Recently, a fellow mother and good friend of mine suggested that my son, just barely two, was gifted.
As proof, she cited an article she'd read on a popular parenting Web site, and over a cup of coffee, while our kids stuck a plastic potato with plastic body parts, she revealed some of the characteristics of a toddler with potentially above-average intelligence: bigger than average vocabulary; concentration almost to obsessive levels and constant outward signs of frustration, such as throwing said plastic body parts across the room - this last one because their little minds sometimes work faster than they can express.
This did sound like my son, but doesn't it sound like lots of 2-year-olds you know? Though I dismissed my friend's assertion - after all, at the varying rates at which children of this age develop, how can you determine a two-year-old is gifted? - I did so with the fervor with which one refuses a second helping of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner.
"It wouldn't surprise me, since you were," my friend said.
I'd almost forgotten. And I swear this is not a thinly-veiled attempt to reveal my own early-identified intelligence. But I did have my brief shining moment in the sun when I was chosen to participate in a "gifted and talented" program in elementary school. Now, her suggestion was making some sense.
But still, I ultimately dismissed it as pure silliness.
Later that afternoon, however, as my son napped and I attempted to work, I found myself reading from the National Association for Gifted Children Web site, clicking through pages of informal assessments to determine if a child is indeed gifted. I didn't let it last long, though, as I had a deadline to meet. Not to mention that I couldn't find any information about children my son's age.
That night, I told my husband about my friend's thoughts. He rolled his eyes. "Let him be a kid," he said.
Now, I am definitely NOT the type of parent who already has dreams of her toddler going to Harvard (although I wouldn't mind it, of course, except for the tuition bills) or thinks that the only way my child will succeed in life is by taking an entrance exam for an expensive private preschool, but still I asked, "Well, what if he is? Shouldn't we encourage it?"
I knew this was ridiculous. And as I said it, a smile spread across my lips. I've always been a big believer in not rushing things. And, he is only two. But. What if?
"Let him be a kid," my husband said again in a tone that signified, for him, the conversation about our potential Einstein was over. I didn't argue, because I agreed with him.
But it did make me think about how I will approach issues like this as my son grows older. Do I encourage the characteristics and talents I see him developing, or, let them unfold naturally, so that there is no outside pressure or expectation? A long time ago, I promised myself I would not be a pushy parent, so I think I'll choose to let whatever it is, as long as there's something, unfold, and, when it's right, when he asks or shows true passion for something appropriate, I'll step in, and help him in whatever way I can.