It was clear from an early age that my oldest son was different. He walked early, talked early, and read his first novel (Harry Potter) when he was 4. When the time came, the gifted program was a natural fit for him.
Since he was our first child, he set the benchmark for what a baby should be. When my second son wasn’t walking by 1, my husband and I were puzzled; when he wasn’t talking in full sentences by 2, we were concerned; and, when he wasn’t reading in kindergarten, we asked the teacher if everything was OK with him.
It was, of course. More than OK. He is, by all accounts, a bright, articulate, responsible kid.
My boys do lots of things together. They both take karate, they both play baseball, and they both go to the same cozy elementary school. And yet… their approach to life could not be any more different. In karate, my oldest son is fierce and aggressive; my middle son is gentle and careful. When they lose baseball games, my oldest son fights off angry tears; my younger son revels in that great catch he made in the second inning. At school recess, my oldest son plays competitive sports with his gangs of buddies; my younger son makes up complicated games of pretend with his two best friends.
While I no longer feel the urge to compare them, I do still worry about them comparing themselves to each other. This is especially true for my younger son. I can’t help but wonder how he feels when he sees his brother being used as an example of excellent karate skills in almost every class, or when he hears him bragging about how many friends he has, or when he listens to him talk about projects that he does in his gifted class.
For the most part, my younger son seems fine. In fact, he often seems to be more confident than his older brother. Instead of mentioning the areas he might not be the best at, he focuses on his strengths and really seems to revel in doing things his own way. He tells me that he prefers having only two close friends because they care about him more than a bunch of casual ones would. He tells me that he doesn’t have to be the best at karate or baseball to have fun. He tells me that his skills are in deep thinking and creativity rather than reading and math (although he does fine in those areas, too).
And… until recently… he’s told me that he’s happy not to have the extra work that the gifted program would require.
Last week, at dinner, my younger son looked at me with his enormous hazel eyes and told me that he feels left out because his two best friends are always leaving to go to the gifted program. He asked me if I could sign him up for gifted, too.
My stomach curled up into a tight knot. The thought of hurting my sweet, sensitive son made it difficult to know what to say.
Should I tell him that no teacher had ever thought to test him for the program? That I had never thought to have him tested?
And then it struck me… Why haven’t I ever had him tested? He is certainly a deeper thinker than most kids I’ve met. And, although his grades are not stellar, it is well known that grades aren’t the only indicator of IQ. Also, research has shown that siblings are typically within a few IQ points of each other.
It struck me that the biggest reason I’d never asked to have my younger son tested was that I didn’t want to shake that beautiful, emerging confidence that he has built up. The idea of him taking the test and not making it into gifted seemed more than he could handle.
Eventually, I told him I wasn’t sure why he wasn’t in it, and I’d look into it. Brief. Vague. A stalling tactic, essentially.
And, here I am, a week later, and I still haven’t taken any steps to have him tested. The truth is taking risks is a part of life. If he’d asked me to try out for the travel team in baseball or the chess club, I wouldn’t have hesitated. And, if he didn’t make it, I’d comfort him, tell him to keep trying, and remind him of all the other ways he is wonderful and talented.
But, there is something about assessing IQ that cuts to the very quick of who we are as humans. It’s a measure, not just of our skills, but of our inherent traits…something we can do very little about.
If he takes the test and realizes his IQ is not in the gifted range, will he doubt himself in other ways? Will he start to feel resentful towards his brother? Will he lose some of that amazing confidence that he has?
I’m not sure. I’m still looking into it… and I could use any advice you’ve got.