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My Daughter The PhD
He's A Lawyer - She's A PhD -- A Mom's Gotta' Brag
My Daughter is an Academic Rock Star!
You've seen those Mother's Little Brag Books, little photo albums big enough to hold quite a few pictures of your child 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 rights, 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 me as a Facebook friend (She says it's just not right for Parents and their children to communicate on Facebook) She might not take kindly to her mother writing stories about her as an academic rock star.
I won't tell her if you won'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..." 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. Oh 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... and he was awarded 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," her teacher 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 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... smart."
"What?" I said. I 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 worse.
Not to brag on myself, but I'd dealt with the smart Black girl thing when I was young. I remembered a good friend calling me 'Square' (It was the sixties) because I chose reading in my room over going to parties. A lot of Black kids did and still do choose cool over smart. I knew my daughter would survive being rejected for choosing the latter.
I focused on the positive. The 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, getting simultaneous high school diplomas from schools in Moscow and her home town, participating in the People to People Ambassador program in the former USSR at age 12, playing viola in the orchestra, which is where she met her violin playing husband.
She's done these things over a lifetime of setting goals, achieving and never looking back. And now she's a PhD.
It makes a mother so proud!