I promise I’m not bragging when I tell you my child is gifted. I’m just parenting the best way I know how.
My mother has a beach house in rural North Carolina, and it’s the only place I regularly visit where I can see the stars.
Lest you think I live under an opaque dome, I must admit the stars are visible in suburban DC. With all the light pollution, though, you’d be hard pressed to see the Milky Way without some sort of telescopic aid.
It’s not like that at the beach.
Go out at dusk and wait a bit, and one by one you’ll see pinpricks of light transform into a sea more vast than the ocean. I’ve laid on my back many a summer night and lost myself in that Carolina sky, watching falling stars streak across black velvet, tracing constellations with an outstretched hand.
As a child, the big dipper poured out dreams from my imagination.
As a teen, Orion pointed his arrow at my heart.
As a mother, my children look back at me, the moving parts of their constellations coalescing into a single point.
Theirs is a night sky I neither anticipated nor desired, and while it’s beauty strengthens my belief in the creator of the universe, its magnitude leaves me utterly alone.
The word “gifted” carries a lot of associations, and not all of them are good. Its use has a tendency to imply superiority, a have vs. have not mentality. I cringe every time I publish a post on the subject, despite my role as a gifted/2e blogger and advocate. Each social share or promotion makes me nervous, fearing I might alienate or offend.
Part of the issue here is that parents of gifted children tend to be vocal. Because of the myriad misconceptions surrounding our children’s strengths, we have to shout a little louder to advocate for their needs. This is not something we particularly enjoy: like anyone, we’d much focus on raising happy, moral, compassionate children.
It’s almost impossible to do that, though, when the world around you expects something else.
Every child is a gift, a unique constellation of traits and talents.
Like their stellar counterparts in the heavens, their individual structures complement one another in a celestial ballet, brilliant bodies weaving in and out of a grander plan.
Somewhere along the line, though, we began to see children as categories: the smart kids, the dumb kids, the creative kids, the musical kids. Our society’s desire for achievement and success reduced these gifts to labels, and the word “gifted” came to be associated with one particular kind of trait.
Consequently, what we know as gifted is not so much a gift. It is a special need, one aspect of a child’s individual constellation impacting her life as a whole.
Respecting the Sum of Their Parts
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with thousands of children. They’ve come from a wide variety of backgrounds; they’ve exhibited a wide variety of talents.
My tennis star, Anthony, traveled weeks at a time for tournaments.
My actor, Brittany, left school an hour early for theater classes downtown.
My writer, Katie, spent summers at the Duke Young Writers Program.
My swimmer, James, got up at 3 AM for two hours of practice before school.
Anthony and Katie had severe ADHD. Brittany struggled with depression. James had dysgraphia and dyslexia. But their gifts and their struggles made them whole people – not individual parts. Their talents and challenges impacted decisions and choices; their parents advocated for their individual needs.
The matter is much the same in the case of gifted children. Where my former students excelled in athletics, composition, and the arts, my kiddos excel in memory, processing speed, reasoning, and the like. I advocate for their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing just as any other parent would. If the topic of my children’s talents and struggles comes up in conversation, it’s not because I’m looking for accolades, approval, amazement, or awe.
I’m looking for community.
I’m seeking connection. I’m searching for a shoulder to cry on; a friend to shares my joys.
Because we have special needs, too: my oldest (and probably the others) are twice exceptional. Our experiences can be similar to those families with autism, dyslexia, sensory processing or developmental disorders
Because we deal with emotional struggles, as well: depression and anxiety run rampant on both side of the family. The same is true for our kids.
Because we face social issues, like everyone else: we’ve seen our share of bullies and frenemies; experiences of isolation and loneliness.
And because we have problems with motivation, too: given the chance, my kids would spend all day in front of a computer screen. Why won’t they just go outside?
If we’re all in this together, why must there be the assumption of superiority on anyone’s part? We are all facing the same daunting task of raising children, of navigating a world that isn’t always kind.
I may be the the mother of gifted children, but I am a stargazer just like you.
I promise I’m not bragging when I tell you my children are gifted. I’m just parenting the best way I know how.
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