MY HUSBAND'S GOLFING buddy, Mike, has twin daughters. Their names are Ashley and Amanda, and they are 8 years old. They have blond ringlets and wide gray eyes. And as their father will tell anyone willing to listen, they are gifted.
Mike first informed my husband of his twins' precociousness during the celebratory 18 holes of golf following their birth. Ashley, Mike bragged, was already flashing smiles, and Amanda could grip her daddy's pinky with Herculean strength.
As the girls grew, they crawled, walked, and talked in record time. Or so their father said, and we dared not tell him otherwise. As objective bystanders, my husband and I assessed the twins' progress as developmentally average. We chuckled, in the privacy of our own home, of course, at Mike's blatant bias.
When my husband and I had children, Brady and then Caroline, we armed ourselves with irony against such parental prejudice. "Must be gifted," my husband joked when Brady toddled across the living room at the tender age of 9 months. "Tiger Woods in training," we said when our son
putted 10 consecutive golf balls into a plastic cup on his third birthday. "Ought to be in pictures," we crowed about Caroline's Gerber Baby face.
Other parents in our social circle joined in on the "gifted" joke, too. One friend was fond of boasting about his spirited son's early mastery of the temper tantrum. A mom we know declared her preschooler "dentally advanced" after he knocked out his two front teeth in a fall from the jungle gym.
But only when a friend gave me an article about truly gifted children did I
wonder if the "joke" was on me. I read about a grammar-school child who did calculus, and a toddler who watched Mr. Rogers on television, and then walked over to the family piano and plinked out the theme song.
Looking up from the magazine article, I felt oddly deflated. Did these stories mean that my own children weren't really gifted? And had I, like Mike, actually come to believe that they were?
A week later, I was helping with math in Brady's kindergarten classroom. I beamed as my son sailed through 2+2 and 3+3. But a classmate pooh-poohed Brady's problems as too easy. The teacher tossed out a series of multiplication questions, and as the classmate batted the correct answers back, I felt the blow.
The next afternoon, I sat cheering from on the sidelines of Brady's soccer game. The ball was wide open in front of the goal, with Brady the closest player. He sauntered toward the ball while chewing on his fingernails, then stopped a foot short. Joseph, the young Pele of his team, shot up from behind and scored.
I sighed in disappointment, and then sought consolation in my daughter's "genius."
Not yet 2 years old, Caroline sat on my lap perusing an Uncle Wiggily book. Pointing at pictures of the old hare, she was clearly pronouncing him "Rabbit Gentleman." Another soccer mom leaned close. "I know a little girl," she said, "who is the same age and can already read."
Driving home, I wallowed in the realization that my children might be average. "Mommy," Brady said, interrupting my sulk, "Joseph is sure good at soccer."
"Yes...." I conceded, scrambling for words that would bolster my son's self-esteem.
"Alan is the smartest kid in my class," he continued. "He can do multiplication. And I'm the best at T-ball. Yep, I sure am a slugger!"
I peeked at his face in the rear-view mirror. He beamed with appreciation for his friends' talents as much as for his own. I was touched by his generous spirit.
"Brady," I said, eager to commend his sensitivity toward others, "I'm proud that you're such a..."
"Gentleman," Caroline piped up from her car seat.
Coincidence? Maybe. But I prefer to think she's gifted.