Tiny bubbles

They were tiny, in the beginning, as children are. Tiny and innocent and selfish and sharing all in one. They corrected each other’s grammar, helped each other up the climbing wall in the gym, listened patiently and without judgment as yet another fellow tot rambled on about bugs, or space travel or endangered species.

They were each exceedingly smart in their own way, with IQs well-documented by anxious parents. And most sported emotional radar deeper and more sensitive than the average child. Their eyes spoke volumes, even when their mouths weren’t moving.

All of this combined made them “different.” In neuropsychologists’ terms, it made them “gifted.”

In my eyes, it made them the most beautiful tiny humans on earth. And possibly the ones best suited to save us from ourselves.

My sons had the extreme privilege of going to a small school for gifted children. It sits, nestled on the edge of a forest preserve, with a bell tower and a reflecting pool. It is the kind of school my parents never could have afforded to send me to. When I say “extreme privilege,” I mean it. And I did not let my boys forget that this school was a gift I paid for dearly. I wanted them to enjoy it, but never take it for granted. We are not wealthy. Choosing this education for them meant giving up vacations, shopping, certain kinds of cars, etc. Ah, our First World problems, you might say. And you’d be right. But I did feel the sacrifices. And I feel I owe you, friend, complete transparency—judge me or not.

The very thing that drew them all to the school—intelligence and giftedness—is not what turned out to be their saving grace. Don’t get me wrong—they challenged each other to new heights of achievement in the best (and on occasion, the worst) possible ways. What became so very remarkable was that they showed us—their parents and teachers–how the world could be. In a best-case scenario, they did not see differences of faith, skin color, economic status, as material.

One of my favorite pictures from this time is my youngest in a yarmulke, the cap worn by Jewish males. There he was, my little supposedly-Catholic-but-really-agnostic boy, comfortably seated in the synagogue, yarmulke and all. And next to him sat an atheist, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Christian. All were there to support their friend, Noah, at his Bar Mitzvah. All of them fast friends. All of them completely different colors and faiths. All of them blind to the fact that the world thought this should matter. Yes, they were still young enough to be that sheltered. They were in what we affectionately call “the Bubble.” It’s a protected space where the harshest rules of the world do not gain entry. It’s a place where special talents are given the time and safe haven they need to grow.

My sons’ former school is the Bubble. When a child graduates and moves on—whether to Andover or Eaton, public or parochial high school—we say they have left the Bubble. And leaving the Bubble is not something that’s easy to do, let me tell you. I know, as I’ve watched my two sons struggle to do it.

The Bubble is a place where you can talk unceasingly of your fascination with arachnids, and no one will mock you. Instead, they’ll probably ask you questions about this passion. And then they’ll say to adults who might look askance: “That’s just Luc. He likes bugs.” Case closed. Where you can be the girl who asks for extra math homework, smiling as it’s piled on. Where physical education focuses on fitness and your personal best, instead of how big you are and how menacing you can be on the gridiron. Do they learn football? Sure. But they also learn cricket, and yoga, and how to coach fellow students who might be just about the worst athletes they’ll ever see on any type of playing field. Talk about building character.

It’s an environment where kids give presentations on their faiths. And where no one judges the boy who has declared himself an atheist. Instead of arguing the differences, there is an interest in and acceptance of them. So, even as differences become apparent—as these children mature—they are not sources of conflict. They’re simply—well—there. And those differences are not as important as what unites these kids—a love of learning, a sensitivity to the human condition, a desire to make their mark on this world for the greater good.

In a week where matters of import are being decided in my country’s elections, where we are still reeling from shootings based on skin color and religion/ethnicity, I long for the Bubble again. I’d give anything to be heading back into the school lobby, to sit by the fireplace in the main hall and witness the happy buzz of students whose minds and hearts are afire with good things.

Alas, we’re not there. We’re here in the middle of the mire, in the “real world.” But here’s where I wax hopeful. On my Facebook feed, I see a few dozen graduates of the Bubble, courtesy of their parents’ proud posts about them. I see some of them in college, studying abroad. Some at Ivy League institutions, some at small liberal arts colleges, others heavily into math and science pursuits. I see high schoolers who are killing it at music, drama, debate. I see them volunteering at soup kitchens and sleeping in the elements to raise awareness for the homeless.

While their achievements are impressive—again, they are not the saving grace. What brings tears to my eyes is the beauty these now-not-so-tiny souls bring to the world. Instead, the takeaway is their blindness to skin color and ethnicity as a defining factor for anything. It’s their belief—no, actually their life experience—that proves those of different faiths can work and play together peacefully. That whether you like bugs, or math, or space travel, you have a place here. You do you, brother. Right on, sister friend.

I don’t think this experiment worked because of intelligence, or sensitivity, or giftedness. I think it’s what can happen when parents allow their children to rub shoulders with people who are different than they are. I know this won’t work in all instances. I know that education and class do play a role. I’m old school enough to believe manners are manners, and should transcend socioeconomic status—as should basic respect. I truly don’t care what your skin color or ethnicity is—I’m an equal-opportunity critic of bad social form.

I envision my sons and their classmates as the tiny bubbles that form from a larger one. If you’ve ever used a bubble wand, you know what I’m talking about. They are tiny bubbles launched from the mothership. And I’m praying they bring others into their way of enlightened thinking, versus bursting at the pressure as they try to spread a new way of being in the world.

Just a few thoughts from me as we vote this week to determine what kind of bubble—if any—my country will be.

Here’s hoping the wind picks up, taking these beautiful bubbles to all corners of the earth. We sure could use them right about now.




43 Comments Add yours

  1. aFrankAngle says:

    (Visiting via Dale) … What a beautiful story with a powerful message for all. Here is a special school for students with special abilities – yet, you stressed the importance of life and lessons learned – not academics. I loved this phrase – how the world could be – Perfect!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! And welcome. Any friend of Dale’s is a friend of mine. Come on in, the water is fine🙂.

      1. aFrankAngle says:

        Thank you for the warm welcome.

  2. Dale says:

    However did I miss this wonderful one?
    It has been proven that children do not see colour and race… it is taught to them. Why more school cannot just simply teach them as your bubble has, is beyond me. Why do those teachers know how to keep the hate out but as the kids get older, the teachers cannot seem to?
    Again, beautifully done.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Dale! I wish the Bubble was the norm. Am hoping someday it can be, with a generation far wiser than ours . . .

      1. Dale says:

        So do I, Kristine, so do I!!!

  3. You always inspire me!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Such a nice thing to say☺️

  4. This sounds like a wonderful foundation for life – sad that we can’t all live in that bubble forever.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m with you in that sentiment. Leaving that environment was as hard on me as it was on my sons.

  5. mydangblog says:

    I taught in a gifted program for many years and that was always the one thing that amazed and impressed me about those kids–their ability to simply accept each other for what they were, foibles and differences and all.

    1. candidkay says:

      It amazes me too but is so heartening to see. For years, I was lucky enough to see it at class parties, on the playground and at lunch tables. They just don’t overcomplicate it. I don’t know why we do as adults . . .

  6. Joanne Sisco says:

    My favourite line in here was “it’s what can happen when parents allow their children to rub shoulders with people who are different than they are.” I call it experiencing the world instead of a distorted sanitized version of it. It’s what helps us be open-minded to possibilities instead of insular and afraid of what’s different.

    I loved this post and the environment that this school has created. I wish it was the norm rather than the exception.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for the kind words. It sounds like we think similarly on this topic. I know what my kids experienced with Rosie. I do have friends who have had a lot of diversity in their public school and it has not been so wonderful. But I think it has very little to do with ethnicity And everything to do with basic respect for your fellow human being—manners, etc.

      1. Joanne Sisco says:

        I think you are exactly right!

  7. My son went to a gifted school as well and I miss those days. The first two years were magical and what he, and his classmates, taught me was more impressive than what they were taught. It was a beautiful bubble indeed with its inclusiveness, openness, and kindness unmatched in the ‘real world’ since. Now his high school is as white and liberal as you can imagine. We both miss the diversity that his grade 3 and 4 classes contained. But, our children are growing up more forgiving, engaged, and understanding even when they are out of their bubble. There is hope.

    1. candidkay says:

      There IS hope:). I agree. And I hear you on what these kids teach us. I can’t wait until I see them leading in the world–in all sorts of fields . . .

  8. markbialczak says:

    So well said, Kay. I voted, and I hope for us all.

    1. candidkay says:

      I was sure you would:). Thank you for the kind words.

  9. Inspiring, K. I can relate to the sacrifices involved in the private school route. But what a gift for a child.

    1. candidkay says:

      It truly is a gift—One that keeps on giving. I don’t regret a penny of it!

  10. Oh, I love this so much. Absolutely beautiful.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I’m glad this touched you.

  11. Su Leslie says:

    My son also experienced a wonderful bubble, but sadly as an institution it couldn’t provide for his whole education. I saw so many beautiful gifted bubbles sent out too soon to be chased and burst. How I would have loved for those children to have that experience of acceptance for long enough to gain more strength.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, that’s tough to hear. I hate to think of any of these children being plucked from a nurturing environment too soon. I truly think it’s essential to their growth as people. But it also encourages me that you were writing from the other side of the world and see similar children. The more tiny little positive bubbles that get out in all corners, the better :-).

      1. Su Leslie says:

        So few of our kids get a truly nurturing education environment. It’s partly a function of a very small population and low pop. density. We just can’t sustain enough great little schools. Thankfully, communities nurture where institutions fail.

  12. “I don’t think this experiment worked because of intelligence, or sensitivity, or giftedness. I think it’s what can happen when parents allow their children to rub shoulders with people who are different than they are.“ Exactly! Why can’t the rest of the world see that? I live in hope too, that a better change is ahead.

    1. candidkay says:

      If these kids have their way, better change is definitely ahead :-). We just have to hope there are whole lot more of them out there.

  13. I love this. My kids had similar experiences with a twist, moving from incredible private schools in South Africa that promoted the treasures of diversity to public schools in the U.S. Two memories came immediately to mind when I was reading your piece — my son choosing not to swim at a class party in 2nd grade because his best friend didn’t know how to swim and then the time during his first week of public school in the U.S. when he was admonished for saying “Yes ma’am” to the teacher. (She thought he was mocking her or being obnoxious, I guess.) We soon put both kids back into private school. Like you, having our children in private schools meant a lot of sacrifices. All worth it in so many ways. I love public schools, but for my children private schools worked best. And that view does not result from the privilege associated with private school, but rather the respect and appreciation for differences that the kids enjoyed there. My proudest moments from those years are quite simple — the time my son spent an hour helping a younger swimmer perfect his backstroke turn, and the time my daughter chose to socialize with two young and shy teammates during a field hockey tournament trip to Florida. I’m also proud that after making public school friends, they remained valued acquaintances — just as cherished as the private school classmates — in the lives of my son and daughter. I guess it’s about celebrating the good and special you encounter in a variety of settings, appreciating the different and treasured traits that make people unique, and understanding that we all must choose our own ways forward. Thanks for reminding me of reasons to believe in our future; I need that now.

    1. candidkay says:

      Why does it not surprise me that you’ve raised kids who would stick by their friends and show good manners? 🙂 It sounds like we both believe the sacrifices we made are worth it. And I do believe that there are some phenomenal public school environments out there. They’re just not as common as they should be. We definitely have some work to do. Thanks, as always, for sharing your wisdom and your experiences here. You really add value to the conversation each and every time.

  14. What beautiful imagery you draw on with a picture of bubbles blowing across the globe. Bubbles of peace, hope and change. Whilst one can never underestimate the complexity of the political/ financial/ racial tensions that plague our planet, I do believe the starting point for all solutions can be comprehensively simplified into one word. Respect. And who can place a value on a school that delivers respect as an underpinning fundamental of their education model? All the sacrifices you’ve made to ensure your boys have had access to this is worth every cost. Well done Kristine. The world bleeds for more parents willing and able to make these sacrificial choices for our children.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Those are very kind words. I do wish that more schools and teachers got it right. Although I do believe there are many who do. But then I see photos like the one of the teachers from the Idaho school district who dressed up like Mexican people trying to get into the United States, as well as a border wall. And I think: in what world would they ever think that is OK? What you say is true. I don’t regret a penny of what I spent on my boys’ education.

  15. Lucia Maya says:

    Beautiful. Inspiring. I have a 25 year old daughter who is one of these special beings… Thanks for your writing.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you 🙏🏻. I truly believe kids like these have been born at this time and place for a reason :-). Blessings to you and your daughter.

  16. Bryce Warden says:

    Reblogged this on Was that my out loud voice? and commented:
    I loved this so much I wanted to share it.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I so appreciate the share😀

    1. candidkay says:

      Rooting for them through the ether:).

  17. Thank you for inspiring me this morning with your perceptions and your hope.

    1. candidkay says:

      Join me in the hope, friend:). Thanks for reading and joining the conversation . . .

  18. Conna Bond says:

    Thank you for this! As always!

    1. candidkay says:

      And thank you for reading–and commenting–as always:). I hope this one struck you . . .

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