Today I learned that I have two gifted children. It’s just that one of them, Charlotte, aka MiniMe, is so diminished by her big sister Sophie’s accomplishments, that she tends to skulk into the shadows. She has low self esteem, is slightly depressed, lonely, and needs to eat better and get more exercise. If my mother were reading this, she’d say: “That’s the way YOU were.”
Truly. Only I didn’t have a team at school consisting of teachers, psychologists, and consultants who thought I was worth worrying about. There was that flock of nuns that chased me with a yardstick. I spent a lot of my grammar school years being punished, beaten with a yardstick or a paddle, stood in the corner and kept for detention, mostly because I spaced out.
Last night I was given the report that we were to go over together at school today. Just before bed I started reading it and I didn’t move for 45 minutes, until I was through. Much of what I read, I agreed with. She often needs to be reminded to stay on task. Her emotions and moods are all over the map. She’s forgetful, she loses things, she doesn’t turn in her homework, she avoids the hard stuff. She’ll lose school books throughout the school year. We find them — in her backpack. Once we dig out the rocks (for fossils and olivine!), the broken bird eggs, the crown flower leaves, the dead butterflies and lizard tails, we sometimes find that which we thought was turned in ages and ages ago. I look at her, she looks at me, and we have this communion of sadness between us. Years ago I was so this kid.
We also find pages and pages and pages of her drawings. All crinkled and scrunched up, mostly kittens and cats, often in the style of anime, some as super heroes, some as super villains, some as dead with bandages and blood and hatchets coming out of their heads. Nice. This was the sort of art that gave her teachers pause. These drawings are very good, but they are haunting. It’s not your typical little girl fare, but IMHO it’s an indication that what we have here is a kid who’s about to turn 10 years old and a mom who wants to just ship her off to PIXAR. NOW.
There’s one more meeting. Charlotte needs help with her organizational skills. She’s brilliant, her reading and vocabulary and science levels are beyond excellent, she just turns off her powers when the math gets served up. She’ll try so very hard. Then she goes dark. She shuts down. Her mind wanders, she finds something else to do, she is forever in search of a happy place where there is none of that hard stuff to stretch her brain beyond capacity. Thing is, she could do it.
I had this sort of thing, but even worse. I couldn’t do English grammar to save my life even though I loved to tell stories. I wrote letters that people would keep forever. When we first started dating, John cured me of saying, “I wish I was…” I didn’t understand what he meant by the subjunctive. When I was on staff at Kapio, the student newspaper at Kapiolani Community College, our advisor Winnie Au put several of us in a remedial grammar class. I didn’t master proper English grammar until I was in college. This writing that I do? Someone took the time to help me be what I am, what I’m supposed to be. Mahalo, Winnie, so very much!
Fortunately for Charlotte, this is happening for her now, just as she’s about to turn 10 next month. We’re finding what’s good in her and targeting that for cultivation and encouragement. We’re finding what needs to be adjusted, tweaked, and redirected so she’ll be successful in school. We’re recruiting her sister and hero, Sophie, for positive reinforcements. I signed the family up for The Oahu Club again so we can go swimming a few times a week after dinner to left off some steam and to sleep better. I’ll meet with her pediatrician to discuss the report.
Many thanks to Jen Kozuma, her teacher, for insisting that something be done for Charlotte before she got thrown into the pit that is middle school where children are let loose on a campus and have to keep track of all sorts of things for all sorts of classes in all sorts of buildings. We want to be able to throw Charlotte into the deep end with confidence that she’ll be able to swim.