more about the parents than it was the child. To what end does one shove a preschooler into the spotlight in today’s media environment?
Tell me, how does this benefit the child?
Are there any circumstances under which I might spotlight my sons abilities? If I thought it would mean that gifted children would benefit in some way, I might consider it. If it meant there could be
more some funding for gifted programs in New Hampshire? Gifted children are entirely under-served here. If it meant that there could be legal mandates that specify the services available to the kids at the high end of the bell-curve?
But only if Bubba was a direct beneficiary of such changes.
My gut says, let Bubba make his own way and don’t push him in any specific direction. His gifts, his skills, his aptitudes? Those are his and his alone…his to exploit, his to make the most of, his to completely ignore. It should be his choice as a human being with free will.
Of course I want the best for my son, for my kids. They are amazing, intelligent, caring young human beings. That’s why I’m not sure publicity is the way to go. If Bubba decides one day that wants to go toe-to-toe with Al Franken on a late-night show drawing the U.S. map from memory, or if he wants to find a way to share his extensive knowledge of the entire history of Gary Larsen’s The Far Side to the world via network TV, then that’s his call.
I never got my act together to write about the Guardian article. And then…then I saw this clip from the Today show.
Yes, it’s the newest, quite adorable, member of Mensa. A three year old, who doesn’t really understand what-all is going on and quite frankly, has to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately when Googled, she shall heretofore be known as the genius girl who had to go to the bathroom. Even Jezebel got in on the action…
That just sucks.
And it proves my point. I get marveling at the skills of your kid–I get the reading before age three. I get the extensive vocabulary, and the advanced spatial skills and the intense interest in absorbing absolutely every single piece of available information about a given topic. I’ve been living it for damn near a decade.
Children are children. They need to be allowed to be children. And these children, these intelligent creatures, should be allowed to decide for themselves, when the time is right for them, if they wish to seek the spotlight–whether it’s a spelling bee at school or an interview on a nationally syndicated news show.
Because you know what? It isn’t about us.
Would you open your child up to publicity by announcing to the media their membership in an organization like Mensa? Am I overlooking ways in which a child can indeed benefit from this sort of exposure so young in life? Because if I’m not, I am truly at a loss.