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The Helicopter Parent

Two weeks ago I wrote about the fact that I became dangerously close to becoming a stage mom, after taking my daughter to what seemed to be an audition for her favorite Nickelodeon show but turned into a fiasco.

Well this week, we had something way more traumatic happen. I question whether I should talk about it but something tells me if I don't get this off my chest I'm going to burst. You see, this week the letters arrived. If you are a parent of a "gifted child" what that means is, the letters announcing that your child has been placed in a special gifted program for the next two years started arriving in mailboxes all across my neighborhood in Westchester this Monday and Tuesday.

I first heard that the letters were being sent out by a good friend of mine who didn't receive anything in the mail and decided to call the Deputy Superintendent to see if her child made the grade. And unfortunately, she was devastated to learn he didn't.

The moment I dropped my friend off at her house, I raced back home, dropped my laptop bag and monster purse and instinctively honed in on the pile of mail on our coffee table. Bill, bill, real estate query, magazine, junk, no letter. No letter. I thought to myself, "oh, maybe it just got tied up in the post office," but deep down knew we were never getting a letter. Our last name starts with the letter F and kids with the letter G, M and O already got their letters. I didn't say a word to my daughter and just kept it bottled up for one more day.

On Tuesday, I worked from home and the moment the postman arrived I greeted him at the door and grabbed the mail. Con Ed bill, Visa bill, junk, pennysaver, invitation to a birthday party, and no letter. I was crushed. I couldn't understand how my child, who has been told on repeated occasions how amazing she is didn't get accepted into this program but I decided not to take it one step further and call the district office.

That was until my daughter came home. She instantly found me typing away in our sun room and asked the fateful question. "Mommy, did I get a letter today? Because there were some kids in school who were bragging about getting letters and I'm sure I should have gotten a letter too."

And that's when I had to break the news. "No you didn't get a letter. I don't think you got into the program." And she melted. As the tears started flowing down her cheeks, she insisted I call the Superintendent's office to find out if they made a mistake. And I did what any parent would do. I called them. And I found out that not only did my daughter not make the program but she missed out on being accepted into the program by 1 point in reading and 1 point in math.

1 Point!!!! A stupid, stinking point kept my child away from being put into a program that three quarters of her friends have made. And I was livid. How could that have happened? Since she's only in the third grade, we didn't want to pressure her when it came to test taking and her teachers never gave us any indication that she was having problems. So we left her alone and let her academic talents blossom. And little did I know that as she was excelling in art, chess, crochet, gymnastics and ice skating, her test taking skills needed a little work.

I know in my heart that no matter what the numbers say on those standardized tests my daughter is capable of incredible things. She is determined, independent, articulate and can argue a point better than most lawyers I know. And you know what, she's also a great writer. Not because I write too, but because over the course of the year she has presented me with poems and essays that have made me laugh and cry over the fact that my 9 year old is following in my footsteps.

I faced rejection many times over as a child and was hoping my daughter wouldn't have to confront not making the grade this early on in her life. As I wiped away the tears from her face and gave her a hug and shed some tears myself, I gave her the advice my own mom gave to me when I was kid. She will show them all. Sometimes when you don't get what you want, you try harder to prove that you're not only deserving of a letter but are gifted and talented in ways a standardized test can never measure.

Posted in: Blog, Role Mommy Confessions on 06/21/2008


  • I too just shared a similar experience. I have 9 year old twins. One boy absolutely lives and dies for baseball but this year his batting average was pretty low. It was just an off season for him. The other twin is a natural athlete and couldn't care less about the sport but plays because he has fun with his friends and he is effortlessly good.

    Well, the twin that couldn't care less made the all star team and the twin that lives and dies for the sport didn't.....URGH!

    I cried for a full week. I prayed for rain so the other twin wouldn't have to play. I argued with my husband on how HE (not me!) was going to communicate this to him. At the end of the day, my husband kept it simple. He said, 4 kids were identified as potential all star players and 3 w were picked. You were identified but not picked but your brother was. Hopefully next year with a lot of practice you'll make the team as well.

    He seemed to take it in stride although I was totally crushed. My husband, who is a life long "jock" said the first time he tried out for the HS baseball team he was rejected. That rejection made him a better player and he spent a year improving his skills in order to try out the next year and guess what...he made it.

  • It is heartbreaking....but I think there is a problem when other kids are going to school and bragging about their acceptance letters. What are the parents teaching them about being modest and respectful of everyone's different talents, abilities and accomplishments? I'd take a modest kid over a kid who can nail a standardized test any day! :)

    Julie Cole

    Mabel's Labels Inc.


  • Andrea

    Thank you for sharing this story. It was very thoughtful, touching and sincere. I commute to the city on NJ Transit and I can tell you I shed a few tears for both you and your daughter in front of a bunch of strangers.

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