“I’m really enjoying your little girl,” I assured Nguyen’s mother. “She’s brilliant, especially for one so young.”
But instead of glowing with maternal pride, as I expected, the mother flinched as if I had slapped her.
“Oh, but we want her to be smart like an adult,” she protested..
During my first session with Nguyen, I had asked her some questions about what she liked so that I could customize my lessons to her interests: favorite games, stories, music, pets — all the things eight-year-old girls love to talk about.
“What games do you like?”
She thought a minute and wrinkled her tiny nose. Her silky, blue-black hair swished around on her neck.
“What about t.v.? Have a favorite show?”
To that last question, Nguyen’s China-doll face clouded over. She shook her head hesitantly.
“No t.v. I not allow.”
“I see,” I said. “Okay, then, what about when you get home from school?”
“I have to do school work.”
So, I thought, let me see if I get this. You’re eight. Only a child. Yet, your parents are forcing your feet to rattle around in adult shoes. No dolls, no games, no t.v…no little-girl daydreams.
But when her parents picked her up at the school library, I held my tongue. Still, it made me sad. Nguyen was a genius-in-the-works, but even Einstein must have had more of a childhood than this little girl had known.
Later, when I got home, I was so haunted by my student’s answers that I sat down at my computer. From there on, my thoughts gave my fingers free rein over the keyboard until they created the following poem:
CAUTION: GENIUS AT PLAY!
Please don’t rush me into your world, yet,
lest you disturb a genius at play.
My toys, trivial to you, are learning tools
shaping me into the woman
I am destined to become.
With tea set and baby dolls,
I will follow your lead
when I become a model wife and mother.
Stories you read to me today
will inspire my writer’s mind tomorrow,
and crayon scribbles on my walls,
tomorrow’s works of art.
Simple games and puzzles —
hands-on training for problems posed by Life.
Yes, Childhood is the best of Teachers,
but I can be Her student
** Kim Kathleen Terry **