Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

It's a Nerd's World

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

It's a Nerd's World

Article excerpt

A child is stung by the resentment of his peers - until he learns he's in good company.

My gifted 9-year-old, Jimmy, stomped off the bus and pounded his way up the drive. As I watched him make his way through the door with Tony, my 7-year-old, skipping happily behind him, I imagined a cartoon bubble over his head filled with black scribbles. He slammed open the door, took one look at me, and collapsed on the couch in tears.

Most children have first words somewhere in the neighborhood of "Ma" or "Pa" or "Da." Jimmy's were "I love you." At 9 months, he could crawl over and undo any device I had to keep him out of the cupboards. At 18 months, he could hold a conversation with adults in complete sentences. I learned not to do anything in front of him I didn't want him to learn. He picked it up after one viewing. Being a first-time mother, I didn't know that children didn't behave this way normally. My training as a teacher helped me identify school- age children, not toddlers, as possibly being gifted. Adults who met him were amazed at his verbal abilities. I had no idea. When Tony came along and exhibited the same abilities, again, I thought nothing of it. The countless questions drove me batty, but I figured that's what kids do.

However, when Jimmy turned 3 and started preschool, I realized the great divide between him and his peers.

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Peers can sniff out a child's weaknesses, and giftedness reeks to the heavens. That particular day, Jimmy had been stung by the resentment his peers felt toward him.

I walked over to him and brushed a few stray hairs off his forehead.

"What's wrong, buddy?"

"Ricky called me a nerd!" he wailed, and buried his head in my shoulder.

My first instinct, as any mother worth her salt will admit, was to hunt down that scoundrel Ricky and berate him. Then common sense kicked in and I felt terrible. Jimmy's heart was broken and mine was following suit.

"Why would he do that? I thought he was your friend," I said.

"I knew the answer to something no one else did. My teacher called on me, and I didn't even have my hand raised. Then Ricky called me a nerd!"

I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him tight. …

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