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Genius, interrupted

Once upon a time, I was a genius. Straight A’s, scholarships, cum laude and honor societies – the whole deal.

Now, I have children.

Even before they arrived, I began to doubt myself. I read too many books about babies and was amazed by what I didn’t know. (I’ll take a moment to note that my husband had no such qualms and was sure he knew all about babies.) The children arrived, two daughters in two years, and we learned together. I learned how to understand my little girls’ needs and my husband learned that knowing about babies was different from owning them.

The babies grew into school-age girls and here I became a genius again. I could help with all the homework and answer endless questions about the world around them. My head swelled with pride when I would overhear “Ask Mom – she’ll know,” spoken with complete confidence and trust that this would be so.

Then another baby arrived and I lost my genius status again. This baby was more challenging than the first two and I forgot everything I had learned. When she got to school age, she didn’t need any help with homework and so I couldn’t dazzle her with my brilliance. The older girls were still impressed with my ability to answer Jeopardy questions in the stress-free comfort of my living room, but they too had started to doubt my genius in the wider world. (I could tell by the sighs and eye-rolling that occurred whenever I shared my wisdom.)

Now they are 15, 13 and 9, and I doubt that I shall ever be a genius again. The world has changed so fast that my 20th century IQ is irrelevant and inadequate. Lucky for me, the publishing world has seen my pain and come through with books clearly written just for me (and maybe you, if you’re honest.)

Feeling less than smart? Try a book from the “For Dummies” series – MySpace for Dummies, Violin for Dummies, Irish History for Dummies, etc. They cover computers – Wikis… and eBay…; business – New Product Development… and Accounting… ; education – Athletic Scholarships… and Algebra… ; health Diabetes Cookbook… and Low Calorie Dieting… and a hundred other topics – Nostradamus…, Betting on Horse Racing…, Genealogy Online…, Golf’s Short Game… and my personal favorite Parenting for Dummies.

Feeling even less than dumb? We also have titles from the Complete Idiot’s Guide series – Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars, ...Going Back to College, …the Bible, …European History, …Middle East Conflict and one that makes me a little nervous, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Electrical Repair.

But perhaps you don’t feel like a dummy or an idiot. We have books for you, too. Try You, the Smart Patient : and insider’s guide for getting the best treatment (Roizen and Oz), Smart organizing : simple strategies for bringing order to your home (Sandra Felton), The Genius Engine : where memory, reason, passion, violence and creativity intersect in the human brain (Kathleen Stein), What Would MacGyver Do? : true stories of improvised genius in everyday life (Brendan Vaughan).

Finally, for those among us who have a special kind of genius that is bored with the details of ordinary life, we have just the book to help you channel your energies – 51 High-Tech Practical Jokes for the Evil Genius (Brad Graham).

All the titles mentioned above, and many more like them, are available to dummies, idiots, geniuses, and everyone in between, at the Chelmsford Public Library and MacKay Branch.


Thursday, February 14th, 2008 at 3:49 pm and is filed under Books, Column, Reading Room.


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