Play on, Playah

Posted: November 24, 2013 in Family, Health, Travel, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When I hear the word “playtime” the first thing that comes to mind is an inability to relate to the term. Even as a child, I don’t recall referring to play as such, though surely I must have. But I definitely recall being sorely put out when any adult referred to me as a “kid”. I never felt like a kid. I always felt like a grown adult. Is that weird? Maybe, but that’s the way it was. I didn’t think like other kids. The year I was 4 going on 5, before I started school, my mother tried to tell the tell the administration that I could read and should be in school. They didn’t believe her, told her my birthday was too late in the year, and that I didn’t belong in kindergarten. I waited another year. Again, when it was time, my mother tried to explain that I was advanced for my age, and that I would need to be challenged. Again, she was put off. Then, one day the kindergarten teacher stepped out for a few minutes, and when she came back, the class was quietly seated on the floor, and I was in a chair, reading a book to them.

What do academics do with something they don’t understand? They study it. Of course, the school contacted my mother, who must certainly have said, “No %#$&, Sherlock. I tried to tell you that. She can write, too.” They began to test me. Over and over and over. I remember being taken from room to room. Why they couldn’t just bring the books to me, instead of parading me through those rooms full of older kids, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that experience is why, to this day I hate going into a room full of people I don’t know, for any reason. I feel intense anxiety, and manage to find all kinds of reasons not to go to functions I may really want to experience. But I can’t make myself walk through the door.

Those books they would make me read from, they eventually ran out. They started bringing in different stuff from I don’t know where. They gave me an IQ test. Ink blot test. Let me ask this: what on earth does a Rohrshach Test have to do with the intelligence of a child? It’s a personality test, not any kind of knowledge metric. They wanted to do more and more testing. It had ceased being about me and my educational needs, and became more about them and their curiosity. I don’t remember this, but my parents tell me that I began to have bad dreams. I begged them not to make me take any more tests. And that last part is how I know it must have been torturous. I have always, all through my life, enjoyed tests. Yes, I’m weird. But I’ve enjoyed taking tests because it was somehow scary and exciting, and I loved to see how I would fare against my peers. So, if I was having nightmares and begging for the tests to stop, it had to be bad.

After the testing stopped, since there was no gifted program in that school system, they just pushed me up two grades. So, instead of being placed a year later than Mother ReloVertigo wanted, I ended up a year ahead. They had originally laughed and said I was too young, and they ended up purposely making me the youngest in my class, every year, for the rest of my education.

A year later, we moved to California. I was able to enroll in a school that was devoted to gifted students. God bless my parents for making that effort, to find a place for me to learn, be challenged, and to fit in. Those few years I went to that school are probably the best and happiest memories I have of any school memories. And there are a lot. We moved quite a bit. I fit in there. Everyone there was smart. Everyone there was excited to learn. Everyone there liked tests. Mostly. And I had a teacher who was out of this world. We had field trips like no other grade school I’ve ever heard of. Whale watching, touring a hospital, including the morgue. Wow. A train trip. Of course, museums. The Scripps Institute. A children’s theater in Balboa Park. There were so many more. San Diego is full of educational riches. My teacher knew both Dr Seuss and Dr Salk, I think because she lived in the same part of the San Diego area. They both lived in La Jolla.

And I guess, maybe as I think of it, that is what playtime is. What a lightbulb moment! Playtime for me is the joy I feel when I am enjoying learning and experiencing something new, like a scientific institute, or a historical museum. And it always has been! I had play as a child. Just not the same kind of play as other kids.

Wow. You can’t possibly know how happy that makes me feel, to realize I wasn’t really all that different, after all.

This post was inspired by The Daily Prompt

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