A few days ago, I received the stunning news that Alexander was being recommended for the Academically/ Intellectually Gifted (AIG) program in math. My first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding!” This is a kid who has cried hot angry tears over math homework too many times for me to recount. A child who despairs when he does not understand a concept and is irritated when problems are time consuming or take multiple steps, a child who refuses to learn the multiplication tables and begs to use a calculator. Both kids have been in AIG reading/ language arts for the past few years, but MATH? REALLY?
Along with my initial surprise, I also felt some immediate trepidation along the lines of “It will be too hard for him. He’ll be frustrated. He won’t do well.” Quick on the heels of these thoughts was the certainty that Zander would not want to be in an advanced math class, which would be challenging and require more work; he would surely veto the idea. However, I was wrong; when I broached the topic, he said he wanted to try it.
Then a funny thing happened. Strange, fantastical images began to flit through my mind. Visions of my child discovering his inner math genius, suddenly relishing homework and being excited about going to school, everything coming easily to him as he realized how much he enjoyed learning. In other words, I envisioned an altogether DIFFERENT child.
That’s when it hit me. I was being the fisherman’s wife! I have a vague recollection of the fisherman’s wife fable from childhood. The story is about a woman (the fisherman’s wife) who is granted a number of wishes by a magic fish and keeps wishing for more and more extravagant things until, ultimately, the fish, in disgust, takes away all she has gained and places her back in her original humble position.
I’ve referred to this allegorical tale in family discussions quite a bit, but I never envisioned myself as the fisherman’s wife; it was always someone else (usually my husband) that I was calling out as being a malcontent. Yet, a little reflection leads me to realize that I have been more of a grasper than I realized when it comes to my children.
When the kids started public school as first graders (after attending their Kindergarten year at a Montessori school), they were literally at the bottom of their class in terms of academic skills. There was actually a list (which I saw inadvertently) and my children’s names were last. At the first grading period, it was suggested that perhaps Zoe and Alexander should be pulled out of first grade and placed in Kindergarten at another school. This idea was discarded and instead tutoring was arranged and the kids received help from a reading specialist. Of course, they did learn to read, and two years later, they both qualified for the AIG reading program. They’ve grown and progressed in other ways, too, and have always been good kids who generally don’t get into trouble or cause problems at school and have plenty of friends.
Yet, I continue to wish for more. Children to whom things come easily. Children who always have a good attitude. Children who rise to every challenge. I’ll justify this by saying I want them to be happy — and I want to be happy, too!
But obviously the easier road to happiness lies in accepting and appreciating my children the way they are, rather than hoping for them to magically be transformed into something else. It’s amazing how my own worries and stress can obscure this basic knowledge.
So, let the journey continue and the new math adventure begin — broken pencils and all!