Friday, July 23, 2004

Can't remember? Ask your kid.

For a while now, I've realized that my children have better memories than I do. This is particularly unsettling because in so many ways their brains are uncooperative, exhibiting difficulties with learning and language and forms of memory that are useful in a classroom. But in the kind of memory that's useful in finding the car keys or remembering when we went somewhere? They're aces. My daughter, who can't repeat back more than seven words you say to her at any given time, knows the birthdays of everyone in our extended family. My son, who forgets what he's been told to do in the ten or so paces between the kitchen and his bedroom, can repeat whole grocery lists. Now, thanks to some researchers at Ohio State University, I find that this is a normal kid thing -- and that makes it even better, since "normal kid things" are in fairly short supply around here. The study found that small children have better memories than adults because their brains are less cluttered, and they're able to appreciate and retain details that grown-up brains can't be bothered with. Now, of course, my children are no longer so small; at ages 14 and 11, they're older than the kids in the study and should maybe have moved up to less-efficient adult reasoning by now. Maybe their learning problems with advanced work, to some degree, reflect their more childlike approach. But I gotta tell you, I kind of hope they remain immaturely observant a little while longer. 'Cause once they move on, we're going to miss some birthdays.

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