Saturday, August 26, 2006

Genius Spin

Terry Tao's recent award of the Fields Medal ('the Nobel of Mathematics') gave rise to many a newspaper article about his childhood achievements (click here for an example). For instance, he was teaching other children to count blocks at Age 2, had completed primary school maths by Age 5, high school by 8 and so on. Now as a discerning parent, I couldn't help but engage in the inappropriate and wholly unrealistic exercise of benchmarking my own kids on this. For instance, for Child No.1, she was doing the counting thing by age 2 but has seemed to drop off the pace since then.

This got me thinking, if my children actually end up achieving something, what childhood achievements am I going to have to feed the press. Here is a smattering of what I have thusfar:

Child No. 1 (currently 7): able to unscrew windows at age 1, counted at age 2 (as noted above), and enjoyed numbers so much that her favourite book was the phone book at age 4, and can dance appropriately to any genre of music from age 3.

Child No.2 (currently 5): was picking up books and flipping the pages at 8 months, engaged in proof by contradiction at age 4, and his favourite CD was of Beethoven symphonies at age 5.

Child No.3 (currently 2): told her father to "stop complaining" (yes, those exact words) in appropriate context at age 1; was able to order the older kids around at age 2 to wash their hands, brush their teeth and put on their shoes. [I assume this will be useful if she ever becomes a ruthless dictator and gets the trains running on time].

However, balanced against this would be the stuff that wouldn't make the press:

Child No.1: drew a little black moustache on her face in ink at age 2 (let me tell you that got alot of looks) and filled her pockets with 50 little animals from creche at age 3 that we didn't notice until the end of the day when she got undress for a bath.

Child No.2: was able to balance his entire meal (out of the bowl) on his head at age 1, got in a toy pram and knocked himself out at age 2 and when the blood was wiped off, got in the pram again, and covered all of the walls of his room with drawings one night when age 5.

Child No.3: hadn't learnt about gravity by age 2 (don't ask).

Now what are they holding back about Terry Tao?

[By the way, according to Slate, early clear speaking may not be the genius indicator it is supposed to be, especially if you want the youngins to learn other languages].