Last night I babysat for two young Einsteins. A girl, 12 years of age, with a sharp intellect and an abundance of confidence. Her brother, 10, is a petite, curly haired bundle of joy. Together, they are possibly the brightest siblings I’ve ever come across at such a young age.
They are also well-traveled, highly educated and privileged individuals. As I sat with them while they ate their dinner, we discussed their backyard. Well more they talked and I listened. They told me about the fruit in their garden; figs, plums and feijoas – apparently a mixture of a kiwi and a strawberry. No, they decided, more like a kiwi and a guava. Feijoas are from South America, specifically Brazil. I heard about their magnolia tree and how they plan to renovate soon but whilst gaining a lemon tree and a vegetable patch, they will lose their beloved walnut tree.
They recently moved back from the country where they lived in snow territory for a number of years. Up there they took care of eucalyptus’ and went to a school with only 8-10 students in the summer, spring and autumn. During winter, the student population could grow to a mass of 40. It was apparently a “perfect balance between city and country life”.
At the school, they went to Canberra for a week on a field trip. I heard about their visits to the War Museum and the bright red poppies that adorned the walls. I heard about Questacon, the science museum, the lodge at which they stayed and the city’s chlorinated water – “You could taste it, you could smell it!”
We talked about their family overseas and how two years ago, they’d spent Halloween in the USA. I got a detailed account of their costumes and their adventures on the classically American holiday. I learned about many museums in Washington D.C, life in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The young boy talked about the semi-precious stones he’d collected, the original-model airplanes they’d seen and the wood’s they’d visited, “where everybody seems to get lost”.
We then moved on to Greek myths I’d never heard of, animals they’d like as pets including rabbits, a lizard and another of which I cannot even remember the name – something not dissimilar to a Mexican walking fish. We talked about their habitats and their individual needs. I heard about fly-catching plants and others that only eat European wasps.
The girl then showed me her art. Detailed “profiles” of cats, dragons and aviary. Pokemons and new species she’d created in her head. Then her brother encouraged her to show me the felt models she’d made of her creatures. She plans to write a book about them, get it published, and sell her models. Her brother is helping to map out their environment with a key and legend. They also want to make a computer game related to these creatures. So young, yet so adventurous. I told her she should become an artist. She said, “I think I already am”.
If you’re ever feeling bad about your own abilities, talents or doubt your confidence, come and visit these kids. You’ll walk out feeling even more uncertain and hopeless than ever before.
But it was so lovely to see young people with incredibly advanced knowledge, assured talents and the self-belief to match it. They taught me much more tonight about science, history and entrepreneurship than I’ve ever thought to pursue. And all in a night’s work.