Monday, September 15, 2008

mixed feelings

So I really try to not speak (write) on this topic very often because:

A) It seems braggy to me, and I'm not that kind of gal.

and B) It is REALLY not a big deal at our house. We have 7 kids, and ALL of them are incredible, and special, and make us proud.


Is gifted. She tests out in the 99th% of kids in our state in Language Arts. She tests out in the 97th% of kids in our state in math. She was reading before she went to kindergarten, and is in AIG at school. She is now in an all day AIG program at school, compared to elementary, when she had AIG once a week. (Hooray for crack-town middle school for offering this program!!!) To be accepted into the program, she had to test into it in LA(language arts) and MA(math). Some of her elementary AIG friends didn't make it.

I've been wondering how this was going to play out, as she has always been one of the two or three "smartest" kids in her class, and has always stood out as such. Now, in this program, she is only with the other students that were at the top of their elementary schools. I figured this could go a few different ways.

1) She would get VERY competitive, and try to rise to the top of the class.

2) She would blend in, and find herself average in a higher level class.

3) She would get overwhelmed at not being the "best", and give up.

I didn't actually sit her down and talk to her about my concerns, because I wanted to allow her the ability to work it out in her own head. I wanted to see what would naturally happen, before we discussed it.

The 2nd and 3rd day of school, she came home and cried during homework. I think it was a combination of stress during school, and for the first time actually having to struggle with something. I check their homework, so that I can try to help them learn the material that they are struggling with. For the other kids, it's never been a big deal. I lightly circle in pencil the ones they got wrong, and they try to fix it themselves. If they can't figure it out, I help them. So Kyley had a difficult math homework, two days in a row, and when I circled the problems she got wrong, she cried. She realized she wasn't perfect, and she wasn't used to it.

I can remember when she was younger the one other incident that she had gotten something wrong on a homework. I think it was 2nd grade. When I circled the problem, she cried, and started the whole thing over, because she felt that the teacher would be able to see the eraser marks on the paper from where she had gotten a wrong answer.

Kyley had a project recently. It was a fun project, and she had to put some pictures on it. I got her the picture corner things, so that after the project she could have her pics back with no damage to them. So she did the project, and I looked at it, and guess what? There was a little piece of the poster-board that was ripped. She quickly told me that she had put the picture corner thing in the wrong place, and when she tried to pull it off, it ripped the poster-board. She proceeded to tell me, before I could say anything, "It's OK Mom. It's not a big deal. You can barely see it." WHAT???? Who is this kid, and where is my daughter? I was SO happy for her. She didn't cry, she didn't do it over, and she told me that day, when I picked her up, that she thought her project was the best one. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? HOORAY!!!

She brought it up this weekend. I was going to broach the subject soon, but she started the conversation. "I don't think I really stand out at school this year."
"Oh-yeah?" I asked.
"Yeah." she said. "All the kids are really smart, they even go around telling eachother how smart they are."
"Well, you know Ky, they are all AIG kids. You're in an advanced program."
"I know." She said. "But I'm used to standing out, and it's weird."
"Kyley, how does that feel? Do you feel bad or guilty?"
"No Mom, I'm getting used to it. I just feel like I blend in. I guess I just feel normal." I wanted to scream, hug her, and cry for her all at the same time. How hard this must be, but also maybe a relief to realize that she didn't have to be the best? I didn't actually know what to say.
"Well Kyley, You are super intelligent, and you should be proud of yourself. Plus, you told me that your LA teacher has nicknamed you the Grammar Guru."
"Yeah, I still stand out in LA, but I think Maddie stands out more. I'm probably number 2 in LA."
Now we have already talked about Maddie. I knew that Maddie was on her mind, because Maddie transferred from private to public school this year, and I knew her because she beat out 4th-8th grade last year at her private school and made it to the county spelling bee. Kyley only had to deal with 4th-5th grade to go to the same spelling bee.
"Are you worried about the spelling bee Ky?" I asked.
"Yeah, she answered. I know Maddie will beat me."

About this time we were interrupted, and the subject hasn't come up again. I'm sad for her, and I'm happy for her, and I had to get this out, because it's been weighing heavily on my mind. I'm glad that she's dealing with this now, because a lot of kids, especially in smaller areas, don't get a program like this. In fact, it's the only one I know of in our county. And when these kids get to college, and meet other "smart" kids, they are shocked, and overwhelmed, and don't know how to deal with it. So I'm glad she's working through this now, and also learning important study skills that she wouldn't need if she wasn't in this program.

But I'm also sad. She has lost part of her identity, the thing that made her special, and I know that must be hard for her. Plus, what am I going to do come awards day, and don't have an experience like the beginning of this post. Or when Spelling Bee season comes around, and I don't get to feel this. And I feel like I've lost something too. I know how silly that sounds, and I know that there needs to be a difference between being proud of my kid, and being so wrapped up in my kid that her experiences are the basis of how I feel. But it's hard. And I'm sad.

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