I live on the edge of a rather large neighborhood in my city, with its own culture, identity, and Facebook neighborhood group. My husband is a member, and recently he told me about a discussion they were having about neighborhood schools. They were talking about how the schools were improving and how they were even attracting students away from the city's gifted and talented magnet school, students who were tired of the "high pressure environment" there.
I sighed uneasily when he told me. "It doesn't seem high-pressure," I said. "P hasn't felt any pressure at all. It's actually been the best school experience he's had in a long time.
"Maybe there's more pressure in the upper grades," my husband replied.
"Maybe," I replied. I still felt uneasy.
It kept rattling around in the back of my mind all weekend. This morning, though, I finally put my finger on what was bugging me. Maybe it isn't that the G&T school is that pushy...maybe it's that adults can't look at a group of high-achieving kids without assuming that their teachers and parents are cracking the whip behind them.
I'm not sure if Jen from Laughing at Chaos coined the phrase, "I'm not pushing, he's pulling," but her blog was the first place I ran across it. This is the first entry I read after P's rather dramatic entry into the world of gifted students, and the phrase really stuck with me. In the past I didn't really get that line too much with P...he would learn about topics of interest with such single-minded passion that nobody could assume I was pushing him. It also helped that I knew nothing about what he was chasing. Geology? Dinosaurs? Army vehicles? I got nothing. I had no hand in this. Within ten seconds of warming up to someone enough to speak with them, he'd start to spout off on his topic of choice while I shrugged helplessly.
However, now P is a little more socially aware, and some people wonder if the well-spoken little kid is the result of intentional cultivation. Still, where I'm getting that more and more is with my daughter, E. E is just as smart as P, but ten times as competitive and socially smart. At school she's popular with the kids (but lonely - that's another entry) and a joy to the adults. Instead of pursuing different interests and dropping them after six months like P does, she's made it her mission for the last two years to study animals in hopes of becoming a field biologist. She is the one that I've started to get remarks on..."You must really push her at home." "You must work with her all the time." "You have to remember to let her be a kid."
It's getting harder to shrug off. And as I parent my three wonderful, outside-the-box kids, I doubt myself. They're really not that different. I should make them act more normal. They have to act normal, don't they? They have to learn to get along with other people to be happy. They have to fit in. But then I realize that any pushing I do is not pushing them to achieve higher, it's pushing them to be typical.
I am pushing them sometimes. And I really should stop.