Jay: my cognitive inferior for now at least

Last night I came across this chart, which shows how different cognitive skills decline with age (and apologies for the poor resolution of the chart…click on it to get a clearer view).  The good news is that at 30, theoretically I haven’t peaked in any categories besides numeric ability and perceptual speed, and who needs those skills anyway. Plus, surprisingly, it looks like there’s still room to grow in a few key areas…

From "Personality Psychology and Economics" by Mathilde Almund, et al. Available at: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16822

Looking at the chart, I was also pleased to see that Jay will remain my cognitive inferior for at least a couple decades.  (Anecdotally, of course, I knew this already: Last night he insisted on eating his soup with a fork.)

In some areas, though, he’s got me.  He has to hear a book only a few times before he has it memorized.  A couple nights ago we were reading Corduroy and I stopped before the end of each sentence to let Jay fill in the rest.  He always got it and I realized I didn’t even know the name of the girl who rescues Corduroy at the end of the book. (I told this to Caroline and she said in horror, “How could you not know about Lisa!”)

He’s also got me beat on global awareness.  On Tuesday mornings there could be a hurricane raging in our living room and he’d still notice the first grunt of the trash truck out on the street.

I think Jay’s biggest advantage, though, is that he rarely doubts his ability to learn something.

Last night after dinner we were playing with Legos and Jay wanted to add a window to a tower he’d built. It was a nimble maneuver—too much for his inexperienced fingers. He had trouble aligning the Legos and a couple times he pushed down too hard. Watching Jay was like watching a dog try to extract kibble from one of those rubber Kongs.  After awhile you can’t stand the futility anymore and you just want to do it for him.  Jay, though, plugged away and eventually he got it.

Later that night after he’d gone to bed I opened a web design program I’d just downloaded.  It was more advanced than the software I’m used to and I quickly hit a roadblock.  My heart started to beat faster and my body flooded with despair.  “I’m never going to get this,” I said, throwing up my hands and snapping my laptop closed.

Then I realized that regardless of how he chooses to eat his soup, that’s something Jay would never say.

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