A few months ago, I asked to have Sweetpea tested for the district's "Highly Capable" program. The more I read about our district's approach to gifted education, the more I could see her thriving in one of their classrooms.
So we did what we could. We filled out the paperwork. We made sure she got enough sleep and ate a good breakfast on test days. We waited for the letter announcing the district's decision. We may or may not have met the mailman (purely by chance) while walking the dog, spelled our last name for him, and offered to 'take a quick peek' through his bag ourselves just to be sure he hadn't missed anything. We may or may not have been asked to stay more than 50 yards away from the mailman in the future.
Yesterday, the scores finally arrived.
My investment in the results was, like most things, complicated. I thought the program would be a good fit for Sweetpea on several levels: the emphasis on allowing kids to direct their own learning, teachers accustomed to dealing with intense and quirky kids, the chance for Sweetpea to interact with more of her peers.
I know part of me also thought that all of Sweetpea's other challenges would be so much easier to take, if only some outside authority would quantify and -- yes -- label her exceptional strengths, in addition to her challenges.
My ego simply wanted my daughter to follow in my footsteps. Being "smart" was always such a big part of who I believed I was. Even now, knowing that my identification with being "smart" was often at the expense of other, equally important traits, the less enlightened part of me still wants that for Sweetpea, too.
If her scores had topped the charts, that part would have felt validated. My kid is brilliant -- see? I am OK. If they had just missed the mark, I have to admit I would have felt disappointed.
As it turns out (I know, the suspense is killing you, right?), some of her scores were as I'd expected, well above average. Others were not. A fire alarm sounded at some point during the testing, and the person who administered the test noted Sweetpea had been "distracted and anxious" throughout the process. Because of the SPD-related challenges, and because the scores correlated neither with one another nor with her classroom performance, the district decided to test her again in a completely different environment.
Regardless, I was surprised to find that in looking at the scores I felt ... nothing. I didn't despair over the lower numbers. I wasn't even tempted to chest-bump the mailman over the high ones. They were just numbers. My experience of my daughter is so much more vast and complicated than any numbers can show.
Next time around, under more suitable testing conditions, the numbers might provide more insight into my daughter's current mastery of second-grade concepts. They might predict with more accuracy her ability to succeed in one of the district's gifted classrooms. Regardless, these numbers don't get the final say about my daughter. They're just one more piece of her incredibly complex picture.
High or low, I won't let them define her. Or me.