Last night, while I watched yet another soccer game (Nikki scored! Yay!), I thought about a piece I wrote last year but never got around to posting. Since I never seem to have the inspiration or time to write a real post these days, here’s an oldie that still applies…

We’ve been watching the World Cup off and on this past week. Nobody in our house is a huge sports fan, but the World Cup has attracted our attention this time around, partly because our kids are thick into soccer right now. So if you’re sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game 6 nights out of 7, why not turn on a soccer game on the 7th night too? It’s contagious.

Soccer is an amazing sport, when it’s played well (or even when it’s played with heart by 9 or 10 year old girls). It’s a great spectator sport and I can see why it has so much attention worldwide. It’s not as complicated as some sports, and the calisthenics those players go through – well, it’s practically like watching a ballet. Oh, and there’s usually a fair bit of “eye candy” on screen, what with all those well-toned bodies movin’ and groovin’ on the field (no, no, I’m not the least bit shallow).

Even though I’m not a big sports fan, there’s something about watching a highly skilled person do what they do best that almost reduces me to tears because of the sheer beauty of it. It’s the same thing for other disciplines – music, painting, cooking, carpentry, public-speaking, writing – you name it. To see someone find their niche, own it, and then polish their skills through years of practice and sometimes agony, is magnificent and awe-inspiring (even if it’s not at the world-class level).

Several years ago, when I was a fairly new mom and I came to the realization early on that each kid came with a different blueprint and each blueprint would take years to decipher, I bought an invaluable book. It’s called 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing your Multiple Intelligences by Dr. Howard Gardner. In it I found both relief and inspiration. I found out that, even if one of my kids didn’t naturally do as well in school as the other one, she could still be defined as “smart”. Her definition of smart would just have to come from one of the other intelligences rather than her school work.

According to Dr. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, the seven kinds of smart are: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal (the ability to understand others) and intrapersonal (the ability to understand oneself). Since then, he’s also added “naturalist” and “existential”.

Especially when they’re in school, there is a tendency to rate our kids according to their academic achievement. It’s a temptation I’m sure we all fall into at some point. When they come home with their test scores or report cards, for example, it’s hard to resist asking how the other kids in the class did. When our kids do poorly, it hurts us, and we might even be tempted to blame the teacher or the testing method. When they score high above the other students, we look for opportunities to interject it into conversations with other parents (c’mon, admit it – we all do it).

I guess what I like about the multiple intelligences is that all kinds of smart are placed on equal playing fields. Your kid may be a soccer star, but he might do poorly in his math. Still smart. Another kid might be musically gifted, but couldn’t kick a soccer ball if it was the size of a small garage. Smart. Still others might be intuitive when it comes to relationships, or words, or craftsmanship. Smart, smart, smart.

I have a pretty good idea which kinds of smart I am, but here’s a test I found that helps identify them. (It’s far from a foolproof test, but it’s fun none-the-less.) No big surprise – I came out with linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic (not as in “athletic” but more like “craftsmanship”), interpersonal and intrapersonal as my top ones. I’m pretty low on musical, logical-mathematical, and spatial.

I’m still learning about my kids and I don’t want to stick too many labels on them this early in their lives, but I can definitely see that they shine in different areas. My job as their mom is to encourage and nurture whatever kinds of smarts they have and not value one kind above the others.

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