This week, we found out you could and decided you would go to kindergarten.
You are 4 and 1/2 years old, by the skin of your teeth. You like your hair combed over to the side and sprayed while you shield your eyes. You like to wear Dad’s “smell-goods” on your shirt, and your skin in the summer is brown, brown, brown and your eyes are blue, bluer, bluest. You are too small and too mine to go to real school, but you are too far ahead to stay back.
I’m learning something very important from you right now. You are teaching me that courage comes easily when you have the right attitude. To you, challenges are not scary. To you, change is fun. To you, the best part of doing the maze is doing it. Not in finding the answer or being right when its over.
I have spent all summer in denial about this whole you-starting-school thing. And now its here — you start on the 10th — and there’s no more pretending. The denial is the first mistake that I’m owning up to. The second is much harder.
I’m sorry I’ve spent so much time telling you how smart you are, kid. I’m going to try to change that up a bit. It’s not that you aren’t. It’s just that “smart” doesn’t cover what you are. You are things like determined and passionate and sensitive and intuitive — and all of these things need to be nurtured and worked on. Telling you that you were “smart” might give you the impression that its something you are or you aren’t. And that’s not true.
You are so curious.
You are so intense.
You are so good at following your instincts.
You love learning new things.
Those are much more accurate. Those are the traits you have that drive you. Those are the ways that help you grow so quickly.
If your future self is reading this, I want you to know that your brains stressed your late-twenties mama out. Don’t get her wrong, she is prouder than ever. She loves watching you soar. But it’s getting hard to talk about you and not have people think I’m bragging, all the time. It’s hard to feel understood when you’re complaining about how worried you are about whether or not to “accelerate” your “gifted” four year old. Everyone thought it was real cute when you were reading over my shoulder at 18 months. They still thought it was cute, though a bit strange, when you were obsessed with the solar system at 2. This summer, it’s been the human body — specifically the digestive system. You know which organs make enzymes and how vitamins get into your blood stream and what muscle helps you breathe. On the roller coaster last week, you shouted so hard that your esophagus was really sore and then decided that the ache was really back in your trachea.You told me that your liver was “like a car wash for your blood”. People kind of just stare and laugh now.
I don’t know what to call you, Carter Patrick. “Gifted” feels like a dirty word sometimes, the way it makes people uncomfortable or encourages ideas of privilege and advantage. If I say it out loud to anyone, I’ll inevitably feel sort of shamed and guilty. And that reaction makes me fume. Because raising a Carter Patrick, a “gifted” kid, is exciting — but it comes with a lot of scary parts, too.
I chose my graduate program based on you and Miley. At the time, I had this incredibly sensitive whiz-kid of a two-year old. And then I had this five-year old niece who was diagnosed with Asperger’s and could recall, to a T, every line to a movie she’d seen once or the exact dinner served on the second Tuesday of the previous month. To me, it was pretty clear that there was something in the water.
Here’s a couple of things that I learned about raising a gifted kid:
They have amplified sensitivities, amplified emotions (have you met Carter? Check.) They are more prone to depression. Prone to anxiety. Prone to getting bullied. They aren’t necessarily overachievers, in fact they are at higher risk for underachievement. They end up tutoring other kids or paired with slower learners to help them instead of getting to learn themselves — especially in our current educational culture, where schools are most concerned about getting those “falls below” students bumped into the “meets” range of our standardized tests.
So, to me, there is a very wide umbrella of ability levels that fall into “special needs”. And you’re definitely in there, kiddo. But it’s an exciting challenge, one with a lot of possible answers. We’re doing it.
You’re weird, Carter (and thank God for that — because that’s how I roll). But I am worried about staying even a step ahead of you and keeping your engine fueled. So right now, we’re going to try this early-kindergarten thing. If it works out, great. If not, well, we’ll come up with our next plan.
In the meantime, THIS is me bragging:
You are in kindergarten! You are going to be the most handsome boy in the school! I am so proud of you!
Love you. To the moon, but never back. It just keeps going.