I’ve been reading an awful lot about Einstein. I don’t know why, but it’s become a bit of a pet project. He was such a fascinating soul. I feel like he had the rare gift of seeing the world through a scientific lens and through rose coloured glasses simultaneously. Like he was able to find beauty in everything as well as seeing the logic behind its existence. I’m enamoured with him – peace maker, theoriser and philosophiser. Equal parts rule maker and rule breaker. He used the creative side of his brain to find solutions for the scientific part of his brain to use in solving complex problems. And, most importantly, a preemie.
He was born at around 32 weeks, (back then survival would have been unheard of at that gestation), though his exact level of prematurity is unknown. I suppose they didn’t have the technology to accurately predict due dates back then. Anyway, his parents were told by doctors that if he did survive he would amount to nothing due to his early arrival. He proved them wrong – obviously. I’ll let you discover the middle bit on your own, but let’s just say he was one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, was responsible for a number of scientific breakthroughs and still found time to act on what he perceived to be a moral obligation and was therefore instrumental in the allied victory in World War two.
But here’s the interesting part. When he died he left his brain to science. It was controversially autopsied at Princeton University a number of times. The findings are not conclusive but there were many anomalies. The most interesting to me was that he had no Sylvian Fissure – that’s the gap between the right side and left side of the brain. The doctor who autopsied him initially theorised that this may have led to his unique ability to harness the potential within his brain and to use both the left and right sides equally – hence his ability to be dumbfounded by something beautiful and still be steered primarily by logic. The oxygen in his blood, it was thought, could be easily transmitted from one side of the brain to the other because his brain wasn’t divided in two like ours. We rely on diffusion through cell walls – he didn’t need to.
But here’s the really interesting part. In the 1980’s another scientist, a woman named Marion Diamond, studied something called Glial cells – I don’t understand most of it, but the gist is he had more grey matter than the rest of us. And guess what? These anomalies? She thinks they are because his brain developed differently BECAUSE he was a preemie. It is mind blowing to think that it’s possible that Einstein, arguably the most influential scientist of modern times, was who he was because he was born prematurely. And that, my darling, is what I call hope.
I don’t care if you are different or the same. I don’t care if your brain is big or little. I know your spirit is incalculable. I know you’ve proved the doctors wrong, and that the science doesn’t apply to you. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you will be okay. With or without the friendly voice in my head. I don’t know if this experience will change who you are. In twenty years times, I still won’t know who you might have been if you hadn’t been right where we are right now. But today, in this moment, I know you will be okay. And in a place where comfort is scarce, that particular thought is an enormous comfort.
Your teacher told me today you have a little possie of friends. She says you have a fun loving personality and the other kids are drawn to you. I watched you as you instructed them all to bounce on the mini tramp and you all giggled together, partners in a crime I know nothing about. A secret language I don’t understand. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about little girls and how we parent them. A friend points out that I shouldn’t call you bossy, that if you were a boy I would say you have leadership skills, but girls get labelled as bossy. I think that assumes that there is a negative connotation to the word. I take the point on board, and I think there is a danger we treat little girls differently to little boys.
But I am proud of your bossiness. You’ve earned it. For your first year or so you had doctors and specialists telling you what you may or may not ever be able to do, and they’ve never given you enough credit. I think being bossy is in your nature and that’s just fine. You will never be like the other kids, how could you be? Your start was so very different to most other kids. You’ve had obstacles to overcome since before you were even born. Bossy was a means of survival, and in future years it will be a way to separate yourself from those who don’t have the stomach for the fight as you do. I know I don’t have it, but I have no doubt you can beat whatever life throws at you. When life throws a lemon, you will probably make pink lemonade with tiny pink umbrellas in it and insist all your friends come around for a party. My challenge will be not to reign in your bossiness, but to teach you humility and to respect those around you. Though, I sense there will be many challenges in being the mother of such an endlessly spirited child.