I found out a few weeks ago that I’m expecting a child. My husband has two children from a previous marriage. About two years ago I got pregnant and my husband went into a violent depression. He didn’t speak to me for weeks except to tell me how I had ruined his life. Then, when I miscarried he celebrated. I started bleeding in the grocery store, and he fell to his knees and “praised God” for this wonderful blessing.
After months of therapy, we decided to try to make the marriage work, under the agreement that we would never have a child together. However, I now find myself pregnant again. And, I want this baby as much as I wanted the last one. The trouble is, I decided back then that I would never want a child with my husband. There is a very good chance that my husband will divorce me and leave a man-shaped hole in the front door as he grabs his two kids and runs as far away as he can. I am not ready for the end of the marriage I have put so many years and so much work into. But, I’m even more not ready to hear my husband try to talk me into an abortion — which is not an option. And, I think it would be traumatic for my stepchildren to watch me carry a baby to term and then put it up for adoption.
They are well old enough to know what’s happening. Plus, I could never part with my child. I have to tell him. But how?
— Pregnant again
The day your husband started praising God in the grocery store because you were miscarrying his child was the day the man-sized hole in your life should have opened up which you should have repaired with reinforced concrete.
You say you put a lot of work into this marriage. But that’s like saying you put a lot of work into building a house at the site of an annual mudslide and you’re staying until the walls collapse around you. Instead of fleeing this awful man, you stayed, then didn’t take the kind of precautions (sterilization of both of you, for example) that would have prevented another pregnancy.
Unless you are fearful for your safety — which is a significant concern — you need to tell your husband you’re pregnant. I don’t know how you do it except to say, “I’m pregnant.” If he reacts as you expect, your next step is to contact a divorce lawyer.
As a first-grader I was given an IQ test, scored more than 160 and was declared a “genius.” This led to years of heightened expectations, profound failures, disappointed teachers and family, and ostracism (I was skipped two grades and did not fit in socially.) I eventually dropped out of high school during my freshman year. I later managed to successfully continue my education and got a graduate degree. I’m basically happy, but not a highly successful person. My family was abusive, and I have a weird personality, but the “genius” treatment didn’t help.
I’m now married and have a 4-year old daughter. Because she was somewhat shy and anti-social, we were advised to have her evaluated for autism spectrum disorder. They said she doesn’t have that, but she was given an IQ test. The psychologist literally came out to the waiting area shouting that she was “a genius!” I had a PTSD reaction to this, bundled her up and fled. I have not mentioned any of this to my husband. He was also labeled a genius at a young age, failed miserably in school, and has had a largely unsuccessful career. But he’s proud of his genius label and does not see it as part of his later problems.
I fear that he would be boastful to his large and very competitive family and impose some of the heightened expectations on her that we both suffered from.
Next year my daughter will begin kindergarten and I just learned that our district has a nearby magnet for students with exceptionally high IQs. My instinct is to keep my daughter far away from the school psychologist and the tiger mommies and daddies around that pressure cooker. I am not in the habit of keeping secrets from my husband or denying my child opportunities, so I’m feeling guilty.
I also feel that once the cat is out of the bag, there’s little hope of normalcy for my daughter’s childhood. She’s a happy little kid right now. Advice?
— Just Wanting the Best
It would be best for your girl if the adults in her life were able to not project their fears and fantasies on her little shoulders and just allow her to explore the wonders of being young. You raise a wise and absolutely legitimate point about your own early labeling and its destructive powers.
In “Mindset,” Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck explores the damage done by imposing on people a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. She writes that people who believe intelligence or talent are given and immutable end up expecting these qualities alone to lead to success (you’ve seen they don’t), and can spend more time documenting their gifts than developing them (as may have been the case with your husband). With the growth mindset, people understand their given qualities are just a starting point, and accomplishment requires effort and dedication.
Understanding and applying these principles to the raising of your daughter will help buffer her against the adults in her family and at school who want to harp on an IQ number as an end in itself.
Don’t let anxiety and secrecy motivate your decisions about her education. You know you have to tell your husband about the test result and magnet school. But you don’t have to do it like the school psychologist and go bellowing her IQ and declaring her a genius. You just need to tell your husband that one of the tests shows that your kid — like the two of you — is very bright, and say this raises the question of what the best school would be for her next fall. Then you two should look at your choices with open minds.
Your husband needs to listen to your concern that the magnet school will be a demanding hothouse fueled by insanely competitive parents. You need to listen to his worry that your child will eventually be bored by the curriculum at your neighborhood school. Then you should both read “Mindset” and get on the same page about the fact that your daughter’s intelligence test is but one data point, and that what’s important is nurturing a love of learning, an ability to take risks (and fail), and resilience.
Since you and your husband both have had issues with fulfilling your expected promise in life — and you want to avoid visiting the same problems on your child — you might benefit from discussing this together with a psychologist. Just not one who believes in slapping useless labels on people.
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