Saturday, May 30, 2009

Right on Schedule

Hyperactive parents that we were, we were more than ready for Evan to take to the wilds of academics and be the little Super Star in school we knew he could be. After all, hadn't we filled his crib with educational toys? Didn't we have hundreds of books scattered around the house like wild flower seeds? The boy couldn't even go to the bathroom without encountering some author or another staring at him from the rack of books beside the toilet. Meal times were not just times to eat. They were times to learn! learn! learn! with place mats featuring State Flags and a Map of the World Flags. The lettering at the top of these place mats commanded our children to "Eat and Learn!"

Sonny Boy, who had always had a healthy fear of authority figures, jumped into school, did the work, no questions asked. Evan, however, viewed his teachers as impediments to recess. When his soft-spoken second grade teacher said softly and mournfully, "Evan, it makes me sad when you don't do your work," he viewed her as having some sort of mental problem that made her even more unsuitable for the classroom. "Why should that make her sad, Mom? Don't you think that's really weird?"

So in third grade we were more than ready for the ignition switch to be flipped on. Regular readers of Bossy Betty will recall that at a parent-teacher conference a year earlier, the teacher had been excited to tell us of Evan's progress in the class in the form of this high praise: "He doesn't fall out of his chair as much any more."

So third grade started off with more frenzied excitement (by HOB and I) at any progress being made. He was doing fine in his class, but I hung out with high-performance mothers whose high-performance children were building models of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks in their spare time and preparing to be "Gated." GATE (Gifted and Talented) was the program in our school to which selected children were admitted and so all of these mothers liked to use "Gated" as a verb in their conversations as much as possible. "When Eric gets Gated this year...." "You know, we've promised her a new computer when she gets Gated. Of course, she'll probably build her own before she gets Gated." (Readers: Stop here to make retching sound of vomiting.) Obnoxious? Oh yes. Bossy Betty jealous? Oh no. Not at all.

One fine afternoon it happened: Evan came home and immediately opened his backpack. He withdrew a brightly colored xeroxed paper and began working intensively. Now, I had read the "Parenting a Brilliant Child" books and one thing the books recommended was to not to interfere in moments like this. When the child takes ownership of the work, the child is encouraged to do more of the same, leading to a Nobel Prize in Science in the future.

I watched from afar as he worked with different colored markers. His concentration level on this project was intense. He worked on this opus, this masterpiece for ten or so minutes. I stood back, knowing this was the pivotal shift we had been waiting for but still curious. Was it math that had sparked this new found fervor? Was it a love of science? Was it (ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleasepleaseplease) a love of reading?

Finally, he stood back, finished, drained, but very, very pleased. I stepped forward as he unveiled his work to me.

He had annotated, decorated, and edited

the lunch schedule for the next month.

There were clouds over Fish Sticks day. Sloppy Joe day had been crossed out and the words "Boo! Boo!" written above it. Pizza Day glowed with yellow sunshine and happy faces.

I looked at this boy of mine at the table--a happy, proud and exuberant little soul--and knew I would not change one single thing about him. He was (and remains) a singularly unique and wonderful person. Gifted and Talented? You bet. In so many ways.

"Well, I said, hugging him, "I am so proud of you! Let's just put this right on the refrigerator where we can look at it every day."

And we did.


Susan said...

I love Evan! This is a great column, Betty! Thanks!

Brian said...

My boy, Philip, also had little regard for the wants and desires of his authority figures, all through the state-mandated years K-12. Last Saturday, though, I watched with pride as he walked in his graduation ceremony at CSUF, where he received his degree in, of all things, English.

Bossy Betty said...

Yeah!!!! Congratulations to you both! AND an English Major! It's the life of excitement and prestige!


Brian said...

At least that's what Garrison Keillor keeps telling us!

Bossy Betty said...

He's right!

Did you get your boy a T-Shirt from Garrison's collection?

Brian said...

No, but that's a great idea.