Tuesday, June 7, 2011

TAG, You're It!

            As a parent, I’m used to making my kids do things they don’t want to do for their own health and well being. I’m no stranger to saying, “No vegetables, no dessert.” I’ve held screaming children while they got vaccinations because I know that a few seconds of pain outweighs the possibility of contracting tetanus or measles or hepatitis. I don’t allow them to play with broken glass or rusty nails and running into traffic is simply off limits.
            Right now, it’s 2:00 am and I can sleep because I find myself wanting to make my son Owen do something he is reluctant to do. This time however, if he chooses not to do it, there will be no dire consequences. He’s been invited to join a Talented and Gifted program (or TAG) beginning next year in fourth grade. I am really excited for him—I had been a part of the program thirty years ago and loved it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a much better fit for me than where I had been.
When he brought home the invitation letter he told me he didn’t want to go. “All of my friends aren’t going,” he said.
            “Are any of your friends going?” I asked. I would be surprised if none were going, most of his friends seem pretty bright.
            “Well, Nathan and Randall* are going,” he admitted.
“Aren’t they two of your closest friends?”
“Yeah, but Evan and Josh aren’t going.”
            “Isn’t Evan the one at Cub Scouts who drives you nuts?”
            “Listen Owen, there’s a meeting in a couple of weeks to learn more about the program. Let’s make an informed decision. I’m not going to force you into anything.”

            That meeting was tonight. The program sounds like one in which Owen would really flourish. The students learn at an accelerated pace so there is time for projects that you don’t find in a traditional classroom. The teachers and students go more in depth into the subject matter—more exploring and less “teaching to the test”. In addition, I saw a number of familiar faces. Even though this is a city of over 100,000, it can be a very small town. I saw parents I knew from the Y and some other parents I knew from Little League. So even though Owen wouldn’t be with all of his friends, he would have some friends and the potential to make a lot more.
            I was very gung-ho when I got home from the meeting. I probably should have waited until morning to talk to him about it. But I jumped right in while he was getting ready for bed.
“You know, I think you ought to give this a shot,” I told him.
            “But I’m scared,” he said as the tears filled up his eyes.
            “Of course you are. It’s scary to try new things. But if you don’t like it, you can go back to your neighborhood school.”
            “Really. You know, they do a lot of really cool things.”
            “Like what?”
            “They have a science fair in fourth and fifth grade.”
            “But I wouldn’t know what to do!”
            “It’s at the end of the year, after you’ve learned more about science than you already know.”
            “What else?”
            “Last year the students who were learning about the Revolutionary War created a board game based on what they learned.”
            His eyes lit up, “A war game? With spies?”
            “Probably,” I said. “There were a lot of spies during the Revolutionary War.”
            “Well… maybe I’ll give it a try. Just for fourth grade.”

            So now, I have him onboard to give it a try and I can’t sleep. This isn’t the cut and dried parenting decision I’m used to. What if I’ve talked him into it and he hates it? He’ll be absolutely fine if he doesn’t go. But I can’t help but feel like he’ll be so much better than fine if he goes.