“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I hop on my bicycle, set the electrical engine to four and hit the bicycle path. Add in a little music (Thunderstruck by ACDC) and soon I’m almost flying over the asphalt on the rhythm of drums, guitar and traffic. Oft I have to stop in front of a traffic light, especially when commuting. As the Netherlands is filled with cyclists I slip by them left and right, hitting a bit of pavement here and there. Can’t really get up to speed in the city, that happens later when I get to the area in between the rivers. Not a lot of traffic, good cycling paths and right of way… yeah, now I’m getting somewhere. But it is not a smooth ride until I do get there, on more than one occasion I had to stop in front of a traffic light for a few minutes, and those kids I left in my wake three kilometers back, yeah, the second before the light goes green they stop right next to me, cheerfully squabbling. It is pretty clear that no matter how fast your engine and you go, you need room to move. You need to make that room yourself by choosing the right path, and by that same token, room needs to be made by cyclists and drivers alike to let you pass. And that is where it turns into a bumpy ride, because just like on the road a dutch classroom is filled to the brim, traffic rules are in place to prevent one from going too fast because they are primarily meant to keep a crowd under control and despite your speed you often get overtaken or you engage obstacles that won’t budge. This year we hope to go a little faster, not because we want to go as fast as possible but because we want to see our kids happy.
Stop!lights (here we engage a dutch linguistical joke, traffic lights can be translated as stop-lights 😉 )
Unfortunately, a lot of people recognize our story. On her first day of school, our eldest observed the other kids in her class and adopted their behavior within the space of a few hours. One of the teachers later complimented her on that: “It is amazing that kids can adopt their ways so quickly isn’t it?” Yes, well, yes it is and no, it is not, and that’s the issue: By adapting she lost part of herself, resulting in problems. When not at school she acted out, slept badly, her speech level deteriorated, in short, our daughter was not feeling very well. Holidays were a time of bliss where she regained what she lost but as soon as she went back to school.. and she adopted more than just outward communicative behavior and did not show what she was capable of. We kept talking to the school, told them we thought our daughter was gifted but the teachers refused to listen. Only when we had serious issues at home during the nights did the teachers budge, a bit. Around age six we managed to get an IQ-test done, somewhat by luck as most testers have long waiting lists, by a qualified and experienced tester, and the result was quite shocking: 90% of the school material had to be compressed, altered, modified or expanded upon, and an IQ score was impossible to give as the test has a ceiling and she quite easily scored above the ceiling whilst still underperforming due to a fear of failure. To then arrange this as a parent is a daunting task. Six months later school admitted that they were clueless as to what to do with her. We enlisted our children at a different school with a unit for the gifted. Currently, there is no room at the unit but at least there is expertise. Our son wasn’t much different from his elder sister so the change benefitted both. There are still bumps in the road, and the new school is only reachable by car, but the happiness of our children is paramount and for now they seem to enjoy going to school.
You can’t build a bridge on your own
Co-operating with teachers so your kid gets an optimal education and developmental program is a parenting ideal, and with gifted children there is no room to lean back. We really want to help, do what we need to do and more at home, got a professional on board to help with her fear of failure and maintain an active connection with the teachers at school. Oddly enough, children with a really good set of cognitive skills get used to being able to do everything in one go so failing is a skill that needs to be taught. We cuddle them like crazy – squished kids is the goal. I do not want super children, never wanted them, but I would really like to see them get an education that meets their needs, provides them with social development so they become well-rounded individuals and a have a good time at school. Their current teachers are an improvement and the school system offers room to run ahead in individual subjects, a definite advantage when confronted by asynchronous development because they are quite ahead in some areas but not in others. Goodwill is the mother of getting things done. Like any parent, we cheer for and with our kids when they overcome their difficulties. I hope we can travel some distance this year, with a few bumps in the road to overcome but also a good speed, a good feeling and a lot of fun.