He’s Gifted. Really.
My kid is gifted. It took me a very long time to say those words out loud because it always sounded pretentious as hell. I knew he was bright. Hell, he walked at seven and half months, skipped baby talk and spoke in complete sentences from the time he was a year old, asked me spell everything from about age two, and by age three, had started taking apart toys to see how they operated. Yeah, he’s a smart guy, and we are proud as peacocks that he’s entering into PhD studies at Stanford this fall. But the day we found out that he could legitimately be labeled as “gifted,” something happened to keep it all in perspective.
Back in the mid 1980s, when Son started elementary school, our large metropolitan school district tested all the first graders. I’m not sure what the name of the test was, but his teacher referred to it as an “IQ test.” She administered it one early fall day and got the results back a couple of weeks later. On a Friday evening, she called our home just as we were preparing our last cookout of the season. Husband, my dad and stepmom, Son, and I were out on the patio picnicking in the cool fall air, when the phone rang. Mrs. Smith’s voice edged right to excitement when I picked up.
“Hello? This is Carol Smith, Son’s teacher.” We exchanged the cordialities, but I could tell she had something big on her mind. Finally, she said, “I had to call you to give you the news. Son scored higher on the IQ test than any student I’ve ever had.” She gave me the numbers, explained what they meant, and then continued breathlessly, “That’s beyond genius level. Your son is a genius!”
I’ll admit it; I was beaming when I hung up and headed out the back door to share the news with his dad and grandparents. Six-year-old Son had wandered out into the yard by then. He was casually tossing a golf ball from hand to hand. That summer he’d indicated that he might like to play golf, so we’d bought him some kid-sized used clubs, and Husband had taken him along to the driving range now and again. His interest hadn’t stuck, but he liked putting in the backyard.
“Son’s a genius!” I couldn’t keep the swell of pride out of my voice. “That was Mrs. Smith with his IQ scores. He’s a genius!”
Now, I’d just gotten the words out of my mouth. The others hadn’t even had an opportunity to respond. Son’s a genius was still floating in the air above our heads when we all naturally looked over at the kid. He’d tossed the golf ball with all his little might straight into the air and was watching it come back down to earth. Standing there, his sweet face turned toward the blue October sky, he followed the ball’s progress… right into his left eye. We absolutely could not believe he’d allowed the ball to hit him directly in the eye.
Mouths agape, we sat in stunned silence as Son covered his eye and began to howl. The screams of pain finally motivated Husband to rush out to the yard where he peeled Son’s hand away from his face and discovered the beginnings of a real shiner.
“What were you thinking?” Husband asked, once we’d sat the kid down and applied an ice pack to the injured eye.
“I just wanted to see how big it would get,” Son replied, sniffling, tears still dribbling down his cheeks. “It was getting bigger.”
Yep, there’s nothing to say to that. Perhaps somewhere in this story is a brilliant observation about my kid’s perceptions of geometry or physics or some other highbrow science at the tender age of six. Maybe a savvy child psychologist would tell us that his curiosity about the golf ball’s trajectory was another sign of how truly bright he is. We’ve had many more signs of his abilities in the ensuing years—top ten in high school, scholarships and numerous awards for academic excellence during undergrad, graduating number one in his class from engineering school, and then again with honors when he got his Masters Degree. But in this case, I think his grandfather summed it all up pretty nicely when he remarked dryly, “Yup. My grandson… the genius.” And he shook his head sadly as he gazed at that freckle-faced little genius’s black eye.
How about it, Betty moms (or aunties or grandmas or friends)? Tell me a fun kid story, something a child has said or done that was particularly memorable.