Chris and I loved to find out the gender of our babies in utero. This is actually pretty easy, if you have a good ultrasonographer and the baby is facing the right way. When we discovered that baby number two was a girl, I was fair to moderately freaked out.
A Girl? What on earth? I could handle boys! (said the experienced mom of fifteen months).What on earth would I do with a girl? We would completely mess her up. It was hopeless, from the beginning!
New moms can be so funny sometimes.
Faith was an effort from the beginning. She had this enormous head, and all the moms in the world reading this are wincing for me now. Thanks!
Have said that, in retrospect, it does seem as if that head made her born sentient. I was first clued into this possibility when she was about six months old, and had a loud, percussive bowel movement in her diaper. Everyone within earshot burst into laughter, and I teased her too! I remember her picking her enormous head up off my shoulder and looking at me as if I had just embarrassed her in front of her teenaged friends.
“How could you, Mom?” Her wrinkled face seemed to say as she started to wail.
The months went by, and she seemed to skip along her cognitive milestones like a flat stone on a lake. Reaching for things, trying to sing, pointing, appearing to focus the far distance, she did all sorts of interesting things, except walk.
She paid an inordinate amount of attention to the books we read, and would love to try to sing along to bedtime lullabies. She slept easily, and was very engaged in the world around her. When she was nearly a year, her pediatrician raised an alarm about her lack of interest in mobility. It has to be her head, she said. Let’s take her to a pediatric neurologist and see what’s to be done.
Most of you know the Denver Hydrocephalus Shunt story, and that I am the reason behind it. (My dad invented a shunt for hydrocephalus or “water on the brain” because I developed the condition when I was three.)
Naturally, everyone who had anything to do with me thought that I had to have given birth to another hydrocephalic baby. Of course, the doctor said, Faith needed an MRI promptly to see if her brain was pooling with fluid, and that would account for its’ enormous size.
I simply could not abide the idea of anesthetizing such a tiny human. The idea of needles and tubes running in and out of my toddler was too much to bear. Fair enough, the doctor said, keep her awake all night and she’ll sleep through an MRI scheduled first thing in the morning.
So, Chris, the lucky boy, went to bed, and I had rented the The Silence of the Lambs and The Night Of The Living Dead to scare myself awake all night. As I shivered through the movies, I would look at the baby from time to time. When she started to doze off, I dunked her little footie in a bowl of ice to shock her awake. It worked like a charm!
The doctor was right. She slept, er, like a baby, through the MRI and we discovered she didn’t have a thing in that cranium except brains. Thank God for that!
When she was three, she had a preschool teacher that loved to work with letter sounds. Anyone in the business knows that is way to early to try and teach little kids phonics. Really, she was barely out of diapers, and this teacher was all over “A is for Apple, B is for Boy….” and on and on.
The interesting thing about that, is that was just what Faith needed to break the code.
Truly, she and her siblings were doomed from the start toward academic success. Raised by two teachers in a house stuffed to the rafters with books, they didn’t have a chance.
But Faith was different. The other kids picked up reading quickly enough, and always lead the pack with standardized tests and the like. But Faith was so far off the curve it was nearly impossible to measure. Chris and I gave this a lot of thought over the years. The idea of “Gifted Education” started off OK, but has not aged well.
I know one or two of the leaders in the field, and they are truly concerned with these kids who are such anomalies. The problem that inevitably barreled down the tracks was, can you guess? Everyone was convinced their child was gifted!
Now, in the Biblical sense of the word, that is true. Jesus is clear that he gives everyone gifts, and in some cases he gives more to some than to others. The reason is a mystery. (I remember going to a medical conference with my parents once as a teen. I passed a beautiful, tall, youngish blonde woman in a striking red dress. I asked my mom if she knew who’s wife that was, she was so beautiful. My mom said that was Dr. So and So, a prominent neurologist who was presenting at the conference. Ouch. Lesson learned.)
Every child I have taught is gifted in some way. That is one of the best reasons that I love my job. It’s like digging for treasure, ferreting these things out.
But with Faith, the giftedness just kept coming. We started all the kids in piano at age 5, I thought and still think it helps their math. Faith’s first recital included 30 minutes of music, from memory.
Her first grade standardized test landed her somewhere in the high school range of reading. She breezed through two years of math per grade for several years, until Calculus started in tenth grade.
All this time Chris and I would keep coming back to the same place, having to constantly reassure ourselves that meeting the needs of a child like this within their peer group was the best thing. Faith could have easily been the twelve year old collegian people marvel over for a day in the news. We maintained that is a terrible thing to do a kid. Nine years of private, intense Christian education gave her the ethic to work hard,as well as a desire to please God and her elders.
High school was a different kettle of fish. In early 2006 Chris and I were scoping out our options for Christopher for high school. We both felt the impact of Columbine, and were very apprehensive about sending our kids to an overly centralized, liberal public school. We looked at all the Christian options, and finally decided to scope out Evergreen Senior High.
I was against it from the start. I had graduated there myself, and had about as many pleasant memories as Japanese internees must have had during the second World War.
So I had a plan. I started from the unlocked back entrance, and worked my way to the front.
It was a warm day in the beginning of April, and I let myself in the back door, wearing a long, concealing, camel hair duster. I had it buttoned to my neck, and I wandered around the rear end of the building, near the theater. I walked down the long hall, and peeked into rooms sporadically. Occasionally, I would greet a teacher, who would acknowledge me with a nod. I leisurely walked up the stairs, and did the same thing.
Finally, after about 30 minutes, I ended up at the front office, and asked to see the principal. EHS at the time was grinding through an incompetent series of leaders, at the rate of about one principal a year. The gentleman who was in charge at the time was an unfortunate, condescending, burned out husk of a man. He should have been driving a bus somewhere, instead of failing to inspire near-adults.
Admittedly, what I did was inflammatory, and I am certain I presented my concerns much less diplomatically to the principal than I could have. Still, in the era of Columbine, there was simply no excuse for not stopping an unknown, inappropriately clad adult who was wandering the halls for no reason.
The principal did not take my questions with any degree of equilibrium, and we parted in mutual disgust. EHS was off my list completely.
We very nearly had Christopher signed up to go to the nearest Christian high school, about an hour away. But when we sat down at took a good hard look at it, the facts of the matter were that EHS had a much larger slate of AP classes than any of the Christian schools at the time. With great hesitation, we decided to give it a go.
Fortunately for Christopher, he was nearing six feet tall as a fourteen year old freshman. He caught very little flak because of his size, and the bumps he experienced during his years there were manageable. We evaluated from year to year, always ready to pull him at a moment’s notice.
Faith, on the other hand, was challeged from the start. She and Abigail were two years ahead of the ‘typical’ curve in math in the ninth grade. With her usual enthusiasm, Faith would bounce into the classroom, sit in the center of the front row, all ears. She would race ahead of the teacher, and never hesitate to be the first one to answer. Unfortunately, she was also the first one to correct the teacher. She did this on a regular basis, as the teacher at the time had a shaky command of the material.
This quickly earned her the attention of anyone inclined to bully. It also did not endear her to the teacher. Typical of truly gifted kids, it didn’t occur to her that their might be some shades of relational gray to be had here.
“Sweetheart, once a day, I want you to give someone else a chance to answer before you raise your hand.”
“Honey, you are going to have to correct the teacher in private, or he’s not going to like you. That’s just how it works.”
“Maybe it’s a good idea to keep your grades between you, me and Daddy.”
All of these gentle admonishments were met with quizzical looks, and the inevitable “Why?”
Damn! Good question. Hard to answer. How do you walk the line between telling a girl that the way she is made is something to be proud of, but some camouflage is not a bad idea?
So it went, with all of us doing the best we could, and dealing with each day as it came. Fortunately, she had theater. She started in Children’s Chorale in the fourth grade. I believe they were doing Alice at the time, and she landed several small parts.
One day I picked her up after rehearsal, and she sunnily told me this-
“Guess what Mom? Elaine (the director) also made me the understudy!”
“Really! How about that! For who?”
“Everybody! I memorized EVERYONE’S dialogue!”
Gracious. That still makes my head hurt to think about it.
Fast forward to last year. Faith has taken all of the math that EHS has to offer, which topped out at Calculus II.
That meant she qualified to take Calculus 3 and Differential Equations at Colorado School of Mines (at district expense). So, typically, she raced through the process of registering, getting an ID, parking pass, and even making a ‘test drive’ from Evergreen to Golden.
As she started taking the classes, an interesting thing began to take shape. People ignored her completely. No one cared about her ‘popularity rank’, the shape of her body,the clothes and makeup she wore, who her friends were or where she was going after school.
She was treated exactly the same as everyone else. She sat in a classroom with a few dozen other self-absorbed college kids, and disappeared, after a fashion. How refreshing!
“Mom!” she called me one day “For the first time ever, I feel normal!”
My, the things that can choke you up. I so wish Chris were here to listen to that one with me.
At any rate, the gap is closing. After all these years of intentional parenting,prayer, studying, laser like focus, and simple blind luck, all of our efforts are bearing fruit. Faith is a solid, decent human being who is interested in pleasing God and her important adults. She also has this passionate drive to do something, anything to change the world.
If Harvard or Columbia have any sense, they’ll jump at the chance to get her. She is also a Boettcher candidate, which for you non-Coloradans, is a full-ride trip anywhere in the state.
As for me? One of my favorite Bible verses is found in the beginning of Psalm 127. King Solomon states that “Children are gift from the Lord”, and a “heritage” and “reward.”
Faith, as were all the others, was truly a gift and reward, from the very beginning.