Last week, my friend told me his 5-year-old granddaughter was gifted. Evidently, she tested high on a kindergarten entrance examination. His proclamation of her genius reminded me of a time long ago when my kids were growing up.
In 1988, I took my son to his first day of Novi pre-school. The school was located in a trailer off of Taft Road. When we arrived, there was a long line of parents and children waiting in line to meet the teacher.
The idea was to introduce yourself and your child to the teacher and try to ease any anxiety your kid was feeling. My son Danny seemed excited and nervous as we found ourselves next in line. I couldn't help noticing the woman in front of me. She was very pretty and I recognized her son as a playmate of Danny's. He had been at my house many times before.
She greeted the teacher and introduced her son “Vincent.” Then the fun started. She told the teacher that Vincent was showing signs of being a great artist and she hoped the teacher would help him to develop and fulfill his potential. As I looked at the young Picasso, I wondered why I’d never noticed his impending genius. After all, this kid had been at my house many times and I consider myself somewhat perceptive.
Then I remembered an incident that probably threw me off. This 4-year-old Davinci had needed to use the bathroom at our house one day. He asked politely enough and proceeded to pee in the bathtub. I felt so foolish now that I had let that one minor event block me from recognizing this prodigy. Even though I was mad at myself for ever doubting him, this incident opened my eyes to a painful reality.
It seemed that Novi was flooded with gifted and talented students. As much as I loved my boys, I had to consider the possibility that they were the only mediocre children in Novi.
As that fear took hold, I started recognizing some ominous signs. Not only were these kids smart, but so were the schools themselves. I drove by Novi school after Novi school with an “exemplary” designation etched into the building for all to see.
I never understood why so many parents are adamant about their kid attending an exemplary school. All the kids do well there and you’re just another fish in the brilliant pond. My idea was to send the kids to a low-ranking school so they could really shine. Unfortunately my wife got caught up in what I call the MEAP Score Conspiracy and set off to raise the next Doogie Howser. Can you imagine the pressure on my wonderful yet scholastically mortal children?
While my kids were playing sports and Legos, I started thinking they were being left behind by the future chemists and neurologists. I remember thinking that although my boys were great at four square, their expertise may not help them when they hit the workplace. I panicked and hired some tutors. Why should these other kids have an advantage over mine?
For six months, they were tutored in Math, Science and English, as I desperately tried to help them catch up. We tried, but alas my boys were not interested. Although they were the light of my life, I had to accept them for who they were, and had to admit that when the final tally was in, as painful and demoralizing as it was, Novi would have at least three kids who could not memorize the periodic table. My money was not totally wasted though because even though my boys were not helped, the tutors became much better at four square.
Then out of nowhere I had a great idea, I figured out how to raise their self esteem. I'll let them join the wrestling team. Wrestling or better known as the great equalizer. That's it, I thought. Finally, my kids could compete on a level playing field.
You see, I wrestled way back when and quite frankly, I remembered what dummies the wrestlers were. At my school, most of these kids only wrestled as part of their probation requirements. To play sports you had to carry a C average at all times.
In order to field a team, they had to lower the standard for wrestlers. After some administrative discussions, a decision was made that the kids could wrestle: if they could keep a D average, agree to only give the vice principal two swirlies a week, and stop trying to pin the school nurse.
Once again, however, I had miscalculated. This was not 1970 anymore and this was not just a wrestling team — this was Novi’s wrestling team. This fact was brought home to me during the team banquet. Each wrestler was asked to say his name and announce his grade point average. My son went first and I was never prouder. He shouted out 3.1 with confidence.
I looked around the room as if to say, Take that you pompous pseudo intellectuals. Then my worst nightmare. They came out fast and furious.
3.8 3.9 4.0 3.9 3.7 4.1 (4.1? Honors classes.)
It's 20 years later and all has turned out well. My kids have found their place in the world. As they look back now, they realize that although it was tough, graduating from a well respected school like Novi gave them a real advantage to face the future with. Believe me — if I had it to do all over again, I would send them to Novi High and not change a thing.
I hope you don’t think I was too hard on my boys in this article. It’s just that I wanted them to follow in their fathers footsteps. I don’t mean to brag but I scored a 33 on my college entrance exam. Of course, that was before they invented the ACT test, so I’m pretty sure that’s from my IQ test. Those numbers never made much sense to me.