Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My kid's other mom

Some children have an imaginary friend. My 5-year-old has an imaginary mom. He calls her “My other mom,” and regales us with all sorts of tales about her life. And she has quite a life! While I sometimes think I’m doing OK in my attempts to have it all, I have nothing on this woman:

*She works for McKinsey, the management consulting firm

*She has 18 children. Curiously, two of the other children are my 3-year-old and 1-year-old; I like that even in his alternate universe, my 5-year-old kept his siblings

How, you might ask, has she done all this? She’s 99 years old. My son isn’t aware of the dilemma of the biological clock, so in his mind, she had much of this time to build her career and family. She isn’t doing it on her own. She’s married to my son’s other dad, though we hear less about this gentleman than we do about the other mom. His other dad was, for a while, 33 years old. I think my 5-year-old picked up that we thought this was funny, and so now he’s started saying the father is 45. Not that that’s less cougar-ish, really. When my son got into watching Crocodile Hunter, he claimed Steve Irwin was his other dad for a while. We haven’t told him the story yet of what happened to Steve Irwin (who died 8 months before my son was born).

Recently, he’s decided that Steve Irwin is not his other dad. But his other mother has similarly crazy adventures. She’s taken my 5-year-old to Australia, to Africa, to Russia, to Hawaii, to the myriad other places he’s studied on his maps and his atlas. She’s patient with him on plane trips, though as he told me this morning “People thought she was crazy to take a 3-year-old on a trip to Australia!” She lived in Botswana for a while. This came out when my son once told me that “You’re my favorite mommy!” I thanked him and he clarified that “You’re my favorite mommy in the United States.” His other mother had sub-Saharan Africa covered.

Crucially, she lets him have a cat. This is a major point of contention between us. I am adamant that I can’t have another living thing depending on me -- I’m not even watering my house plants anymore -- and the kids aren’t old enough to take care of a pet. My son’s other mother doesn’t have such problems because hey, she can do anything. Remember the part about her big career and 18 kids?

The other mother ebbs and flows in the frequency of her mentions. I thought she’d stayed in San Diego this summer when my son didn’t mention her for about two weeks after the trip. This would be keeping with a fine family tradition of imaginary friends staying on the west coast. When I was growing up, my family lived in San Diego for three months when I was 8 and my little brother was 3. He had a friend called “Baby Crunchy” who did everything with us, but stayed behind when we moved back to North Carolina. Alas, after a few weeks, the other mother was back, and she’s been with us pretty steadily since.

Have your children had imaginary playmates or parents?

Cross-posted at

Monday, January 28, 2013

A new year, a new start (and silly mistakes)

It's been a while since my last Gifted Exchange post (OK, more than 6 weeks). We'll call it a long holiday break, and I'll try to dive back in.

Today's topic: small mistakes on assessments, and the outsized impact they can have. Many parents of gifted kids can sympathize with this problem. A child has moved far ahead in math on his own, and zones out during class. He makes some small mistakes on a test on grade level material because he hasn't been studying it. But then the take away is, well, how can he be advanced? See, he gets Bs on tests!

How should a parent address this? Is it worth encouraging a child to really pay attention during tests? To spend time studying what the child already knows? How should one explain this? (Yes, we know you know how to do this, but other people at your school don't spend as much time with you and don't know it?) How does one convey that a child is doing more advanced work at home?

I'm curious how parents have dealt with the problem of small mistakes.