As a child, I was a total over-achiever. I got great grades and really pushed myself to be “perfect.” I got stress-related headaches throughout my childhood due to this drive for perfection.

When I was in elementary school, maybe fourth or fifth grade, I was tested for the gifted program. I remember being so nervous about taking the test, hoping I’d do well and have the word “gifted” applied to myself. I don’t remember much from the test, but one part of it is crystal clear, as I knew while taking the test that I was failing big time on this one. It was a blank page with a simple shape in the center (a footprint). The instructions were to create something using the shape. So, I’m sitting there staring and staring at this stupid footprint, wondering what I’m going to make out of it. In the end, I ran out of time and just drew wavy lines inside of it and titled it “Tennis Shoe Footprint.” I felt totally defeated. I did not get placed in the gifted program, and I blamed that damned footprint.

After the test, I thought often of that footprint and what I might have made with it. I think the most creative I got was making it into a butterfly (draw another footprint shape and attach the two with a stretched out oval – the body of the butterfly). Why didn’t I think of that when faced with the test? Would that have gotten me accepted into the program?

It has been 30 years since I took that stupid test and I still sometimes find it popping up in my head, a reminder of failure. Never mind that I was considered for the program, an achievement in itself. I thought of it this morning and imagined Monkey in this scenario. I hope to attach that memory to doing all I can to avoid such feelings for Monkey. I hope that he is not anxious and tense as I often was as a child, working so hard to reach the unattainable (perfection). Sure, I want him to strive to do and be his best, but I hope that he feels pride even when he fails because he put himself out there and tried. Like his Mama did those many years ago.



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5 responses to “footprint

  1. Claire

    Great post! Isn’t it odd the kinds of things that just haunt us. And that whole test thing is so bogus! So a footprint stood ( ha ha ) between you and the label, gifted – or so you think. It’s so f ing bogus!
    I hope you don’t judge yourself by this standard anymore. Makes me mad to think of it!
    Yup, I hope my babe is chill too! 🙂 I was highly anxious too. Urgh!

  2. Jen

    This sounds like a familiar story. I was also considered for the gifted program and didn’t make it in. To make it worse most of my friends had made it. As the years went on I got pretty bitter about it because I was getting all A’s in classes some of those people were getting B’s or C’s in. In a way not making it turned me into a harder worker because I wanted to show the testers how wrong they were. I’m sure it’s going to be a fine line to walk as Oliver gets older to encourage him to work hard and try his best but not to push him to the point he gets stressed out. So many challenges to come!

  3. Funny how some things stick with us. I also look back at things and think of what I hope to teach Bee about how to live life.

  4. I never understand parents who push their kids to get straight A’s. I mean, sure, that’s great, but as long as my child is doing his best and passing, that’s a-ok by me. I’m more interested in him finding something he’s passionate about and going for it 100%.

  5. Jen

    What a great post and so interesting you still hold powerful memories. I too remember being tested for gifted, not passing and feeling like a failure. I was always ashamed and I guess for me, I hide those memories because it is easier. What is interesting is that I always got A’s but felt like I had no choice so thankfully it wasn’t too hard to do so. I remember getting a B and getting in trouble!

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