A gifted individual is a quick and clever thinker, who is able to deal with complex matters. Autonomous, curious and passionate. A sensitive and emotionally rich person, living intensely. He or she enjoys being creative. -definition of giftedness written by the Netherlands Study on Giftedness in Adults

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


As a parent, it's sometimes difficult to keep a realistic perspective of your child. Some of us make the mistake of expecting too much, some of us not enough. 

I think this is especially difficult when you have an only child - and a gifted one at that. I've got no other reference point, other than this one child who is clearly different from most other children his age. So, I have a really hard time keeping perspective on who he is and what he can do. And it goes both ways - sometimes I expect too much, and sometimes not enough. 

A perfect example of this was over the weekend. We attended a marine biology event for gifted children, offered through Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. It was a great opportunity, with lots of fun adventuring and learning (well, I learned a lot). But it made me very conscious of how unique my child really is. I told him there would be other kids "like him," but I was wrong. These kids were clearly quite smart, but they weren't in the same league as the kidlet. Not even close. And the really amazing thing (as his mom, I know these things) is that there he was, astounding the socks off the teachers and other adults, and this isn't even his main area of interest. I could see it in the look I got from one of the teachers, when she asked the kidlet if he wanted to be a marine biologist - clearly expecting that this is a special interest of his - and he said "no, I want to be an inventor." I could have told her that his interest in biology/marine biology/etc lies in his fascination for the mechanics of how things work. 

It made me a little sad, as I was reflecting how hard it is for this little person to find peers - those intellectual peers he might find have no similar interests, while his interest-peers don't follow his logic and don't get his jokes. It's no wonder he doesn't engage others very often. For a socially immature person it's hard enough to know how to enter into and maintain a conversation, but when your experiences mostly end up in misunderstanding and frustration... well, it's easy to understand why he might stop trying. 

But then there's the other side of the "perspective" coin, too. Sometimes I expect him to act like an adult simply because he can reason like an adult. But that's not appropriate, either. When he is falling apart in tears because he made a mistake that can't be undone, I have to remind myself that he is still a child. When he has days that require more physical movement ("run around breaks"), or he has trouble calming himself over something exciting - I have to remind myself that he is still a child, and still learning skills that most adults take for granted. Yes, he is definitely behind the curve in some areas, as much as he is ahead of it in others... which makes it doubly important for DH and I to set appropriate expectations (and doubly hard to know what ARE appropriate expectations. Grade level expectations, while his maturity isn't grade level? Is that fair?). 

I hope that I am keeping my expectations realistic - whether intellectual, social, or emotional. I hope that I am giving the kidlet the support he needs to become better at those things in which he does not excel, while continuing to find joy and interest in those areas in which he is beyond the curve. 


  1. Oh I hear you! It does get a bit easier when they get a bit older and there is not so much of a gap between their mental and chronological ages and they have learned some of those skills. But I can totally relate to what you just wrote :-)

  2. I hear you too. It is so hard to know what is a "reasonable" expectation for academic output, and for behavior output...with no reliable measuring sticks. I'm often putting in the dark, and then ending up surprised. (usually short on my end.)

  3. The Barracuda (our only kidlet) sounds like he might be up there with yours. Even at the gifted magnet school that we tried, he stuck out something royal. My son doesn't really have peers. He has single serving friends that he runs around with, plays games with, and jokes, but he can't really discuss things with them.

    We homeschool and he has adults he prefers to talk with about various subjects. I know our expectations are high for him, and often times we catch ourselves saying things like, "You're an adult; Act like it!" only to realize we are looking into the face of a 5 or 6 year old who only uses words like disparagingly and wants to talk about the global water crisis.

    In the end, every parent screws up their child. It is only a matter of degree. I'm pretty sure the things I still dislike my mother for doing are not the things she would think. My son will probably be screwed up by me in ways I can't even imagine bothering him. All you can do is love your kid.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I have three children and my two oldest are in a program for profoundly gifted students. That has been a lifesaver in that the kids' excentricities are somewhat to be expected within that population and the gap between their social/emotional functioning and cognitive ability is understood. Now I just have to remember that at home!