Mara has a late fall birthday, well after the kindergarten cutoff in our state, so she’ll have one more year of preschool in which she’ll turn 5 and then start kindergarten the year after that. Yesterday, Lee and I went to her preschool on the community college where Lee teaches to participate in the once-a-year parent-teacher conference.
If I were a good blogger, I’d link back to the post about last year’s conference and the other one about why we decided to move Mara up into the pre-kindergarten class at the end of summer even though she’d be one of the youngest kids there. Sorry. At any rate, I’m tired and just doing a quick run-down now. And Mara is great! She’s fully able to do everything she should be except color inside the lines, though she spends hours on very detailed drawings, and a few verbal markers like consistently using “ed” to mark past tense. Although she’s one of the youngest (and tallest) kids in the class, she’s really come into her own and is doing well in terms of peer interaction, no longer insisting on playing by herself. She is academically the strongest kid there, and all the teachers are sort of challenging themselves to come up with activities that will surprise and engage her, though her teacher was quick to add that Mara’s good about participating even if she already knows what’s going on.
When we went to get Mara after the meeting, the student teacher who was working with her dropped the “gifted” word and now Lee’s thinking again about what that might mean for Mara and her academic future. I was more happy to hear the rest of what this teacher, who’s in a wheelchair, had to say, that Mara is emotionally attuned to what’s going on and that she understands the teacher’s physical limitations more than the other kids do and is better at anticipating how to help and following verbal instructions when this teacher can’t show with her body what she wants the kids to do. I knew from very early on that Mara was bright, but seeing how loving and kind she is, especially given what I know about her history, is incredibly moving to me. I also love that her teachers value this, and that they’ve taken our lead and given her room to talk about both her families, so they know that I take her to the park and Lee watches basketball with her and her littlest brother is three and likes to play with marbles. I love that she’s getting so much positive support for expressing how she feels.
I’d had another big conversation yesterday afternoon, this time with Mara’s aunt Odelia. We’re invited to the family Easter celebration, whatever it’s going to be. We’re also going to do something new while the big kids are on their spring break and bring three of Mara’s siblings — Franca, 9; Andre, 8; and Trinity, 6 — to stay with us for a couple of days. I’m figuring I can take all four kids to the zoo or if it’s raining the museum center on the first day and then on the other day we’ll just hang around the neighborhood and go to the parks in walking distance. Their oldest sister will be staying with her dad in our town and she’d previously described the house as being right near the ice cream parlor, so maybe we can use that as an excuse to see her too. I’ll get the kids Wednesday night and probably bring them back Saturday so they have time to prep for Easter. This should give Odelia a break and she’s not sure whether her biological kids will stay with her and have some solo family time or go to a neighbor’s house so she can completely decompress. She’s very grateful we’re stepping in to give her that break, but also absolutely on the same page I am about keeping the kids in each other’s lives in a more active way.
I’m not anticipating any problems during the visit, because all three have said in the past they were open to the idea and I think doing it together should give them a chance to rely on each other if they don’t feel comfortable about something. The oldest two are very independent and the youngest needs a lot of affection and reassurance, but I think we’ll be able to balance it well. I’m looking forward to seeing Mara on her turf with her brother and sisters, which is not something she’s gotten to experience since entering care. She is absolutely thrilled about it and can’t wait to see them again!
We haven’t had any updates about Talia, but her worker knows we’re potentially interested and we’ll be talking to our social worker the week after Easter and I’m sure she’ll have some information then. Since Talia is still waiting for her parents’ rights to be terminated (TPR) there isn’t an official pre-adoption case summary, so our worker has asked Talia’s worker to pull some information together and then at some point the four of us will sit down and talk. I know one of Lee’s concerns was about whether the local school does a good enough job for gifted students to meet Talia’s needs. Since Lee’s going to be thinking about that again in relation to Mara, maybe I’d better go pick up a packet from the gifted services coordinator and let her have a look. (Mara would be eligible for gifted services in kindergarten because I think she’ll be reading by then; she’s certainly already at 4 academically beyond where Val was in late September of her kindergarten year. Talia’s fluid reading and general inquisitiveness have convinced me she’d qualify based on test scores and/or parent or teacher push, which is what it would take to get Mara in too.) I’m more ambivalent about gifted programs than Lee is, and neither of us was in one in the modern sense, though we both got chances to do extra things on our own or in small groups because we were academically advanced. I mostly just got to keep a book at my desk so I could read quietly when I’d finished my work and go to the library every day at recess to get a new book, though I eventually also skipped a grade. Lee got bored and feels she didn’t reach her full potential because she wasn’t being challenged. I’d say it was mostly choices I made that kept me from reaching mine, but there you go.
Anyway, we don’t know anything more about the big things than we did previously, but we’re filling in some potential lines of where our lives could go and trying to make the best of it now. I have no idea what will happen with Talia, nothing but a safe guess about whether Mara will go on being outrageously awesome. I’m just so glad Mara has so many people (both her families, her teachers, her friends) supporting and encouraging her. I hope that wherever Talia ends up, she’ll have much of the same.