Apparently, the test scores are wrong. All wrong. American children when compared with students in other countries continually score in the mediocre range in math and science and we’re perched pretty low on the reading totem pole, as well. But, that can’t be right. Just ask almost any parent and you’ll discover that their kids are all super geniuses.
Yes, I once lived under the delusion that my children were brainiacs of the highest order. Then, when they were each about 19 days old, I realized I might be wrong. Sure, if crying were a sign of intelligence then, why yes, back in the infant days they were geniuses, veritable Einsteins at bawling their brains out. But, alas I have learned to lower my expectations.
Now, if my kids turn 25 with not more than one-third of their bodies covered in tattoos, no more than two visible signs of piercing, no outstanding arrest warrants or jail time, no child born out of holy wedlock, the ability and job skills to pay their own electric bill plus no living in my basement then – yippee! We did it! My husband and I can pat ourselves on the back we are/were successful parents.
The whole gifted child thing starts immediately after the precious baby is born. Here you go lugging your bundle of joy around for everyone to see and some other “new mother” asks the dreaded question – Is he/she sleeping through the night? Um, no because aren’t you supposed to feed them like every three hours?
Well, of course her little angel requires no night-time nutrients and has been blissfully racking out for 10 hours a night since the day he came home from the hospital. I know deep in my heart that there is a special place in hell for those moms. The women who take a scared, sleep deprived, first time mom and begin to torture her with tales of their super baby and then look at you like you must be doing something wrong because your baby isn’t as awesome as their baby.
After the sleeping through the night marathon there’s the rolling over, sitting and pulling up Olympics. Followed by my personal favorite – sign language. Yes if sucking on her fingers is a sign that my baby is hungry then yes she can sign. No, she can not sign her take on the nation’s health care conundrum or that she thinks my hair looks good today.
That is quickly followed by the triathlon of walking, talking and potty training. Ah, those little mommy baby play dates are really an excuse for a baby throw down. Babies, start you engines. It’s time for Who’s the Better Baaaaaby – which loosely translates to Who’s the Better Mommy. I never won – not once. I didn’t even medal. Although, one time I thought, for sure, I would get a bronze.
Fast forward to elementary school and the stakes get even higher. Who’s reading before kindergarten, who’s already doing addition and subtraction. Then, there’s always the mom that thinks her little piece of heaven is too advanced for kindergarten and needs to leap-frog directly to first grade.
The worst is parents who like to share their children’s achievements with total strangers. I call them “Peacock Parents.” Here I was enjoying spring break, sitting by the hotel pool while my children frolicked in the water, blessedly far, far, away from me. I was using that quiet time to peruse the “spa menu” and contemplating why anyone would want to ruin a good massage, by sharing it with their husband. Couples massage – yuck.
That deep thought and my mojito buzz was disrupted by a pesky mom – “Mrs. Two Lawn Chairs Down From Me.” She perkily asked me the age of my children. I shared the information and that’s all it took for her to launch into a forty-seven minute monologue about her brood of geniuses. (Apparently, her hometown of Lufkin, Texas is a genius hot spot. Attention top-tier colleges go to Lufkin for the best and brightest students.)
Goodness, her 13-year-old has already taken the SAT’s, her 8-year-old is going to invitation only G.T. camp this summer and her 5-year-old is so advanced it’s baffling the school where to put the little lamb-chop. Kindergarten would be abhorrently easy and first grade would probably be a waste of time. But, if they put her in second grade it would be precedent setting for the school district. Ground breaking even. It was absolutely keeping her awake a night.
Really? Because it’s putting me to sleep. Like I care. Like anyone besides her spouse and the grandparents would care. (I’m guessing even the g.p.’s are getting pretty sick of it by now.) What drives people to proselytize about their kids to strangers? Is she hoping I work in college admissions at an Ivy League? What about stranger danger? Maybe I’m a kidnapper who targets gifted children. She probably would have gone on longer, but mercifully one of my non-geniuses showed up begging for money for a snack.
I give my 14-year-old son a ten-dollar bill and tell him he has to split it with his sister. He stares at me – bewildered. I speak very, very slowly and go, “Take the ten dollars, buy yourself a snack that does not exceed five dollars so your sister will also have five dollars to spend on her snack.”
He acts all huffy and says, “Duh, I know how to split a ten Mom, I thought you meant I had to share my snack with her.” He then stomps off and give me an over the shoulder “Whatever.”
Mojito buzz diluted further.
Spawner of geniuses hears the entire discourse and pipes up,“How old did you say he was again?”
I reply, “He’s four years away from college, that’s how old.”
“Oh my,” she says. It was a long drawn out “Oh My” with an overture of superiority, an undercurrent of ha, ha, my kid is better than your kid and just a wee bit of pity.
I sigh and think bad thoughts about her. Can’t she leave me alone? I’m a woman in need of solitude and I’m having to pay a daily resort fee on top on the hotel room rate so back off. The real slap in the face is that she’s wearing a two piece for God’s sake and she looks okay in it. Has she no mercy?
I’m wrapped up in a one piece with a full length sarong covering thighs no one needs to see e-v-e-r. On top of that I have strategically draped two beach towels over my stomach.
But, nooo she takes a big breath and launches into phase two of her assault – her children’s G.T. aptitude scores and how they relate in correlation to their I.Q test. I don’t want to be mean to people. Every day I try to be a nice person. Okay, not ever day, but most days. Well, let’s say most days I try to begin my day being nice. Emphasis on try.
It’s spring break and I just want to escape my children for a few minutes, suck on my overpriced mojito that I’m seriously questioning, at this point, if it has any rum in it at all and be left blissfully alone. “Mrs. Two Lawn Chairs Down From Me” is cutting into that alone time. Yes, If I were a better person I would smile and nod and just let her drone on while I go to “my happy place” (which is cakes and cobblers). But, I am not a better person. So, I launch my counter attack – Operation Shut Up.
“Oh my,” I blurt out. “I don’t want to alarm you but I work with a consortium that is doing long-term research on gifted children and their transition into adulthood and the findings have been rather surprising.”
“What, what do you mean?” she gasps and leans over her lawn chaise to hear me better.
“Well, we’ve found that most gifted children peak at a very young age. For instance, your 13-year-old may have already seen her intellectual hey day and your 5-year-old could be a victim of “over peaking” where her brain stimulus core – to put in laymen’s terms – just shuts down.(Nice touch I thought with the whole stimulus core. Maybe I’m a genius.) It simply doesn’t want to process more information. So, what seems like a high I.Q. now could in few years mean your kids will be average. Much, like when infants learn to walk and talk. Some begin doing so earlier than others but eventually everyone learns how. My advice to you is what I tell every parent I see in my practice (now, in my most syrupy, patronizing tone I add the kicker) just love your kids (dramatic pause) no matter what their I.Q.”
“You’re a doctor,” she asks?”
“No, I’m not a M.D. I’m a research scientist,” I reply. ( I say that because I’m thinking there’s laws against being a pool side faux physician and with my luck as soon as I pretend to be a M.D. someone is going need CPR or a baby delivered. Although, twice I have pretended to be cop and once a F.B.I. agent.)
Then I bring out the heavy artillery. “My son, you just met.”
She says quietly, “Yes, yes, the 14-year-old.”
“Well, once upon a time I thought he was a child prodigy. He talked in complete sentences at 3 months – off the charts developmentally. Then, all of sudden a complete slow down in all mental growth. He’s what inspired my research.”
I grab at the edge of one of the beach towels stacked on my stomach, lift up my sunglasses and dab at my eyes for a final touch. “Mrs. Two Lawn Chairs Down” is silent. I rendered her speechless. Mission accomplished! Slowly she gets up and gathers her belongings.
“Where you going?” I ask. “A couples massage?”
“Umm, Umm”, she stammers. “I think I need some time to process all you shared with me.”
As she walks away I holler, “If you need more information just google – I.Q. back slash brain stimulus core.”
Then I ordered myself another mojito, feel a little guilty for about three seconds, rearrange the towels on my stomach and soak up the sun and silence. Ahh.