I am sitting here in the middle of MIT, waiting for Alice to finish having fun. She's spent a happy two hours with Serpinski triangles, and spurned the lunch offered for a healthy mix of carbs, sugar and fat (crackers, yogurt and chocolate cheesecake) and is now learning things about Finnish.
The parents all look vaguely familiar, the kids all look rather more familiar – there is something like finding one's tribe about it. And yet, and yet, parts feel …. odd. I pointed out to Alice that she's a slacker gifted child. We never forced an instrument on her, or a gymnastics routine, or anything really. No sports but fencing, and that intermittently. No special language classes outside of school. Nothing she hasn't requested, basically. Which makes her sane, and me her mother sane because I don't have to drive her somewhere every day.
On further contemplation, it is a continuum. Like my beloved otherKate told me once, there's always someone feeding their kids more organic food than you are, and someone else who hits micky-d's regularly enough that they have the entire collection of mini-beanie-babies. You do what's right for you and your kids. Don't sweat the neighbors. Do what feels right and works for you. Change if it stops working. (which, parenthetically, is why we stopped going to McD – Alice kept throwing up, which is a powerful demotivator for any behaviour.)
So here we are, testing this part of the continuum. Parents are distinctly unwelcome – we're barred from the official lunching place, and tossed unceremoniously out of any classes we wander into by mistake. It really gives the kids a lot of ownership for the whole process. It makes Alice and me a little twitchy, because we've said we'd rendezvous between classes and travel together from building to building, just to keep me (and her dad, in absentia) from freaking out, not because she is bemused or bewildered.
The program is for grades 7 – 12. I'm guessing it used to be for high schoolers, and they expanded it because kids are getting smarter younger, and then they couldn't figure out how to integrate parents of younger kids, so they stuck to a model that works. There is an adults program, but most of it looks reeeeeally boring (another lecture on choosing a college? no thanks.) So instead I get to sit still, and read a little, and knit a little, and walk around in nice weather and pretty surroundings. If there were no waiting for Alice, it would be a perfect vacation day. Instead I get to do exactly that and then get hugs when she comes out of class. Pretty good deal, all told. Plus, internet access in the middle of MIT is awesome.