bend and not break

I don’t like to talk about my kid’s personal struggles, because I know that some day, they’ll care enough to read these things, or perhaps a person in school, and I don’t want to ever post something that could hurt them. Now that Claire is 7 and Luca is nearly 6, I ask their permission before I post anything about them on Facebook, be it a photo or a funny quote. The way I look at it, I’d want that same courtesy if I was growing up in the age of social media.

As a kid, I grew up with a columnist for a mother at a local paper, and she would sometimes write columns that centered around me. She always, always, had me read it before she even sent it to her editor. I don’t know how many times I’d walk into school with a teacher waving her column in my face saying how amazing of a write my mother was. And then the inevitable, “I had no idea about that part of your life…” like, for example, when I got my belly button pierced at 16. But, again, this was published with my permission.

I asked Claire if it was okay to share some of the things that’s been going on with her, and she said she didn’t mind. I told her exactly what I’d say, and she said, “Mom, I’m confident in who I am.”

I’ve briefly mentioned here before about Claire’s struggles with anxiety. I often worried that I broke her, that the way I was raising her was causing her issues. I mean, how many times do we hear the jokes about kids in therapy talking about their mothers. It’s always about your mother.

As the school year progressed, her anxiety increased, and I thought it was because she was having a hard time in school.

It was completely the opposite, it seems. She was tested for accelerated reading, and passed. So she was put into a different reading class where she was doing 2nd grade vocabulary lessons, comprehension, and reading chapter books, complete with comprehension tests. She was doing well, until all of a sudden, her anxiety kicked up again, and her scores started lacking. I reached out to her teacher and she said, “She’s doing great, but when tests happen, she rushes.”

If I had a dime for every time I told Claire to slow down, I’d have my kitchen paid for.

I told Claire, ‘Be the last kid to turn in your test. Promise me.”

She did. She aced it. Test after test.

Her anxiety lessened.

Last month I got a letter in the mail requesting Claire be tested for the gifted program. Her teacher had mentioned back in October that she was thinking she should be tested before year end, and I had been dreading this. It’s hard to explain, but when you have a kid with anxiety over failure, would you want to test them into something that A.) they may fail before they even make it in or B.) get in, and then stress over the work?

I talked at length with her teacher, her guidance counselor, her TKD instructor…anyone who sees her often enough to know her character, and asked point blank if they’d have her test.

The results were pretty unanimous that Claire is incredibly bright, and could benefit from the program. Apparently the program isn’t more ‘work’ rather it’s fun and gets like minded kids in the same room to do logic puzzles and things they’re good at, but also test their limits in a good way.

As my friend Jen said, “You never know. When I was in gifted, I found my people. Maybe she will find hers, too.”

She starts her two part testing on Thursday, and I told her that it’s going to be fun, and she agrees. She’s excited. I’ve also told her that if she doesn’t make it in, it’s OK. She admitted she would be disappointed, but also said she will be okay if that’s the case.

Last week, I got a letter from the school stating that Claire’s academic scores show she’s above average and they want to test her to skip 2nd grade math and subsequently be in 3rd grade math next year.

When Claire was in kindergarten, I was told that this is nearly impossible to do, skip grades in math. And, again, I thought she was just bright for a first grader in math. But half way through the school year, her teacher told me she was pulling her out of mainstream and having her and two other students do math one on one with her. (Another reason why I love her teacher.) Being as it’s been a long time since I was in first grade, I thought the homework she brought home was pretty standard. She’d bring home math where she was borrowing in subtraction, adding up to a million, carrying numbers…you know. Math. I figure when they start throwing in x=y, then that’s some hardcore stuff.

Then one day she brought home a paper with fractions on it and in pen on top was written: “This is 3rd grade math. We’re going slow. Only do page one.”

What the what?

Claire did it like I asked her to add 2 + 2. It’s…it’s hard to explain when you have a kid who does work so effortlessly, to realize that what they’re doing isn’t really at the grade level they’re in. So when I got this letter, I took a photo and immediately sent it to Matt, who thought, “Yup, this is about right.” I was taken aback. He always knew her math skills were good, I just never really caught on. I realized that all the homework she had been doing wasn’t what the other kids in class were doing, because her teacher, being the amazing educator she is, sent home homework based on each child’s skills.

So again, I’m here hoping my child doesn’t break. That I’m doing right by her, by allowing her to be tested for these things. I wasn’t a smart kid in school. I wasn’t in gifted. I was in talented, which I called the B-team. I also think I was in it due to sheer pity. I was a B/C average student. I often believe that I could have been smarter if I could have understood what I read, and if my brain wasn’t so wonky. But this isn’t about me.

I know this is wrong to say, but I always hoped for average kids. Mostly, because I don’t know what it’s like to be that intelligent. I don’t know the feelings and anxiety that comes with it. But, as I’m coming to find, anxiety and intelligence go hand in hand. Claire isn’t a perfectionist. She isn’t type A. She’s just a smart kid who is having a hard time coming to terms with being smart.

I worried that I made mistakes. Me misreading things as annoying, rather as super intuitive. That when she’d ask questions it wasn’t simply because she wanted to talk, but more that she honest to god wanted answers.

For example, a few months ago, in accelerated reading, they learned about the Komodo Dragon. And so today, at the zoo on her school field trip, she made sure she got to see one, because she studied it. She wanted to talk to it and really understand it. To make sure that what she read was true, and that made her so happy.

At the halfway point of school, her teacher said, “I want to push Claire a little bit…just enough to get her to bend.”

Bend she has, and I should know her well enough to know that she will bend, but not break.

I know everyone thinks their kid is smart, because they are. But this kid is so bright, and it’s scary for her.

I know that now. So I’m with her, and we will see it through.

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About Cassie

Two sisters from two misters. What could be more fun?

Posted on May 18, 2015, in Cassie. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I am so happy for you all that Claire has such a great teacher! And I am happy for her that she has you and Matt as parents who are there to support her in every way, who think about the testing long and good and make the best decision you can make. That’s what it’s all about, right? In hindsight we sometimes see that the decisions we made weren’t really the best, but if we make them with every information we can get our hands on and think them through, and listen to our hearts as well, then I think we don’t have to regret them later on.
    I always had A’s in school, and a lot of anxiety and fear of failure, and part of it was that I was always the best or at least better than most of the kids. So for me I think it would have been good to be with other kids on the same level and not have this “special” position with a lot of expectations of other people. Anyway, I am sure Claire, Matt and you will find the best way for her, and I am excited to see where it takes her!

  2. It surprises me not even a little that you and Matt have a gifted child (children?).

    OK, maybe Claire gets her math skills from Matt. But where do you think she gets that tremendous sense of caring and empathy, far beyond her years?

    That’s all you, hon.

  3. (a comment for Claire)

    Oh, Claire. Reading this made me cry because I remember being your age with your capabilities (except for me it was reading I was really strong in and math just sort of above average) and sometimes it was so hard to want to be like the other kids but know that in some ways I just was different from them. I, too, had (have) anxiety about wanting to be perfect and not disappoint anyone. I am glad your mom and dad are there to help you know that you are so special and wonderful even if you don’t always get an A or finish things first. Try and remember that all kids are different and special in different ways. So even though you might be in a different class than your peers for some things and sometimes that might feel hard, they have differences from you that make them awesome and special, as well. The other kids will be more likely to appreciate and respect your intelligence if you appreciate their talents, too.

    I am proud of you for knowing that it will be okay if by chance you don’t make it into this gifted program. You’re still you, and that’s pretty rad.

    Keep working sweet girl, you are doing great!

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