Sunday, March 9, 2008

Making connections

In the last few days, a couple of incidents have reminded me how much I value community when dealing with the navigation of AJ’s education. For a long time, I have been feeling very, very alone in this venture. It’s the chief reason I started this blog, in hopes that I could gradually build a community of other parents going through similar things, a community that could share ideas, argue about controversial issues, support each other when needed, help each other figure things out. One of the most challenging things about parenting a child with advanced academic skills is that you’re afraid to mention to anyone. They think you’re bragging, don’t understand how challenging it can be, and sometimes get competitive.

This is why I was overjoyed to hear from N’s mom on Thursday. N is a boy in another first grade class who is paired with AJ for reading. AJ’s a little more developed, but N is a little more focused – AJ still tends to speed through things a little too fast and can’t always recall the details. The two of them work extremely well together and they’ve become good friends. When we sent out the invitations to AJ’s birthday party last week, N’s was one of the first ones we addressed. His mother called me as soon as she got the invitation, even before N had gotten home from school to see it. “I’ve been meaning to call you for so long,” she said. Although we’ve never spoken before, save a cordial hello a few years ago when the boys were in gymnastics together (so long ago that none of us really remembers it), we ended up talking for 45 minutes, 45 minutes filled with “wow, your son too?” moments. AJ and N both love chess and books and Pokemon. N memorizes infomercials, which is something AJ would do if we’d let him watch them. Just because he could. They are both picky eaters. And perhaps weirdest of all, they both have the same birthday. None of these coincidences may have anything to do with their giftedness of course, but we two parents were just so happy to have someone to talk to about it. It is difficult to think you’re the only one. And now that our kids have found someone to work with, we have too. N’s mom is also an ex public school teacher and like me, has been doing some more academic volunteer work in her son’s classroom. I think that if there’s lobbying to be done, she will be an excellent partner in crime.

We also learned this week that AJ has another modified curriculum buddy, this one in math. And this one happens to be one of his best friends in his class. AJ’s school experience is suddenly getting a lot more social. And consequently, so is mine.

The last epiphany on the importance of community was last night, when our whole family went to the home of friends for a sort of informal reunion with a bunch of us who knew each other in my first years of graduate school. The hosts were my friends Mr. and Mrs. Unfocused. AJ and their daughter Unfocused Daughter (UD) have known each other, well, since they were in utero, really. Mrs. Unfocused and I were working together when we both became pregnant. Mrs. Unfocused recommended her OB to me and we all took our childbirth classes together. AJ and UD were born a couple of weeks apart at the same hospital. Logistics of scheduling and geography mean we don’t get together as often as we would like, but every time we do manage a visit, I always wish we did it a lot more often. AJ and UD were inseparable all night long. As I wrote in my post at spynotes today, whenever they get together, I picture in my head the two supermagnets AJ has that when you put them down on the floor, whiz towards each other with a convincing “clack.”

AJ was so excited to be with a kid his age who likes the things he likes. The kids he works with in math and reading at school are great, but neither is where AJ is. UD and AJ appear to me to be much more in the same place. Meanwhile, although we didn’t have much of a chance to talk about it last night, I love having Mrs. Unfocused to bounce ideas off of and even just to share our frustrations with educational systems that often seem counterproductive. Community is just as important for the parents as for their children.

All of this has renewed my interest in having more writers here. I’ve written to a couple of you this week in hopes that you might join in this project and I’ve asked Mrs. Unfocused if she’d consider it as well. If anyone else would like to participate, leave a comment or email me at harri3tspyATgmailDOTcom.


Mrs. Unfocused said...

Mrs. Unfocused here. Mr. Unfocused mentioned that the possibility of my making a guest appearance here was posted today, and I have been busily thinking about what I'd like to add on this topic, which has basically been an all-consuming one for me of late. Honestly I have so much to say I'm afraid I might make a nuisance of myself.

Still and all, I'll get to work on it--but not until I come up with a better handle for myself than Mrs. Unfocused. I suspect my husband of inventing it for me as a form of passive-agressive commentary on the fact that I failed to take his name upon the occasion of our marriage...I must say it's a little unsettling to be a Mrs. in cyberspace (where one is supposed to be permitted to live out one's idealized identity to a degree) when I haven't spent a day as a Mrs. in real life!

Harriet said...

Excellent, Mrs. U (or whatever you decide to call yourself)! In my blog, Mr. Spy is named for my pseudonym --maybe it's how I get back at him for me changing my name! I'll email you about blogging when I get a chance. In the mean time, check out the first 2 or 3 posts from January 2007 for the gist of what I had in mind for this blog and see if it suits you!

Jeanne said...

I love your Harriet the Spy blog, which I discovered recently from talking to Lemming. Harriet the Spy is also one of my favorite childhood books. The summer I turned 11, I reread it almost every day (we were living in Hawaii and I didn't have many other books). Anyway, I have an 11-year-old son who is gifted and still scraping by in the local public middle school. He skipped third grade and has always needed lots of what you do with AJ (teachers call it "supplementation"). If you're interested in some tales of the challenges of parenting an older kid, I can certainly contribute some.

Harriet said...

Yes, yes, Jeanne! I'd love it if you'd join in. It's funny you should write today, because I just noticed the link to your blog on lemming's page today and decided to poke around. I enjoyed it very much. I see you already have a blogger ID, so it's a matter of me adding you to the authors for this page. I'll get back to you once I've got that going. It looks like there are going to be several new writers here, so I'll probably send out an email to everyone in a couple of days. Or whenever my workload lets me get it. My son's birthday party is this weekend so as I'm sure you'll understand, not everything is going according to plan this week!

My Kids' Mom said...

I'm browsing! You have lots to read here and at spynotes!

I was thrilled when Pook started in the gifted program here. I found out that once you're in, you stay in through high school. Seems wrong somehow, but I guess if they think you're gifted, they think you'll remain so. But what made me so pleased is that he might finally have a good set group of friends who are academic peers. He's a follower, by nature, and hasn't always picked the best role models. Some years yes, some no. I disliked pre-k role model, but he moved. Kindergarten role model was sweet but clearly not a good academic match, and was retained in kindergarten. First grade hasn't provided anyone special. There seem to be a crowd of boys who hang out, but no one special friend until recently. Now I realize that the twelve first graders I see him with are probably the twelve he'll be hanging around with for the next eleven years. That I can live with.