The phone rings in the middle of the day and the caller ID is from Junior’s school.

Three things cross my mind: He’s in detention. He soiled himself. He got hurt.

“Hi Mrs. King, this is your son’s Math Reach Teacher.” (Reach is the accelerated program at school.)  “I wanted to talk to you about your son’s recent performance in class.”

I break into a sweat.

I have been so absorbed in work insanity and making sure that Missy was staying on top of her middle school stuff that I have no idea how he has been doing in third grade. In fact, in the fall he went two months without doing his Reading homework assignments. He spent a week making up the work during recess, after school and on the weekend and was grounded from video games.

“Um, what about it?” trying to fish out if he was failing or being quadruple promoted.

She couldn’t have been kinder as she explained that he has recently been struggling on his homework and tests.

I admitted that I haven’t been paying attention to him and had no clue about his scores. I just quickly scan the piles of school papers for permission slips and put them into the recycle bin. “No News is Good News” over here!

We set up a meeting for the following week.

When he got home, I asked Junior if he was having a tough time in Math. He just shrugged his shoulders and said that a couple of the units were hard because he was sick one day and had a sub another. He didn’t bother to ask anyone for help.

I gently told him that I spoke with his teacher and that we were going to meet to see how we can help him do better in class.

My son started to sob. “I’m gonna get kicked out of Reach!”

“Buddy, you aren’t getting kicked out. We just want to figure out how to get you back on track.”

“But mom, it’s the only thing I am proud of at school.”

My heart broke. He is nine years old. He shouldn’t have to worry about where he ranks. And we’ve never put the pressure on (obviously) to be perfect.

“You have a lot to be proud of. You are a creative writer. You are great at math. You like to read. You have lots of friends. You have an incredible sense of humor. You can make people laugh. Please don’t worry about this.”

“But mom,” he cried, “being in Reach just proves to everyone that I am smart.”

He buried his head in his hands and continued to cry.

When did being a little kid become so hard?

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.mom-mom-mom.com/2012/02/26/gifted/


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  1. lceel

    I think I might be more curious why it’s important to him that people think he’s smart. What drives that? I think I’d start there, and then work him back to understanding that he is AMAZING – all he has to do is be himself.

  2. Arnebya

    My middle girl is in third grade also. I am failing third grade math; she is not. It’s because daddy gets it (and I simply wait until he gets home for her to do math homework. I can help with all things spelling or written, but numbers? DECIMALS! FRACTIONS? HELL NO).

    I say this, though, in response to “when did being a little kid become so hard?” Over the weekend my nephew (also in 3rd) was visiting. I overheard their conversation about school and…test scores. WHAT THE FU…FUDGE. I was gonna say fudge. But seriously, what 8 yr olds sit around talking about test scores and what they need to work on (my daughter said to him she needed help with finding the main idea). This is just…wrong. It’s wrong. And it’s hard. And pressure filled. And also wrong.

  3. Mary Wiener

    Hi, Kar, I have a bit of experience in this arena, should you want some thoughts…email me or call

  4. Karen

    Thanks for the empathy and sound advice, everyone!

    My friend just commented on FB: “Do Not Get Excited About This Stuff- bright kids turn out fine, just work on keeping them considerate and balanced–that job is way harder, of course…”

    I just worry about Junior’s self-esteem going down the toilet. : (

  5. tracey

    Awww…. I’m sorry. I remember when one of my kids was sad that he was the “dumbest kid in first grade” which he WASN’T but nobody wants that label and he felt so slow. My heart broke and broke…

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