He tried so hard when he finally had a daughter, just in case the gene that carried his intelligence didn’t transfer. He taught her algebra when she was still able to use her fingers to give her age. He only allowed her to play educational games on the computer. He quizzed her endlessly in the car on things like energy and the four forms they come in.
And she was picking it up.
She excelled at the tests he gave her, even though they were meant for kids older than herself. She understood the metaphors he used. She was even creative enough to make her own sometimes.
He had tried so hard, and he succeeded. Because in fourth grade, she tested at an advanced level and had finally owned up to the term that had been used to describe her for five years: gifted.
And it makes sense, because a gift is something that is given to you. A gift is not something you ask for. She didn’t ask for the lectures after soccer practice or the tab on the computer that marked the educational, “Dad-approved” websites. She didn’t ask to be put in a primarily fifth grade classroom when she had just turned nine.
In fact, she was almost kicked out of that class because she never did her homework. We’re not sure why, but she just never did. So she fell behind in math–she didn’t know anything about fractions. And one day, the principal was called in and she sat down the girl and her teacher and talked about how fortunate she is to be in this class and how there are other bright children who would gladly take her place and work hard to keep it. She warned her that if she didn’t get her act together, she could get kicked out.
But the girl was never kicked out.
She went onto sixth grade excels and didn’t read any of “Treasure Planet,” but still managed to pass the class. And in eighth grade, she would copy her friend’s science homework every morning in homeroom. She’d do just fine on the tests and would end up passing that class too.
In fact, she’s never failed a class. She skated by time after time despite her poor time management skills and awful problems with procrastination and lack of motivation. How she did it? We’re not quite sure. Maybe it’s because she’s gifted. Maybe it’s because her father tried so hard. The day she learned to speak was the day he taught her to read. Just like the day she touched a soccer ball was the day she joined travel soccer.
But she ended up quitting soccer after ten years.
And now she wants to quit school, too.
Because you can mold a young mind into memorizing multiplication tables and understanding the metaphor of a firecracker when it comes to the four different types of energy, sure. But you can’t stop there. You can’t work hard(ish) with her for the first nine years of her life and then assume that she’ll be okay.
Because she won’t be.
Sure, you can tell her time and time again that she needs to “get her act together” and “own up to her potential.” After all, she is gifted.
You have the tests to prove it.
You even have her high school diploma, with the golden sticker that tells you she graduated with honors, probably hanging in your office somewhere.
But she never read The Scarlet Letter. She never really tried to learn trigonometry. She probably never even opened her ginormous textbook for AP Biology.
And she knows this is all her fault. She’ll always place all the blame on herself, and just chalk it up to another personality trait of hers that she absolutely despises. Another piece of the puzzle that is her self-loathing.
But don’t think she won’t remember. Don’t think she won’t wonder. What if there had been more structure when she got her first C in history?
What if she had more help with her homework when she got home from school–help that didn’t end in a yelling match and tears.
What if her parents were at that meeting when she was nine?
What if she never aced that test–the one that marked her as “accelerated.”
What if my father didn’t try so hard to make sure I was gifted.