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

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Yeah, My Kid is Smart, BUT...

Yesterday, I read a really frustrating blog post on the Momformation blog at babycenter.com. It is entitled, "I hate hearing about your gifted child." The blog goes on to talk about how hearing about others' children's successes makes her feel as if her child is somehow less valuable, less special, less unique. Somehow, this mom seems to think that another kid's smartness puts them in a special glass case that nobody else needs to bother with. I wonder if she feels equally as threatened by parents who talk about their children's sports accomplishments, or musical talent?

 Well, let's set the record straight about giftedness.

 Maybe it comes across as bragging, but when I talk about my gifted child it certainly doesn't FEEL like bragging, because it's more like venting. I don't want to suggest that parents of gifted/2e kids have it worse off than any other parent - by no means, everyone has their own struggles with their children. But I'd really like this babycenter mom to trade kids with me for a day or so - if for no other reason than I could send her kid off to school or a friend's house without worrying about getting That Phone Call telling me it's time for her to come home. And I could get some peace and quiet for a while.

Let me be clear - I do not homeschool because I want to. I do not homeschool because I think my kid is too special to be in a regular classroom. I had to quit a job I loved so I could stay home to homeschool my child because we could not find a school that could educate him. We had three private schools that were willing to try, but none of them would say that he'd learn anything. Sorry, I'm not going to start spending money against the equity of our home to send him to a school where he won't learn anything (and I'm likely to get That Phone Call at least on a weekly basis, so really, working at any job that's not incredibly flexible is out anyway). We homeschool because his pace of learning is about a grade every month or so (that we started noticing that trend when he was in 2nd grade and was being tested for reading comprehension, and it went up a full grade and a half every month - they stopped testing him when he hit 12th grade reading level, a month before his 8th birthday). When left to his own devices, he has managed to race through 9th, 10th, and 11th grades since September, and is half-way through two AP courses he started three weeks ago. People ask me what we're going to do next, and it's all I can do not to shout out - "how the heck should I know?" Because here's the thing - HE IS NOT READY TO GO TO COLLEGE.

And this is the thing that most people don't get about giftedness - asynchrony. The kidlet has an amazing brain, but emotionally he is far, far behind his age. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have an intellectual understanding that exceeds most of the people you run into, but are unable to express yourself beyond what a 7 year old can do (and I might be aging his emotional development a little too much). Just imagine how frustrating that must be! For HIM! And for his parents, who are doing our darndest to try to help him navigate those waters, but can't even figure out where to start. And dagnabbit - somehow I've got to keep him learning while waiting for him to mature enough to actually go to college!

Recently, I had this conversation with the kidlet.

Kidlet: Mommy, mommy. Guess what I figured out today!
Mommy: What's that??
Kidlet: A new way to ANNOY people really bad! I just keep saying the name of my favorite character in my game... Kevin kevin kevin kevinkevinkevinkevinkevinkevin...
Mommy: Stop now.
Kidlet: See it works! kevinkevinkevinkevinkevinkevin
Mommy: Do you realize that when you annoy people, it makes them not want to be around you?
 Kidlet: It does?
 Mommy: Uh, yeah... you didn't know this?
 Kidlet: No, I didn't.
Mommy: How does it make you feel when someone annoys you?
Kidlet: I want them to stop it.
Mommy: And you really didn't know...

Yes, thank you asynchrony! I could go on - the school struggles that sent the kidlet into chronic stomachaches and crying fits and me into anxiety-induced hives. The IEP meetings. The parent-teacher conferences when all we hear is negative. The report cards with "1"s down the personal skills column (that's like an F). The attempts to get him involved in team sports and having coaches ask me not to bring him any more. The mean, horrible, terrible things people have said about him. The frustration-induced temper tantrums that come out of nowhere because he cannot express himself the way he can think it.

So, if you think I "brag" too much about my gifted child, you clearly are not listening. And, Momformation mom - I hope you appreciate the fact that you have a kind, "normal" child, who can fit in with other children her own age, who can participate in activities without one of her parents in viewing distance, and who can go on sleepovers with friends because their parents aren't afraid to have her over.