Unusual initiative in sibling squashing

By Mir
August 23, 2007

Even if the principal is just humoring me in getting the children lined up for gifted testing, the school is doing a bang-up job of making us feel special about it. Letters came home yesterday indicating that my signature was needed to proceed with the testing. That was fine. There was then a very impressive chart of what the requirements are for children to qualify for the program (99th percentile on several indices, 96th percentile on a couple of others), and a fill-in line to indicate the source of the referral.

Remember how the principal told me that the kids had already been referred by their teachers? Both sheets said they’d been referred by “parent.” That would be me, I guess, the pushy yankee bitch who thinks her children are SO SMART.

It was the next part that really tickled me, though.

A second sheet accompanied the first, and this one had some impressive long name like “Referral Assessment Observational Outstandingness Characteristical Inventory” (the brains, the children get them from me) and asked for the person filling it out to “check off the traits that best describe the child.”

There are then about 50 different phrases, grouped into subsets of three to five apiece, all of which describe every child I’ve ever met who no longer drools on themselves involuntarily. The instructions weren’t really clear, either, because at first I thought it meant to pick one phrase in each group, but then I decided it meant that you should just check off anything that sounds like an apt description of your kid.

I checked off every single item on Chickadee’s sheet, and then every item but one on Monkey’s. (For Monkey, I didn’t feel I could check off “demonstrates keen sensory awareness” when he is, after all, diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder. Duh.)

These items were things like “Works at a problem until a solution is found” and “Is able to switch strategies when the current one proves not to be correct.” Are there really people who read through these and go, “Nope, sorry, young BillyBob gives up immediately, either that or he done just keep slamming his head into that there wall until there’s nothing left but a bloody stump, oh well” and then are honest about that? I mean, I felt like my answers were honest—they do, in my estimation, demonstrate all these “key characteristics”—but I couldn’t imagine a child who doesn’t, and then I couldn’t imagine the parents of such a child coming clean about it.

After the check-off-these-things section there were a few open-ended questions asking for examples of activities in which the child has demonstrated extreme or unusual aptitude or initiative, and this was where I had a hard time coming up with things.

The truth of the matter is that I have NO IDEA what’s unusual, when it comes to my kids. None. When Monkey was a baby and then a toddler I believed—I swear before God this is true, and I’m embarrassed about it but here I am telling you anyway—for YEARS that he wasn’t very bright. Oh, he was cute and wonderful and charming, but I figured he was of utterly average intelligence.

Do you know why I thought that? Because Chickadee had come first, and Chickadee spoke in complete sentences when she was one and I thought THAT was average. Even once I was far enough along in parenting to realize that she is perhaps, shall we say, gifted in the area of MOTORMOUTHNESS, I figured that Monkey’s relative slowness to speak meant he was just… average.

Plus, let’s face it—the kid used to climb up on things and fling himself to the ground and then cry when he got hurt. Over and over. It was only natural to conclude that might not have been born with a very impressive brain.

Anyway, perhaps you can imagine my surprise when Monkey started outrunning Chickadee in funny little ways, like that he memorizes EVERYTHING and forgets NOTHING, which means that he can glance over the 12-page Lego instructional pamphlet for building a combination race car and forklift and then go dump out the Lego bin, set to work, and present you with the picture-perfect vehicle in about three minutes. Or when it became apparent that he’s some sort of weirdo Sudoku savant.

The point is, I think they’re both bright (now, anyway), but I still don’t have a very good grasp of what’s merely impressive vs. what’s truly astonishing. And though it may surprise you to hear that I have even a tiny reticent bone in my body, while I have no problem checking off sentences, I felt a bit stumped by a two-inch empty space in which I was supposed to catalog the children’s greatest intellectual triumphs.

What if I picked the wrong thing? What if what I thought was great was just average, and what if I was foolishly overlooking something stupendous because to me it’s run-of-the-mill?


Chickadee wandered into the office while I was filling out the paperwork, and I actually involved her in a brief discussion about it by asking her what sorts of things she thinks she does that other kids her age don’t do. She had some good suggestions (like that she taught herself cursive in first grade because she was bored and wanted to be able to read the notes I sent in to her teacher) (I did leave out the part about how she was mostly motivated by nosiness) and I finally picked a few things and wrote them down.

“Now what are you going to put for Monkey?” she asked, craning to look over my shoulder.

“I’m not sure, yet. Go play.” I knew where this was going, and it would not be good.

“But what sorts of things, Mama? Tell me!”

“Wellllll…” I thought maybe if I threw her a small bone, she’d stop. Proof that I’m not very bright, myself. “He’s pretty good at Sudoku. I might put that down.”

Her mouth drew downward in displeasure. “Well I’M good at Sudoku! Put that down for ME!”

I sighed. “Yes, honey, you are. You’re both good at it. I think he may actually be just a little bit better at it than you.”

“No,” she shook her head emphatically, “We are JUST EQUAL. I am just as good at it as him!”

I should’ve agreed. I should have. I know. Instead I just grabbed that little knife and twisted it, because the competitiveness, it DRIVES ME INSANE. “Well, honey, I think you two are about the same at it. But he’s almost two years younger than you. Therefore, he is better at it than you are, because AT HIS AGE that’s considered a greater aptitude.” She glared at me. “Listen, Chickadee, you are BOTH really great at LOTS of things. YOU are much better at writing than he is. He is SLIGHTLY better at Sudoku than you are. It’s not a competition. You’re different people with different strengths.”

She stomped off. Clearly I just don’t love her, or something.

For the remainder of the day Chickadee tried to weasel out of me what I’d written on Monkey’s sheet. I kept telling her that it was none of her business. She kept pleading. She told me she’d tell Monkey what I’d written for her. (Of course, this meant I overheard her telling him, “I can do square roots, you know. You don’t even know what a square root IS.”) I told her that was her choice, but that I didn’t want to talk about it any more. Five minutes later she’d be back to it.

Finally, we were in the car on the way back from an errand when she started back in again.

“FINE! OKAY! I will TELL you what I wrote! Will you leave me alone afterwards?” She swore that she would, and I took a deep breath. “I wrote that Monkey can fly, and also that if he concentrates really hard, he can make himself invisible. ARE YOU HAPPY?”

In the backseat, Chickadee gaped at me, and Monkey burst into delighted laughter.

“MAMA!” screeched Chickadee, “You did NOT say that!”

“Yes I did,” I answered.

“It’s true, you know,” Monkey interjected, all serious. “Sometimes I really am invisible.”

“You are NOT!” Chickadee huffed, furious with both of us.

“Well,” he continued, cheerfully, “maybe you haven’t noticed. You know, because you can’t SEE me when it happens.”

“Well… well…” she sputtered. “YOU can’t spell antidisestablishmentarianism! And when you can’t read something you CRY!”

He thought about this for a moment. “I’m better at Sudoku than you are.”


Yes, I’d say they demonstrate that unusual initiative the school is looking for.


  1. Susan

    I am laughing, not only because you are so funny, but because we have the same damn conversation here all the time.

    Except it’s my OLDER child who insists he is invisible. Of course.

  2. Marissa

    I am laughing so hard right now. You gave Chickadee the perfect answer.

  3. Sara

    “I Can do square roots, you know. You don’t even know what a square root IS.” Could have come out of the mouth of my daughter. In fact, while my children are bright, I had never before considered that irritating the crap out of each other could be “unusual initiative”. I would say that they are exeptionally gifted in this particular area.I might have to start using that–especially when meting out consequences. As in: “Because you were demonstrating unusual initiative towards your brother/sister, you may now do x (insert horrifying consequence here).

  4. ZooMom

    That was very funny. I love your answer to Chickadee!

  5. Angie

    In the end-of-year report, my son’s kindergarten teacher was recommending he be tested for giftedness. One of the reasons was, “Has a very ironic sense of humor. Really understands, and uses, sarcasm.”

  6. Leandra

    That is hilarious! “Well, maybe you haven’t noticed. You know, becuase you can’t SEE me when it happens.” Well played, Monkey, well played.

    For me, it’s the other way around. I thought Bubba was a genius until Punkin’ came along. She could say more words at an earlier age (althought I think that’s kind of a girl thing), she walked earlier, and now she can count to ten and she’s not even 2 years old. I foresee this conversation in my future.

    You just better pray they both get in the program (not that they won’t, of course). I was in it all through school and my best friend tested several times and was never able to get in and that was big sore point between us for a while. Imagine what that would be like with siblings. Especially competitive siblings!

  7. Aimee

    Precociousness overload!

    Too funny. I love your kids.

  8. shannon

    I can become invisible, only I don’t know when it’s happening. I could be driving along in the car and BOOM, someone pulls out almost into me. I could be walking along the street and SMACK, someone walks straight into me. I could greet customers in the store and WHU? nobody responds to me. I really need to get a grip on how to harness the darn power. It could come in so handy!

  9. dad

    If sarcasm was the measure of giftedness, you would be off the scale.
    O yeah… you are.
    Never mind.

    Think how I feel being the only slow one in the family (but I’m a good sodukoer too).

  10. EmmaC

    I just shared your blog with all the people in the cubes around me because when I read that last car scene exchange, I laughed so hard that they poked their little heads over the screens and said, “What? What? WHAT?!” Ah, cube life.

  11. Linda

    Angie, it sounds like your son’s kindergarten teacher went to the same politically correct book that my daughter’s did. Her teacher told us that she needed to learn how to relinquish some of her leadership abilities.

    Of course we knew exactly what she meant!!

  12. Ei.

    Oh ho! Can monkey please teach the invisibility trick to me? Please? Just for alone time in the bathroom?

  13. Nikol

    ohmygodyourkidsareawesome. :)

  14. mar

    Linda –

    “needed to learn how to relinquish some of her leadership abilities.” = OMG – that is one of the best politically correct ways I have ever heard to say your child is bossy!!

    The gifted program in our state is rather ill defined. It says you must have a means of identifying gifted students(coin toss? rock, paper scissors? arm wrestling?), and then you must offer them opportunities. (extra book from the library? teach the class?) – and that’s all the definition we get. Helpful, eh? In our town, we have a wonderful gifted and talented program, so I don’t have any complaints, but still – could we be any more ambiguous?

    My big concern right now is that my son has been in the program for the last 4 years. My daughter is now old enough, and while she’s very bright, I’m not sure she falls into the gifted range. She always talks about “When I’m in G&T I’m gonna …” and while I’ve downplayed her expectations as much as I can, but I’m afraid that’s one of the disappoints that we have ahead of us this year. That, and the dearth of decent 2nd grade teachers we have in our school ….

  15. The Other Leanne

    Monkey is a GENIUS!

  16. Cassie

    I LOVE the fact that your kids fight over who is smarter. That’s awesome. My brother always admitted that I was the brains of the operation, and he was the brawn. Where your kids are fighting over who’s better at Sudoku, we were fighting about who had the better burp. Yes, I think your kids are FAR above average.

  17. Cele

    Oh my gosh I’m in hysterics. I wished I’d had monkey along while I was growing up for his fast witicisms, the kid is a classic. Sadly I think I was a dumbed down version of Chickie. You know Mir you can’t win, until they have children of their own. By then you’ve forgotten all the things you were going to get them back for, and are smitten with their offspring.

    Good luck.

  18. Katie

    I’m not sure my kids know what Sudoku is. And I suck at those puzzles so both your kids are light years ahead of me.

  19. ScottsdaleGirl

    The Sudoko? She mocks. Hate it.

  20. Traci

    I love Monkey’s come back, Well,” he continued, cheerfully, “maybe you haven’t noticed. You know, because you can’t SEE me when it happens.”

    My kids’ come backs are along the lines of “I know you are but what am I?” I guess we need some tutoring over here for the Tribe!

  21. saucygrrl

    Oh man… your kids are killer. I swear. And even though your dad’s not so swift he’s pretty dang funny himself. ;)

  22. Lesley

    “When Monkey was a baby and then a toddler I believed—I swear before God this is true, and I’m embarrassed about it but here I am telling you anyway—for YEARS that he wasn’t very bright. Oh, he was cute and wonderful and charming, but I figured he was of utterly average intelligence.”

    Wow! Is this that sarcasm thing? Because I believe I may be done here.

  23. mama speak

    I’m practically spit out my coffee over your answer! If/When I have to fill out this form for my kids that it totally the answer I’m giving: “Can fly and turn invisible” ROTFLOL

    also, loved the leadership skills comment. Must use when refering to my child.

    Someone asked me once if my second child (while having a very loud tantrum in her car seat) was my “passionate child”. So PC. Why yes, how did you know?

  24. Delton

    I love that Monkey seized onto the Sudoku thing in the car. Too funny!

  25. Lisa

    This is such a funny post! I love it! Monkey’s sense of humor would fit right in around my house!!

    I’m glad that competitveness irritates someone else as much as it does me. I often wonder how I, the least-competitive person in the WORLD, ended up with a daughter that will turn anything at all into a competition! And will seriously get upset when she doesn’t win at, say, “Don’t Break the Ice”!!

  26. tammy

    I am pretty good at Sudoku for someone my age, too. Course, when I was Monkey’s age, we had to chisel the numbers into stone tablets.

  27. Sarah

    Very, very nice!

  28. Megan

    Wait! Just wait! Because they might test ’em and give you all the results(they did for mine) and then… oh golly there’s the fun of comparing scores and swapping IQ’s and squabbling over whether one “benchmark” was better than another.

    Oh, and I’m with you. One of the Children is incredibly competitive and gets squashed now and then just for the betterment of its soul. Doesn’t seem to have cause any lasting harm… that I can see… yet…

  29. Catherine

    I was hoping this stuff stopped at some point (I’m a naive only child mother to two). Right now the nearly 4 yo tells the nearly 2 yo, “I can say more words than you,” “I can say the words right,” “It’s not ‘movie pooter’ it’s ‘movie peter’.”

    You’re children are smarties… you’re in for a wild ride. :)

  30. Crisanne

    I love your kids and their amazing comebacks! My brother was very intelligent and therefore good at most everything he did. My mom purposefully signed him up for baseball because he wasn’t that good at it to “help” him learn how to deal with it.

  31. Daisy

    Your children have a gift for making me laugh! Is Chicky in 4th grade? Can she be in my class? Oh, darn, the commute would be nasty, not to meantion the snow.

  32. Amy-Go

    ROFLMAO…totally worth the pain in my incision, too! ;)

  33. Heather

    LOL! Oh man…I think you should put down “ridiculously amusing” as their special abilities ;-)

  34. sherry

    I have to laugh at this now because considering the sibling rivalry I’m already witnessing at only 21 months and almost 5, I can see this becoming my reality in several years. At which point it will cease to be funny at all.

  35. Woman with Kids

    Wait, you’re a pushy yankee bitch? I thought you were an asshole.

    I just can’t keep up.

  36. BOSSY

    “Works at a problem until a solution is found” – this is sort of like Bossy’s philosophy: she works at a Solution until a Problem is found.

  37. Jenifer

    Makes me anxiously await the day my second starts to talk.

  38. Suebob

    They are prize winners, those two.

  39. Kira

    Oh, I have a Sudoku story to showcase EXACTLY how bright I am! (Also, apparently, how self-centered.)
    Clay, my gorgeous and talented husband, loves him some Sudoku. Dude. Every day he’s rifling through MY newspaper so he can yank out that page, thereby ruining my comics reading (are we getting any clues yet to my great intelligence?). I, on the other hand, have always failed to care about numbery things, a trait that caused my high school algebra teacher waaaaay more angst than I thought was strictly called for.
    Anyhow, eventually I decided that I had see what this numbers-in-boxes madness was all about, so I pre-yanked the Sudoku page and wrestled my way through it, only cheating a little. Then I showed it to my beloved with GREAT PRIDE and perhaps a leeetle boasting, because HEY, LOOKIE HERE! Wordy girl does numbers!
    “AAAAND,” I pointed out, “this one must be a VERY DIFFICULT ONE, because it says RIGHT DOWN HERE that it is scored 11/11! SO THERE!”
    He peered at the numbers I was pointing at, then said calmly, “Hmm. Yes. Very difficult. Or, perhaps, printed…today. November 11.”
    Stupid Sudoku.

  40. Brigitte

    Ha ha haa! Those two little smarties are TOO much! Sadly, when they’re teenagers and think they know more than you, it may be true. ;-)

    Hey, I have that invisibility power like Shannon, too! Even back in school days, I’d often be marked down as “absent” when I was RIGHT THERE, apparently invisible. I also need to figure out how to harness it.

  41. Beth R

    “Works at a problem until a solution is found” and “Is able to switch strategies when the current one proves not to be correct.”

    I wouldn’t have checked this. SS is reasonably bright and able (or so says his doting mother) but he’s also a little perfectionist, and if he can’t get the hang of something THE VERY FIRST TIME his immediate reaction is frequently to flop to the ground and sob and say it’s impossible. Not all the time, but not infrequently, based on some invisible standard he has for what he’s supposed to be able to do.

    The other day we took him somewhere where the hosts had a new Wii, and incautiously we let someone hector him into trying a baseball game, and even more incautiously after SS was done striking out we let my husband play it and he knocked two balls out of the imaginary park. About ten minutes we found SS in another room, sobbing in a corner, because he felt utterly humiliated that he’d done poorly and afterwards had been shown up by his own dad. Pointing out to him that he wasn’t five yet and his dad is much older, pointing out that his dad played real-life baseball for years and he hasn’t even had the chance to do formal t-ball yet, pointing out that it was his first time playing this kind of game… didn’t help. He’s supposed to be good at everything and if he’s not, it’s a disaster.

    It’s hard to see how this kind of thing could be characterized as ‘works at a problem until a solution is found’, and I’m honest enough to say so. Perhaps I should reassess that approach though if no one else is!

  42. jen

    Yeah, those papers are tough. We had A evaluated at a private testing center when he was 4 1/2 because we knew something was up and by God, we needed help with it. I’m sure his school will just love me when I bring it up again. And I hear ya about the SPD, ’cause that’s just all kinds o’ fun.

  43. Not The Mama

    I love it! Monkey’s come back about being invisible was fantastic. I wish I could think that quickly on my feet.

  44. Nicole/wksocmom

    That was great. I already see that in my 3 and 4 year old and without thinking I tell him that yes he’s a fast runner, but he can’t yet swim with his head under water and his brother is younger so it’s okay he can’t swim yet. Such a mean mommy. And the three year old, can simply do anything his brother can and don’t even think about arguing with that. I have to keep my parent’s and husband in check cuz I really don’t think my kids are “gifted” – above average intelligence, okay, but really not geniuses – again with the mean mommy, huh?

  45. leukothea

    “Are there really people who read through these and go, “Nope, sorry, young BillyBob gives up immediately, either that or he done just keep slamming his head into that there wall until there’s nothing left but a bloody stump, oh well” and then are honest about that?”

    Yes. That described me for most of my life, and it describes my 2-year old daughter as well. I tell myself that she’s only 2, and she may grow out of it, with help. I hope that I can help her learn to persevere instead of giving up immediately if she can’t do something perfectly the first time she tries.

  46. Manic Mommy

    I though HRH was color blind up until about 2 1/2 because he called everything “blue”. Nope just a neurotic Mommy.

    As for the invisibility thing, I can only think of Burt from the 70s show, Soap.

    They may be gifted but they’re certainly normal, bickering siblings. Thank God.

  47. carolyn

    That Monkey is hilarious and knows all the right buttons, doesn’t he.

    Mir, I did the same thing with my kids when they were babies. I thought my daughter was what regular babies were like, so when the son came along, he seemed slow. Now, with one in high school and one in middle school, I see that he is actually way off the charts in most things, while she has what we call “strength of personality”.

  48. carson

    I would be laughing until I cry if I were actually online.

  49. Karen

    I told you your kids reminded me of my brother and I. The competitiveness cemented it, totally. So freaking funny.

    (and yes, I’m catching up on my fave blogs, not stalking you. How the hell did you bang our 9 entries since I was here last? Sheesh.)

  50. Therese

    Just a word of warning–this competitiveness DOES NOT end. My sons are both in the military, and the older wants to retake the ASVAB (the military test that determines what you can do) just because the younger one scored higher!

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