Every parent wants her child to be advanced, so you can imagine my surprise and pleasure when I realized that Sam, 3, was clearly whining on a first grade level. His heaving sighs and his weary gasps of â€œOooh-Kaayâ€ when required to complete a less than desirable task, like picking up a toy or peeing in the toilet, reminded me irresistibly of the little girl across the street, whose aimless heel kicking and pouting I had long admired. His â€œbut Iâ€™m not tired!â€ rivaled anything Iâ€™d yet heard her offer, no matter how close to bedtime. And she was actually on her way into second grade! I felt so proud.
Normally not a man to be thrilled at the thought that his son does anything like a seven-year-old girl, my husband greeted the news of Samâ€™s prowess with disbelief at first, followed by growing acceptance. We had a prodigy on our hands, and the only questions that remained were first, which side of the family had produced this gift (which we debated intensely) and second, how to see that he received an education which would foster his talents. We set about drafting a note for his pre-school teachers and began to consider private school. I have to admit that home-schooling never crossed our minds.
Fortified by the knowledge that Sam was destined for greatness, perhaps on the talk-show circuit, I began to see other areas where he was performing above his age level. His excuses were brilliantâ€”mini-masterpieces such as â€œBut I was just trying to see if she was awakeâ€ and â€œI was just going to look at itâ€ actually worked, the first few times. His manipulation was Machiavellian. He melted hearts and postponed bedtimes with lines like â€œI have a kiss for you!â€ and the classic â€œYouâ€™re much better at it than Daddy, Mommy.â€
Even in areas where weâ€™d fondly believed he was a late bloomer, Samâ€™s performance suddenly began to exceed our expectations. Once convinced he was incapable of climbing out of his bed on his own, he now put in regular nightly appearances in our bedroom. While he remained too open to new foods to succeed as a picky eater, he began to reject many options, usually by opening his mouth and allowing the half-masticated remnants to drop back onto his plate. And although he continued to insist that we dress him, he proved adept at such textile-related tasks as loosening his car seat and undressing his baby sister.
I soon realized that he was destined to be an all-rounder, as strong on the playing field as off. Unable as yet to hit a tennis ball without assistance, he threw down his racket and sobbed with all the gusto of a young John McEnroe when it was time to go home. His knack with a plastic bat was unmistakable, though he continued to choose not to exercise his skills on the ball, and he proved similarly gifted with his small driver and putter. We found his interest in kicking a soccer ball increased dramatically when provided with a target, and the dogs soon learned to get out of the way.
As with many gifted children, Sam is often misunderstood. Even his loving family sometimes finds his prescience difficultâ€”heâ€™s sometimes so far ahead of the rest of us that he crushes boxes for recycling before theyâ€™re quite empty or anticipates sunrise by hours. We understand, though, that proximity to greatness comes at a cost, and we will continue to cherish him. When he sleeps, we will listen for the stomping footsteps and slamming doors that auger his presence; when he wakes, we will gather him close, realizing that while these gifts may be short-lived, others will surely follow.
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