I was about 5 minutes into the new season of Big Little Lies when I had to pause and rewind. Did she just say what I think she said?
Bear in mind my world is not the world of Monterey, California. Niagara Falls, Ontario is more working class, less CEOs and hedge funds. People move here for the cheap real estate (in comparison to Toronto), not our schools. Parents are more likely to turn down their child’s acceptance to the gifted program than to seek one out.
So when Laura Dern’s Renata Klein walked up to her daughter’s teacher on the first day of school and laid down the line, I knew exactly what the writers were doing. I knew they were setting the tone, reminding us that Renata is one of those moms, the ones who think their child moves heaven and earth and are going to be on your back every second of the day making sure you’re giving them your undivided attention.
And it was a thing of beauty.
Because here’s the thing. I’ve been in the gifted world long enough to know that an IQ of 152 is no laughing matter. It’s not “good in school” it’s radically different from the general population. It’s having a full on anxiety attack because of climate change. It’s being labelled “quirky” because your looks and physical abilities don’t match your intellect. These kids need parents and teacher who understand them and their needs.
Now, I’m not advocating for parents to walk up to a busy, overwhelmed teacher on the first day of school and start barking orders. But in comparison to my own advocacy style of “please, thank you, if it’s not too much trouble” and then sitting quietly and listening to blatant fallacies and downright discrimination and being walked all over, I think that every parent can learn a lesson from Renata’s cut the shit and get to the point confidence. Because if more of us start advocating for our children’s needs, the more we could change the education system for the better for all kids.
Not all gifted children are born to the Renata Klein’s of the world. They don’t all have parents who understand their needs, they don’t all have parents who have the time and resources to stay on top of their teachers, and they’re not all attending top schools in fancy neighbourhoods. Many are attending schools that are struggling with limited resources and cut funding thanks to idiotic politicians who have never stepped foot in a classroom in their life (*cough*Ford*cough*). And the unfortunate truth is that many of the parents who can find other means to have their children’s needs met will pursue them, whether it’s private school, homeschool, or extracurriculars and tutors. And it’s not fair to the kids who are left behind.
But if those of us with the time and resources used our time and resources to put on our big girl pants and stand up for the needs of our children, with the confidence and no-bullshit persona of a female CEO who has learned to navigate the world of businessmen, think of what we could accomplish! Of course there is a time and place, of course there is a way to go about it while being respectful; but I know that the first thing most parents do when receiving a diagnosis for their child is to read everything they can about it which means that we are qualified to be our children’s advocates. Even if we don’t feel like we are. (Hello, imposter syndrome.)
Honestly, I have tried advocating. I tried getting involved with my local gifted community and sitting on my local school board. But I am so, so, so much more comfortable behind a keyboard. I am too emotional of a person for politics. I am not lying when I say that I left every meeting and cried on my way home. So while the rest of the world probably rolled their eyes and said, “what a bitch” I sat and said “what a thing of fucking beauty,” and even if it was never meant to be a thing of inspiration, Laura Dern inspired me.