I used to be smart. I could solve complex problems in a chemistry lab. I could find the values of both x AND y in an algebraic equation. I didn’t think pi was a typo or a dessert with a flaky crust.
I analyzed literature with the best of them, effortlessly gathering symbolism and connecting far-flung dots. I wrote killer papers and spoke thoughtful words.
Then I had children. I don’t know what happened, but my intelligence disappeared, almost overnight.
Maybe it began with the sleepless nights I spent rocking babies for 11 consecutive years. It could have been the result of reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boomon replay for months on end.
I am almost certain that Barney the dinosaur had something to do with it because my oldest was slightly obsessed with the jolly purple animal. That was 19 years ago, and I still have those annoying songs stuck in my head.
Whatever the cause, I no longer remember all the multiplication tables; the 12s trip me up every time. I routinely praise the name of the genius that decided every iPhone needed a calculator app. That saves me from having to count on my fingers when my children are not looking. My life will never be the same.
I was fine for a few years after my kids started school. They still thought I knew everything because 2+2 was mercifully locked in my knowledge vault. I also understood that 5 x 0 = 0. And 1 x 1 = 1. I was at the top of the 2nd-grade class, thank you very much.
But then, out of the blue, there were letters in the math equations my kids brought home. I wanted to call the teacher and ask why she was assigning college-level work to my sixth grader. Who does that?
Suddenly, I was utterly useless as a math tutor. Early-onset dementia was surely attacking my brain because algebra was no longer in my wheelhouse. I started saying things like, “Go ask your father,” or “There is probably a tutorial for that on YouTube.”
I had fallen from grace.
Then, my kids turned into teenagers. Along with sweaty gym socks and empty Dr. Pepper cans, they started bringing home assignments in some foreign language called calculus.
I vaguely recall taking a class by that name in college, but I have tried to block it out of my memory. I think I passed by the hair of my chinny chin chin, thanks to the magic of group assignments with collective grades. (OK, maybe I have never been a shining star in the math department, but that is hardly relevant to this conversation.)
Once, out of the goodness of my heart, I volunteered to help my son with his multi-variable calculus homework. I watched him squirm a little before quietly saying, “No offense, Mom, but I will pass on that offer.”
Smart, albeit rude, boy. He was effectively telling me that I was incapable of helping him because I was not quite up to his level. He may have been correct, but sheesh! He did get his intelligence from me, after all. A little more gratitude would have been nice.
Lest you think I am utterly inept in the realm of academia, let me assure you that I am a much better writer than a mathematician. That is probably obvious by now, thanks to this stellar piece you are reading. But I digress.
My son came to me one day, college application essays in hand. “I don’t have anybody to edit these,” he sighed.
Supermom to the rescue!
“It is your lucky day, dear son of mine because I am an expert essay editor,” I excitedly replied.
He looked at me with a combination of fear and skepticism.
“Maybe Mr. Russell can help me,” he offered, which I knew meant, “You have no idea what you are talking about, Mom.”
Seriously, he used to be my snuggle buddy who thought I was AMAZING. I’m not sure what happened, but his trust in my awesomeness had dwindled a teensy bit in 17 years.
But it’s all good because eventually, after a little convincing (that may have sounded like begging), he handed me those essays and gave me free reign. It was like Christmas!
I sat down, red pen in hand, and began my work. I cannot be sure, but I might have used ALL the ink in that pen to offer my professional suggestions. It was admittedly difficult to see the original essay through the barrage of red artwork.
I’m not sure why, but my son was less than thrilled when I returned his essays with my careful notes and ideas for improvement written all over them.
“Trust me; I’m a writer,” I assured him, to which he rolled his eyes with the dramatic flair of a Broadway actor. Apparently, he did not believe me.
His expression gave his thoughts away: “My mom has lost her marbles. Maybe I should get her some help.”
I used to be smart! What happened to the glory days?
Lynnette Sheppard resides with her husband and five kids, four of which are teens, in sunny Arizona. She has spent the past 19 years as a stay-at-home mom, where she has become an expert in driving carpools and managing chaos. When her kids are gone, and the house is quiet, she writes about parenting with purpose, faith, and humor on her blog, Simply for Real. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Globe, The Deseret News, and Power of Moms. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.