My youngest, 7YO (they grow up so fast. I can remember when he was 4YO, and 10YO was 7YO. Still with me?) is in the Gifted and Talented (GT) program in our school district, meaning he goes to a separate, Fame-style school full of uber-smart elementary schoolers who are either going to solve the world’s problems, or recreate dinosaurs from DNA preserved in amber.

Fingerpainting? I don't think so.

When we moved 7YO to the new school, we had the option of sending 10YO over as well, even though he didn’t test his way in. But since he was going into the 5th grade and would be changing schools anyway for sixth, we felt it was pointless to uproot him from all his friends just for one year of parental convenience. His grades and test scores weren’t high enough for him to qualify on his own, which was really too bad. But he was better off staying put.

This year, his scores and grades were high enough for him to be invited to potentially attend a math, science, and technology (MST) center. MSTs are one step lower than GT, because they are focused strictly on advanced math and science, whereas GT is well-rounded nerdishness. Still, MSTs give kids who are skilled in those areas advantages over kids (like me) who are merely average, or dare I say, mere mortals. When we got the letter of invitation for him, he was ecstatic, and we were also pretty pleased. He’s always had an affinity toward math and science, even with his ADHD, so it’s a natural fit. In theory. That whole ADHD thing means his ability to focus is roughly equivalent to my ability to drive through University Park here in Dallas without someone noticing I don’t belong. If he’s admitted, it’ll be a struggle.

I say “if he’s admitted” because even though we got a letter of invitation, that’s just the first step in the process. The letter invites you to come to a meet ‘n’ greet, where the staff shows you all the lovely amenities of the joint. You then have to fill out an application, including your child’s report card from the previous year (meaning 10YO’s 4th grade report card), and then they’ll choose among those applicants and send them official invitations to join the program. Parents then have a window of opportunity to either allow their kid to go, or keep them enslaved to a life with mere mortals at normal middle school. Having gone through this before with 7YO, we’re veterans to the process. And last night was the big meet-up.

As we walked up to the new school, 10YO and I had a conversation:

10YO: “Hey Dad, what’s all this white stuff on the sidewalk?”
Me: “It’s salt.”
10YO: “Why did they put salt on the sidewalk?”
Me: “When it was cold and icy, they put salt down to help melt the ice. By the way, it’s not just salt – it’s salt mixed with sand or dirt. It’s not for eating.”
10YO: “Oh.”

We continued inside, where we were blown away by the academic offerings from this place. Astronomy, forensics, pathophysiology,  algebra, field trips to nuclear power plants and NASA, robotics, animation…and this is just 6th through 8th grade, people. It’s an awesome opportunity to say the least. There was an 8ft tall Eiffel Tower made of tongue depressors in the hallway, built by students. And it was perfect. That place is like “Fame”, but for smart people. We finished the tour, and went back to the car to head home. As we pulled out, we began discussing dinner. I looked back at 10YO, and noticed he was looking a little green around the gills. This conversation ensued:

Me: “Are you ok?”
10YO (lying down, clutching his belly): “Oooooh….”
Me: “What’s the matter?”
10Yo: “I don’t feel so good, Daddy…”
Me (concerned): “What’s the MATTER? What happened?”
10YO: (silence)
Me (figuring something was seriously wrong): “TELL ME.”
10YO: “Um…I ate some of the salt.”
Me (confused): “Salt? What salt?”
10YO: “The salt off the ground.”

Now, I don’t know how familiar you are with the salt used to de-ice roads and sidewalks, but it’s not Morton’s Little Girl Wasting Salt With An Umbrella table salt. It’s usually pure rock salt, mixed with dirt or sand. Rock salt is not the same as iodized, edible salt. It will make your tummy hurt, particularly if it’s mixed with sand and is lying on the dirty dirty ground and if you’re dumb enough to consume it, which evidently my child is.



Me: “Son, that’s NOT the salt you eat! Are you kidding me? Why did you do that?”
10YO: “I don’t know.”
Me: “It was on the ground, son!”
10YO: “I know.”
7YO: “It has dirt in it, you know.”
10YO: “I KNOW!”
DWW (riding shotgun, and only so I could hear): “Dumbass”

Please take a moment to let the irony sink in. My son, targeted as a potential bright academic star, while on a visit to the advanced school he’d be learning new and very cool technical things, ate the sand-and-rock salt mixture from off the ground. At age 10. He recovered, but hopefully he learned a very valuable lesson.