My Daughter is an Academic Rock Star!
You’ve seen those Mother’s Little Brag Books, small photo albums big enough to hold quite a few pictures of your children yet small enough to slip under someone’s nose before they can get away. And those honor roll bumper stickers….what can I say?
Mothers brag, it’s a fact of life; and I have reached a whole new level of Mom-braggadocio. My daughter recently completed the onerous task of writing, editing and defending her PhD dissertation. Soon she will add ‘Doctor’ to the ‘Mrs.’ at the front of her name. Or she can go with PhD at the end; I’m not picky.
You may have noticed I used the terms ‘she‘ and ‘her‘ without mentioning my daughter by name. Well she’s not so much into parental bragging, especially when it involves social networking or anything that might make it into an internet search engine. It took long enough for her to accept the concept of parents as Facebook friends. She might not take kindly to her mother referring to her as an academic rock star.
I won’t tell her if you don’t.
He’s a Lawyer, She’s a PhD
My daughter and I have discussed parental bragging before. She’s caught both her father and me at the tail end of a few such conversations…….”Yes, she speaks fluent Russian and Serbian and Chinese, a bit of Turkish, of course, and some German too. She‘s traveled to Russia a few times, she was 12 the first time; and she‘s teaching Russian Lit at Ohio State; but she‘s in Serbia for the Summer… research for her PhD, you know….Oh yes, and she was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention…blah, blah, blah.” I know my daughter’s resume’ by heart.
Her husband’s parents, while of a completely different mindset and cultural background, have a thorough appreciation of parental bragging rights as well. According to my daughter, when it comes to slipping a roll-call of “my son” accomplishments into a conversation, they are equally as skillful as their in-law counterparts. “Well yes, you know he graduated from Yale…..then Michigan Law School. Yes…he’s a lawyer now….And did I ever tell you about the time he worked as a journalist in Kyrgyzstan. They are doing a book together too… and he got a grant to do research with her in Serbia…”
It all started in elementary school
My daughter, who shall remain nameless, has always been smart; and I’m not just saying that because she’s mine. I remember when her fourth grade teacher called me in for a conference. You know how teachers keep you in suspense by not telling you what the conference is about until you get there.
Sooner or later every parent will know the jittery stomach, the sweaty palms, the moment of apprehension as you take a seat in one of those not-as-small-as-kindergarten-yet-still-too-tiny-for-my-rear elementary school chairs. That’s what was happening to me as I waited for the teacher to speak.
“I have never experienced this problem before,” she explained.
It was clear she was more angst ridden than I, which did nothing to minimize the lump in my throat. I nodded and smiled to help ease her into the conversation, even though I was the one who would have most benefited from a glass of ice water and perhaps a tranquilizer to keep me cool and calm.
Black and Too Smart
“She doesn’t have any friends,” the teacher blurted out. ” the Black kids don’t like her because she’s too smart. The White kids don’t like her because she’s Black …. and….. and well…too smart.”
“What?” I said. I still remember shaking my head back and forth a few times, trying to un-hear what the teacher had just said. My heart grew heavy with empathy for my poor, beautiful, friendless child. Then I heaved a sigh of relief. My daughter had no friends because she was Black and too smart! It could have been a lot worse.
I’d dealt with a lifetime of my own smart Black girl fallout, from teenage friends calling me ‘Square’ (It was the sixties) to a corporate boss referring to me as “Little Miss Hi IQ.” I knew smart Black girls got teased…. and left out a lot; and even though I’d hoped it wouldn’t happen to my daughter, I was proud she’d chosen smart over cool. I decided to focus on the positive.
The teacher’s conference could have been about bad grades or drugs, or fighting or some other issue of juvenile delinquency; but my child was too smart! It was almost exciting. The teacher and I endured an awkward moment of silence then set about discussing ways to help her that didn’t require dumbing down for the sake of friendship.
To end this tale quickly, I will tell you my daughter stayed on her steady academic track, enrolling in Russian language class at age 11, becoming a People to People Student Ambassador and visiting ‘the former USSR’ at age 12. At 15 she participated in a Moscow/Cincinnati student exchange; and at 16 she worked as a Russian interpreter at a local hospital. At 17 she earned dual high school diplomas, attending schools in both Moscow and her home town. She played viola in the school concert orchestra, which is where she met her violin playing husband.
To earn her Bachelors in Russian studies she attended, Wittenberg U, Yale, Columbia and UCLA.. She spent time at Boston College, Kings College in London, Universities in Novi Sad and Belgrade, Serbia and earned a Masters in East European Studies at Ohio State.
My daughter has done these things over a lifetime of setting goals, achieving and never looking back. And now, at age 32, she’s earned her PhD in Slavic Culture and Literature (or something like that) from Ohio State.
I’m so proud and I will brag if I want to!