Before my son was born and he was nestled comfortably (well, usually somewhat uncomfortably) in my stretched-out uterus, I thought it would be wonderful to have a really, really smart kid. Like, I wanted him to come out already talking so we could have wonderful conversations and he could teach me all the things adulthood has left me hesitant to learn. While he didn't come out using words, he is very smart, but I've since realized that there are things smart kids shouldn't handle by themselves, even if their IQ is high and they seem capable and they're hitting milestones at a rate that leaves you cautiously optimistic that they'll be able to support you for the rest of your life after they find the cure for cancer (and name it after you, of course).
On the one hand, having a smart kid is awesome. I get to have those conversations I was really eager to have; I get to watch him learn and grow at a rate that is just astounding; I get to be hopeful about the future and what my son is going to accomplish; I get to let my kid handle certain things on his own, watching him become more independent and, in turn, gaining more independence myself. However, just because my son seems like he can handle certain things doesn't mean he should, and I've learned that his abilities don't negate my responsibilities. I still have plenty, and I mean plenty, of parenting left to do, and my son's intelligence doesn't let me off the hook. If anything, it means I need to be even more diligent.
Can it be exhausting? You bet. But, I mean, it's parenthood. I'm always exhausted. That's par for the mom-course and I'm alright with it. Especially if, eventually, it does mean my son cures cancer and names the vaccine after me. However, in the meantime, I will continue to assist and parent and support my son as best I can, by realizing that just because he's smart, doesn't mean he can handle the following things by himself:
A Friend Or Family Member Or Pet Dying
When you have a smart kid who seems interested in death or what death is or what happens after someone dies, and the conversations concerning death don't scare them but intrigue them, it can be easy to assume that when death actually occurs, they can handle it. Still, even if you have a health grasp on the concept of death, doesn't mean that you can handle the moments you experience when someone actually dies.
I'll never forget the first time I experienced death. I was in 7th grade and a friend had died, and even though I thought I understood what death meant, I had no understanding as to how I should handle it. I have kept that memory close to me, and know that when my son inevitably experiences the death of a family member, friend or even pet, it will be my job to guide him through that process, no matter how "informed" he is about death.
Standing Up To A Bully
I have trouble standing up to bullies as an adult, and I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent adult. There's no way that I would expect my son to stand up to someone who is harassing him all by himself. I don't consider that potential (and probable, unfortunately) scenario to be nothing more than a personal problem that he is intelligent enough to handle on his own. Nope.
Certain Household Chores
The older your smart little cherub gets, the more they can do for themselves and, in turn, others. For example, my son has yet to turn two, but he already knows how to throw away his dirty diapers, put away certain dirty dishes, and he even insists on vacuuming with a tiny little handheld vacuum. It's pretty awesome, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to start letting my son do other chores that are definitely still "dangerous" for him. He won't be using bleach to clean the oven and he won't be handling any glass and, well, you get the idea. No matter how smart your kid is, you shouldn't be asking them to do more than they can handle, physically or otherwise.
Understanding Complex Social Issues
No matter how intelligent your kid is, you shouldn't be asking them to understand the complex social issues that are currently plaguing communities across the country. Hell, there are individuals with advanced degrees that are still debating and discussing these issues and the multiple effects they have on culture. No matter how smart your kid is, you shouldn't assume that they understand what is going on when they watch the news, or why what is going on is, in fact, happening. It's best to sit down and keep open lines of communication with your child, asking them what they think and then guiding them towards an inclusive (but age appropriate) understanding of current events.
Standing Up To An Adult
Just because a kid is smart and doesn't listen to authority figures just because they're authority figures, doesn't mean your kid will automatically know and/or feel comfortable standing up to an adult they know is wrong. It can be difficult to speak up and make your voice heard when the recipient is someone in a position of power, so assisting kids (at any age) in learning how to stand up for themselves when speaking with adults, or anyone at all, is vital and always worth revisiting.
Caring And/Or Worrying About Finances
I mean, I don't like caring and/or worrying about finances and I have been financially independent since I was 18 years old. It's the worst, and definitely not something that you should lay on the shoulders of your smart kid. I mean, your kid might be able to add or subtract quicker than you can (my toddler already has me beat in the math department because, ugh, math) but that doesn't mean you should lay your financial troubles at their feet and ask them to figure stuff out. Let kids be kids, even if those kids are mini-geniuses.
Comforting Adults (And Especially Parents)
It's unbelievable, just how resilient and intuitive children are. Like, we don't give them enough credit and usually overlook just how capable they are. Still, just because they can do something doesn't mean they should do something. We've seen the heartbreaking scenarios some children have been forced to endure recently, in which a miraculous four-year-old girl comforted her mother after her boyfriend, Philandro Castile, was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer. That young girl is clearly intelligent and strong and nothing short of incredible, but she was also forced to do something that no child should be forced to do.
Taking Care Of Younger Siblings
Kids tend to want to take care of their younger siblings. I mean, as the oldest, I can tell you that I took to my baby brother as if he was mine, and always wanted to hold him or feed him or nurture him or protect him, even when I wasn't physically able to do any of those things. Smart kids are going to want to find ways to essentially "parent" their siblings, but that doesn't mean they should. It's definitely not their responsibility; It's definitely something that they will have plenty of time to do in the future, if and/or when they decide to become parents themselves; It's definitely not a requirement of an older sibling (or, at least it shouldn't be).
Digesting And/Or Understanding The News
Just like complex social issues are difficult for adults to understand, simply digesting and/or understanding the news can be difficult for adults, so of course it's going to be hard for children. Don't assume that just because a kid is smart and wants to learn, that they are capable of really understanding what is going on in the world, and why it is happening. Again, this is a really good change to open up important dialogues and discuss issues in an age-appropriate way. You don't, and honestly shouldn't, hide the news from your children. You just need to make sure you're there to help them understand it.
Complex Romantic Relationships
Whatever kind of romantic relationship you're in (or even if you're not in one at all) you shouldn't assume that your smart kid understands the dynamics. Hell, adults don't understand the dynamics. If you're going through a break up or a divorce or you're seeing someone new or you're fighting with your parenting partner or you're simply going on dates regularly, you should discuss it with your kid so that they understand. They shouldn't have to handle romance and the baggage associated with it at such a young age. That's what your 20s are for.
Answering Complex Or Personal Questions
Smart kids can seem pretty easy to talk to, especially if they're outgoing, but that doesn't mean they can necessarily handle the pressure of asking a specific question. Don't put them on the spot without consulting with them first, whether it's in school or in front of family and friends or in public or wherever, and even if they do feel like they can handle it, be observant in case that feeling shifts and they suddenly become uncomfortable.
Preparing Certain Meals
My toddler is already showing an interest in cooking, and gets very upset if I won't let him help "make dinner" by turning the oven on or putting a pan on the stove or mixing certain ingredients in a glass mixing bowl that would surely break if not handles properly. Do I let him assist when I think he is physically able? Sure, but I definitely won't be handing over the food preparation responsibilities any time soon.