Hidden Messages

While preparing to leave for school this morning, my son announced today is Day 5 which means he has library and Young Learners, a supplementary elementary school program for kids that scored high on a standardized test. Within earshot, my daughter mentioned her teachers said she can be in G&T (Gifted and Talented) if she wants.

Actually, while her standardized test scores were not high enough to qualify her for G&T this year, her teacher informed us that because she has shown improvement in the classroom since the beginning of the term, she is welcome to complete the G&T project as an extracurricular assignment, if she is interested.

Since extreme parity rules in our household, our children, the originators of said doctrine and its most steadfast supporters, never miss an opportunity to expose a breach or failure on our part to adhere to this mandatory state of balance. Out of expediency, my wife and I have mostly acquiesced to this dictum to avoid any instances where the minutest gesture of favoritism renders the declaration of “Not fair!” and subsequent meltdown.

I took a deep breath, collected my thoughts, weighed the pros and cons of a response, carefully selected my words, projected potential positive and negative outcomes, and, after much deliberation, forged ahead with the decision to keep things real for my daughter by telling her she wasn’t actually invited to join G&T because she had lower test scores, and that she had misunderstood the invitation to complete G&T’s project as an invitation to join G&T. An honest misunderstanding.

My daughter responded that she had wanted to do the project, but didn’t have the right board for it.

(A few weeks ago, I put aside my work, dropped everything, and we ran to CVS to buy her a board for the project. We couldn’t locate the one she had in mind, but we found a board that seemed sufficient in my mind and with which she confirmed she could work. From there, no further project discussions took place, and she showed zero initiative and desire to move forward on it.)

My daughter’s response caught me completely off guard. What message did she intend to convey this morning? Did I actually hold her back by not buying her the right board? Did my failure to remind her to complete the project cause its demise? Should I have known she intended to participate even though she used the board for her spy club instead of the G&T project and never mentioned she needed or wanted a new board?

A phrase simply spoken: “I didn’t have the right board.”

What before seemed to me cut-and-dried, now appears much more complex and intricate, with hidden messages and unspoken thoughts.

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