Eels

I was talking to my partner yesterday about our kids and particularly my daughter. We’re looking at schools and some of them are very selective. We were discussing whether our kids are ‘bright’ or not. We both feel confident they are. But where we differ is I believe our kids are the brightest kids in the world.

Of course objectively I accept there may be other kids who write better, do maths better or ride a bike better for their age. But my point is, taken as a whole, I simply believe our kids are the brightest kids in the whole world. They may be equalled but will never be bettered.

Although she is somewhat attracted to this unconditional belief, my partner made two points: where’s your evidence and how will you deal with other kids doing better than them? These are good questions.

My evidence is stronger for my daughter. She’s older. First she reminds me of a scene in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s the one where Veruca Salt wants one of the squirrels that tests the nuts to see if they are bad or not. My daughter is like one of those squirrels: bright eyes, hyper-alert, misses nothing, quick, nimble, dextrous and perfectly capable of spotting a bad nut. She has a ‘quickness’ of mind, body and hands which for me is one of the marks of being ‘bright’ whatever it truly means.

On the second point of set-backs and being beaten or failing, I’m sanguine. I expect to fall out with her on homework etc – I already do and I did with my parents. Only time will tell whether her quickness and brightness will translate into conventional academic achievement but…

…as I said to my partner with a little bit of exasperation and the inarticulacy that comes with emotion, she – and I think my son too – are like eels in a tank.

I read in the National Geographic a few weeks back that however you try you can’t keep eels in a fishtank. They will bust the cover, bloody themselves and always get out. Their restless energy cannot be tamed.

I believe my daughter is the same. A duff grade, a school which doesn’t select her, a skill she struggles to master won’t matter – like an eel she has the quickness of mind to bust out of any tank. She’s the brightest kid I know, and I know she’s going to do just fine.

PS: As I write this my little eel is forging up her lane in a swimming pool as her front crawl finally starts to come together. She makes me smile.

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