Yesterday I received notification that my daughter is to be placed in the academically “gifted” program at her elementary school next year, and although I’m proud of my daughter for being an excellent student and for having other characteristics that are classified as “exceptional” by the battery of tests and interviews that were conducted, I could give a rat’s ass. Because all of my kids are gifted students.
My eldest son was always different, in that from a very young age he has always been extremely easy to deal with. Perfect grades, finishing his classwork before the other students, creating perfect replicas of Corbusier architecture with his Legos at age four, reading at an accelerated level all throughout his childhood. We were informed that he was “special” during elementary school, and attended the “special” meeting for the parents of these “special” kids before they were placed in the advanced program.
You have never seen a bigger group of amazingly self-involved asshole parents in your entire life. After the third parent raised their hand to ask the “special” gifted kid’s counselor present how they could deal with their precious child and how they “view the world differently and have issues because they are just so much smarter than everyone they encounter” I wanted to vomit. My husband and I sent each other text messages reading “You have got to be fucking kidding me.” But our son was enrolled and we dealt with having a “special” child but at the end of the day, all it really meant was a hell of a lot more homework and school projects that he had to complete.
My middle son was also “special” and he was so special that a year after attending the advance placement program we pulled him out of it. Our once perfect grade child was now getting C’s and D’s, and he was miserable. He is a very bright kid, but not a good student. He hates homework, has issues concentrating in class, and although he can say things that you would be shocked coming out of a ten-year-old’s mouth, if you looked at his report card you would see below average grades. He is a very smart kid, just not book smart.
And my eldest, who is definitely advanced and amazingly smart and articulate and lovely? This same kid brings home a C grade in his AP English class and an A+ in Japanese. My point is, no matter what educators tell you about your kid being “special” and “gifted” that can all easily change by the time they hit high school and hormones and boredom set in.
I’m not negating the fact all my kids are smart. They are all charismatic and funny and interesting and well-spoken and well-read little humans. But until one of them graduates from high school at age 12 or discovers a cure for cancer, I’m not going to say they are gifted. Now, I know by writing this I will receive a barrage of angry E-mails and phone messages from family members saying “What are you talking about? Your kids are brilliant!” but that will probably be because they are grandparents and aunts and uncles. A brain only a relative could love. I’m joking but as their mother, I know my kids are smart, but it isn’t like they are attending Yale at age 15.
Maybe I suck , well, we suck, because I can lump their father into this too, because we don’t push our kids more into reaching their full potential and we should be forcing them to expand their little brains more and enrolling them in cello lessons and after school Mathlete clubs and forcing them to study algebra as a hobby, but I let my kids lead the way in this regard. We always encourage reading, we take them to museums, we discuss politics and world issues with them, and we encourage any hobbies they take an interest in. We just don’t cultivate their “specialness.”
I fully understand there is a special pride to be taken when you are told your kid is “advanced” in some regard. I’m proud of my kids for this. But I really don’t see it as a huge deal, and I’m definitely not one of those parents who considers any of my kids a special delicate snowflake because they did well on some advance placement tests. It’s great when they get good grades. I would like it if they could all have their pick of colleges when they are older. But my special sense of pride comes when I see one of them demonstrating a huge amount of empathy towards another human or when they suggest doing a good deed for another. That to me is a true example of being a special child.