Anonymous Mom is a weekly column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this unanimous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity.
I think local public schools are a reflection of your community, so I volunteer when I can, attend everything school-related that I can, and buy enough candy bars from the PTA to go into an insulin comma. But my love affair with the beauty of public education started to wane on my son’s second day of kindergarten.
His harried, over-wrought teacher lost track of him at dismissal and he wandered almost a mile off campus. I was frantic, the principal was frantic, and 30 minutes after discovering he’d gone AWOL, we found him waiting with a parent who had wisely pulled over and guessed he was lost. I am still grateful to that woman and think of her often. My son went on to have an academic year plagued by his flighty teacher’s frequent absences, and the idea—even at the tender age of five—that people don’t tend to stick around.
Now, it’s two years later and my daughter is in kindergarten. Her experience sucks, too, but in a completely different way. I think it’s my fault.
Months before she enrolled in the same school as her brother, I decided to be more proactive in my kids’ education. I was meeting new friends with school-aged children who volunteered a lot and urged me to do the same. They made me understand that I’d get back what I put in. My time—whether it was spent mixing paint for art class or helping grade papers—was a wise investment in my children’s future. I was happy to do it when I wasn’t working, and since I worked from home, it was almost fun to “get back out there" and change out of the torn yoga pants and bra-less uniform of a freelancer.
Somewhere in the flurried memories of all that volunteering, about six months before my daughter was to begin kindergarten, I discovered she could already read. And when I say “read” I don’t just mean Dick and Jane books. I mean ANY book. I had a 4-year old who brought juvenile fiction home from the library and read it out loud to me. With expression!
And that is when I made the helicopter parent move that I regret to this day. I decided to go to the kindergarten round-up—the thing you’re invited to months before kindergarten actually starts—and track down a reading coach or gifted services person.
I found both and neither one of them cared that my child could read Tolstoy.
“I’m sure she doesn’t comprehend what she’s reading,” the ESE specialist told me.
I set aside my judgment on her flip flops and lack of professionalism, but her unchanging expression as I revealed more things about my child bothered me. She was still shrugging away her indifference when I handed her the enrollment forms that my daughter had read and filled out herself.
I was promptly informed that there were no gifted services at this elementary school, and that my daughter’s skills would more than likely level out and be more in line with everyone else’s once school got underway. I wasn’t happy with this brush off, but I accepted it. The first two months of school came and went without a peep from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. So at our first conference I brought the whole thing up again, and it was decided that Flip Flops would do an IQ test.
In the meantime, my daughter was allowed to go to a pull-out program in reading, leaving her kindergarten class an hour each day to join the first graders. I was happy about this, but my daughter wasn’t. She didn’t fit in there, either. Every day that I picked her up there were tears, as well as comments like, “why can’t they teach me something I don’t already know?”
Then the test results came back and her IQ score was reported to me as completely average; 107 to be exact. 107? I was more angry than stunned. If she’d been close to gifted and not quite made it, that’s one thing. But this score seemed so off that it convinced me of one of two things: either Flip Flops had screwed up the test out of spite, OR my daughter had refused to cooperate. Whatever the case, I feel horrible that this IQ—which I’d bet actual money is bullshit—is permanently on her record.
This is a kid who can learn Bach songs on the piano in under five minutes. But I just don’t think I’ll have her retested. My fingers are burned now, and I’ll admit to being so obsessed with one child’s experience at school that I paid no attention to my other child, who has picked up awards and made straight A’s to the sound of crickets. That breaks my heart. But I’ve made it up to him, and go out of my way to show both children how proud they make me every day.
Really, I just want to land my helicopter for now and not venture off the pad again for a very long time.
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(photo: Samuel Borges Photography / Shutterstock)