This month’s Parents magazine has a piece on “How to Know If Your Child Is Gifted” (a newsstand headline if I ever saw one; my fellow writers will agree that the only thing better would be “10 Ways to Know If Your Child is Gifted”).
I get it in the mail, and yeah, I flipped to that one. I have a weird history with the whole “gifted” idea; we moved a lot and I was “gifted” in some places, and thus allowed to do fun stuff like learn chess or run the school paper, but not in others. And, yeah, I want my kids to be “gifted.” So shoot me. I mean, I’d rather they be happyâ€”I’d love for them to all have Sam’s natural resilience and outlookâ€”but that appears unlikely, as anyone who’s ever met Lily will agree. But giftedâ€”that I think she’s got, at least as far as “gifted” means “school will come easily to you and you will be good at taking tests” goes.
And then there’s Wyatt, and this is a long-winded way of getting to him. He’s something special in the academic sense; unusually verbal, reading early, already doing math at, I guess, about a second grade level or something like that. He’s a smart kid. But “gifted” in a modern sense, as opposed to the one I grew up with, which just reflected your particular multiple choice test abilities? Maybe not. This article had all sorts of stuff on top of the ordinary academic stuff: unusually artistic, focused on particular interests, persistent in pursuing information or mastery and unusually empathetic. Has Wyatt got any of that? Eh, I don’t know. Not that I’ve noticed, I thought when I read the article. Maybe he’s just run-of-the-mill younger sibling bright (which would be fine. bear with me, I’m going somewhere with all of this).
And then, tonight. Rob and I are uniformly tired of children; we spent the past four days in a hotel with them at a hockey tournament. Today was a long day for a variety of reasons. We are mutually chock out of patience. So when Rory appeared (after Lily had already done a post-bedtime number) clutching her finger and insisting, with that little grin that says “ooh, I’m out of bed!” that it “weally weally huwt,” I looked at it closely. No blood. Nothing even scratchy. It will feel better when you’re sleeping, I snapped, go back to bed.
Oh, now she knew she was getting away with something before, but to not get what she wanted right at bedtime? Even if she didn’t really want it? Wailing, horrible catastrophe! But in her own bed. I could hear her, for some time. Howling. “But it weally weally huwts! It huwts! I not gonna go sleep cause it huwts! I not gon’ be able sleep!”
And so on. But I’m still in the middle of Sam’s homework, and tired, and grumpy, and tired, and I go in my room (where he is working), and I can’t actually hear her any more, and I forget about it until Wyatt appears.
“Why won’t you give Rory a band-aid?”
“Because she’s not bleeding.”
“But she says it really really hurts.”
“Yeah, but it’s not bleeding,” Sam interjects.
“A band-aid won’t help if it’s not bleeding,” I say.
Wyatt thinks about it for a minute. He sees truth, but:
“I think it helps her.”
He’s right, of course. I sent him up with a band-aid. Andâ€”and this was the point of this whole thingâ€”gifted or not, I know one thing. He’s way smarter than I am.