Don’t Tell The Kids That We’re All Faking It

When I was a kid, I thought every adult was a genius. They were filled with knowledge that far exceeded mine. You would bring up a subject and these bigger human beings seemed to have an overflowing amount of information about it, whatever it might be.

I can remember being seven and spotting a bug on the floor. I remarked that there seemed to be more bugs in the house lately. A grown-up heard my words and, to my amazement, replied with all the confidence in the bug kingdom. 

It’s the seasons changing. Lots of bugs come back in the fall.

Wow. Really? That’s a thing? He went on to say that bug’s eggs tend to hack after the summer and the come back out when it gets cooler. Genius. Dude. Is. A. Genius. In my head, I pictured this adult, who is eating Cheetos from a bag that he’s cut the top off of as it got smaller so he can reach them quicker, with a Mr. Wizards cloak on and speaking to graduates. I imagine him going to bug school, taking notes, studying the habitat and writing dissertations on evolution of the common cricket. It was just mind-blowing to think that one day, after all my schooling, I’d learn that too. After they finished teaching all the contractions, square dancing, and decimal points, my teachers would eventually get to things like when bugs come back, the way to use a turn signal in a car, and how long it takes the hot water to kick in when turning on a faucet. All grown ups know stuff like that.

Spoiler alert. They didn’t teach us any of that. In fact, the only thing I realized is that adults are not geniuses. Many are the exact opposite. This uncle, cousin, or whoever it was only knew that bugs came back every autumn for one reason only. He was old. That’s how he knew. He had lived through a lot of autumns so he just saw it. It’s all a big work.

That’s it. It’s experience. It’s living though things that grant you wisdom in certain areas, not smarts or studies. I only know that you need to roll the toothpaste up to get the last bit out, because I have used thousands of rolls of toothpaste in my lifetime. To a kid, however, who has gone through maybe ten rolls of toothpaste, I am a super genius. I’m a toothpaste guru sitting atop my Aquafresh Throne of Intelligence.

Truth be told, I don’t really know many things that kids would generally consider “smart”. I know what I do today, that’s it. I can show my daughter things about writing and word usage because I do that every day in some form. If it wasn’t for my writing, I wouldn’t even remember half of that stuff. That’s what happens as you live and more years pass since you were out of school than when you were in school. If your job today uses a lot of math, you help with math homework. If you work in a bilingual office, you assist with Spanish. If you write stuff, you help with writing assignments. 

When my twelve year old asks me about math, though, it’s game over. It’s embarrassing. I stare. I Google. I guess. I finish it up with the same line I always use.

“That looks about right for me, but you might want to double check. This, uh…this isn’t for a grade or anything, right?”


We’re not incredibly smart. We’re moderately old. Experience brings intelligence.  You earn wisdom points simply by changing the calendars.

Want proof? I lived through September 11th in the United States. It was on television constantly for a week and internet streaming still wasn’t something people did. Parked in front of the TV, we watched it all happen and the unforgettable aftermath. Shows were pre-empted and schedules were changed. I can tell you everything I remember that day because it was a day in my life. I heard the speeches and read the stories because, in 2001, it was all over the place. It was current events.

To a kid born after that year, it’s history. They learn about it in school. There’s homework questions and names to memorize. My ability to simply recall an event that happened in my lifetime has made me a semi-expert on my kid’s history homework. I didn’t have to study anything to know these things, I just do. Just like Pee-Wee Herman told Dotty, “I lived it.”

And one day, my daughter will be able to do the same thing with the coronavirus. I have prepared her for that. As the generation born after 2020 grows up, they’ll  have their own questions about things like quarantine and antibody tests. The ten year old living through it now will seem like a history teacher when they’re 30 and just retelling stories from their youth.

Yeah. School was closed and we had to wear masks everywhere. My mama couldn’t even find toilet paper.


The circle of faking it continues.

Adults aren’t geniuses, but it’s fun to pretend. It’s also a big responsibility. We need to remember that our words hold depth to kids. Off-hand comments and throw-away lines can stay forever.

I still remember David Salvez in third grade telling us all with the utmost confidence, “My dad says a human being is only worth fie’dollahs. You belie’ dat? Fie’dollahs!”

To this day, I still have no idea what the heck David’s dad told him. I don’t know if it was him venting about someone he didn’t like or some sort of misheard thing or he was into selling people on the black market. Either way, it was gospel because a grown-up said it. They know everything.

So, put on your smartie-pants glasses. Think back to your youth and fake it for these kids. It gives them a sense of wonder and builds up your respect with very little work involved on your part. Just don’t watch “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” with them. That show snitches on us all.

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