I’ve seen a lot of people reference Stuff White People Like recently, either amused or outraged, and I have to say that I haven’t yet decided which side of the fence I land on. Some of the stuff there is pretty funny, albeit irreverent. (Which is of course WHY it’s funny….)
Anyway, I’ve seen lots of discussion of item number 16, Gifted Children. We all have gifted kids! White people like gifted kids! Also, when our kids mess up, it’s just because they’re TOO gifted to function on this mundane plane of existence! This is what I’m supposed to believe, apparently.
Well, first of all, I am here to tell you that my gifted children (preshus! gifted!) are (I presume) a lot more difficult to raise than their less-gifted (and less NEUROTIC, I mean, let’s be honest here) counterparts. Second, here come the Political Correctness Police to haul me away, but at least one of my gifted kids is L-A-Z-Y.
Oh, I know. I’m not supposed to tell you that she’s lazy. I’m not supposed to believe such a negative thing about her. I’m supposed to say it’s the SCHOOL’s fault! And believe my precious schmoopykins can do no wrong! But I’m sorry, GOOD LORD is my daughter lazy, and it is really starting to get on my nerves. I don’t care whether she’s gifted or retarded, if she gets any lazier she is going to forget to BREATHE.
She has this habit of doing her homework and then leaving it all over the house. I will remind her to put it in her bag if I see it, but lately I’ve been struggling with that, even, because it’s not like she doesn’t KNOW she needs to do it. And how hard is it to put your work away? Too hard for her, poor darling.
And so when she called me from school yesterday to ask me to bring in her homework she was STUNNED when I said no. I reminded her that we had gone back home one morning to pick up her forgotten work and the deal was that she got ONE bail-out for the year, and she’d used it up. She grunted and hung up on me. When she got home from school yesterday we talked about it and ten minutes later I saw her homework was STILL ON THE COUCH. And she got MAD at me when I told her to put it in her bag. Because she’s laaaaaaaaaaazy.
The thing about being whatever kind of gifted Chickadee is, is it means that she can often do very, very well with little to no effort. I am well-acquainted with this state of affairs, as it’s pretty much how my experience in school went, as well. And I know that you can easily get used to that, and after a while any effort at all seems like too much work. I know exactly how it happens, and I also know that I personally was bitch-slapped back to reality in a few different circumstances, but most notably in that I headed off to college at 16 and nearly lost my damn mind the first semester because, MAN, THIS STUFF REQUIRES ACTUAL WORK.
So it’s not that I don’t get it. I do.
Also understand that there is a difference between capabilities and effort.
For example, Chickadee elected to participate in an oratorical competition a while back and wrote what could well have been the winning speech. (My preshus!) The judges even told her that she would’ve won, had her delivery been better. The speech was great. Her presentation? In a word, it stunk. She was petrified. She quietly mumbled and mostly looked like she was trying very hard not to throw up. My heart broke into a million pieces watching her struggle through her speech, and then those million pieces each broke into a thousand MORE pieces as she sobbed, that night, about how she’d worked really hard and didn’t win. Because Chickadee is fiercely competitive. She wants to win. She likes to win. She is bitterly disappointed when she does NOT win.
But she’d done her best (she will overcome her stage fright with practice, I hope) and didn’t win. She didn’t deserve to win—other kids did better. She worked hard and was brave, I thought, in choosing a public speaking endeavor even though she was scared. Bottom line: thumbs up and pride from this mama, despite the loss.
Today, on the other hand, Otto and I went to school to watch a Battle of the Books tournament Chickadee decided to enter. This event was not compulsory. She CHOSE to participate, knowing that it was a trivia competition based upon ten books. Each member of each team had to read four of the ten books, I think. She talked INCESSANTLY about how much she wanted to win.
This is the child who read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the space of a weekend. She is a HIGHLY competent reader, and a fast one.
Did she read all ten books? No.
Did she review the BARE MINIMUM four that she had to read? No.
Did she have a good reason for either of these things? Nope.
I suggested, multiple times, that she read all the books. I suggested, multiple times, that she review the four she’d read. She scoffed and rolled her eyes and told me she didn’t need to. I told her it was up to her.
We spent an hour at the competition this morning and there was a long, uncomfortable stretch of time where it looked like Chickadee’s team would not get a SINGLE QUESTION right.
They eventually got a couple. But the team they were up against completely trounced them.
I watched other parents congratulate their children on doing such a great job and putting forth the effort, whether they’d won or lost, and you know what?
I hugged my daughter and told her I’d see her this afternoon, and that was all I could manage, because there is nothing here to congratulate.
She was lazy and she lost. I call this a natural consequence and a much-needed lesson.
The saddest part is that I know my child, and I know she is CRUSHED and will come home and SOB about how sad she is that she lost. At least when she lost the oratorical competition I was able to tell her how proud I was of her for writing a great piece, for standing up even though she was scared, for really doing her best.
What am I supposed to say this afternoon? I’m not an “I told you so,” parent. That accomplishes nothing and I don’t want to add to her misery. On the other hand, the truth is that I am fairly annoyed to have given up half my morning to watch her sit there and shrug her shoulders.
And it’s not that I’m disappointed that she lost because I think MAH BAYBEE should always win. It’s that she could have EASILY won today if she’d put forth some actual EFFORT. So the best I can tell her is “I guess you have your work cut out for you next year.”
She will argue with me; that’s a given. She’ll say that so-and-so was absent! And the questions were hard! And so-and-so told her the wrong thing!
And she’ll harangue me, insisting it was SO UNFAIR and eventually I will lose my patience and I will tell her that I think she was lazy. And she’ll be sad and wounded and continue arguing and if I’m unable to extricate myself I will end up telling her that sometimes she doesn’t have the good sense that God gave a goat.
So maybe we could add THAT to the list of things white people like—comparing their gifted but lazy children to livestock.