December 3, 2012

What Does A Parent Of A Gifted Child Look Like Anyway?

by

Recently, I had another parent tell me “I wouldn’t have pegged you as the mom of a gifted child.” I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not, and my wide-eyed, half-smile reply must have conveyed my confusion. She went on to tell me that I seemed “so normal”. Again, not sure that was a compliment. But, most days I’ll take being “so normal” as a good thing.

It got me thinking, though, about what it’s like being the parent of a gifted child. I spent several years homeschooling, searching for other parents who could relate to many of the experiences I was having with such a precocious child. Since BabyGirl began reading at 18 months, I knew the educational journey was going to be different. Since she was born, I’ve had many people tell me that there was something different about BabyGirl. As a first-time parent it was all just so new to me that all the conflicting information in parenting books and websites kept me from seeing really how different things were for me and my day.

CycleGuy and I knew BabyGirl was smart based on many of the things she did. But we kept it to ourselves. Not out of embarrassment, but more because we weren’t sure what it all meant. And, also, because it was a bit of a conversation killer. I understand that most parents think their kid is smart. I’m totally cool with that. But if your child is in the top 1 or 2 percentile when it comes to IQ, smart doesn’t even come close. It’s part of the reason I still rarely mention it.

CycleGuy and I never imagined we’d get BabyGirl tested. We figured I’d homeschool her and I’d just create her program to fit what she needed. That’s the beauty of homeschooling! It wasn’t until we had to deal with some court competency issues that we got our first glimpse of really where BabyGirl was on the curve. While we weren’t surprised, it was something tangible that would cause us to understand why the standard parenting books and websites didn’t seem to fit us.

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with other parents of gifted kids, I have a better idea of what we look like. And, like many of these other parents, having a gifted child isn’t like winning the smart lottery. The challenges we face are very real, even though they may be very different. And despite living with children who think they’re smarter than we are, they actually may be smarter than us. And that’s kind of scary.

So, what does a parent of a gifted child look like? Maybe it’s the tired, frazzled, deer-in-the-headlights look of terror on our faces that gives us away? Maybe it’s the tears?

We’re tired from being asked 68,296 questions. All of which begin within 8 minutes of our children waking up. They’re non-stop, these questions. And no matter how much we read, search google or go to the library, we’ll never know the answer to many of these questions. And it hurts our brains. And our hearts.

We’re frazzled because our days are often filled with trying to convince someone that our kid’s abilities need to be addressed. While I feel very fortunate with the public school system we’re part of now, I was so exasperated with the public/private/charter process in the past. So many parents of gifted kids have to constantly fight to get their kids appropriate educational services that they can’t turn down this state of high alert.

Tears are common in homes of gifted kids. Not just from the kids, but if we could sit in the corner curled up in a fetal position crying we would. It’s not easy raising gifted kids. While some parents will openly talk about their gifted kids, I’ve found that often the more gifted the child the more quiet the parent. We’re not embarrassed about our kids. We’re often more overwhelmed with what it all means and how are we going to help them just be kids. We’re emotionally exhausted trying to figure out how we’re going to challenge our children, yet not have them lose their motivation or self-confidence when things don’t come easy. We’re blotting tears because even though we know there are other parents out there having similar experiences, we feel alone.

Parents of gifted kids often look like every other parent. Our concerns may be different, our experiences not easily understood. For many of us, we don’t talk about parenting our gifted kids because we don’t want to be seen as bragging. That, and we’ve got so many questions swirling around our head we’re often unable to determine if we should laugh or cry. Our kids are different. We know that. But we’re still very proud of them.

What do parents of gifted kids look like to you?

Sara

{ 18 comments }

Christi @ Love From The Oven December 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm

First, I”m so glad to have you to share this journey. Ahh, the more gifted the child the more quiet the parent. Wow. Spot on. It really is a lonely, tiring journey. I never cease to be amazed at how similar I am finding the special needs road to the gifted road, except nobody thinks I’m bragging or showing off if I say G has special needs, but truth be told, they are pretty much equally exhausting, challenging, overwhelming and full of doubt and often worry for the future. The supports that are there (at least in theory) for special needs, certainly aren’t there for gifted kids/families. While you still have to fight for educational needs, you’d never hear the responses to the need of a special needs kid that you do for a gifted kid. So very similar but treated so differently.

Sara December 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Christi, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I, too, am glad I have you to share this journey. It’s unfortunate that we have to get so frazzled advocating for our kids in the education system. Since many schools fun gifted education through the special needs budget, it’s no wonder it’s a challenge to get the resources and help. Many educators feel that gifted kids will be able to “figure it out” so the move the limited funds they have to other programs.

The bragging issue is probably the most challenging to deal with though because it’s not just with strangers but also with family and close friends. I remember the days when all moms would share the milestones of walking and running and saying first words. But, at some point, some of us found it more comfortable to just smile and say nothing about what our child was doing. It’s a very fine line between not sharing because you don’t want to deal with the eye rolls and your child thinking you’re not proud of them because you’re not sharing with the other moms at the extra-curricular programs.

~ Sara

Nikki December 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

It’s the isolation that is the hardest to deal with. It helps to know there are people out there who have the same daily stress, questions, long days and frustrations.

Children in the top 1% aren’t just a bit ahead of the group – they are years ahead. So as a parent, it is exhausting dealing with high school issues when the children are young primary age. There aren’t many people who ‘get it’. Exam nerves, frustrations over work that they want to understand, not just ‘do’, questions about deep philosophical issues.

I find talking to other parents exhausting as I get asked questions, really pare down the answers and still look like I am bragging. I don’t find many friends in those groups.

So we homeschool. No more having to explain the behaviour of other children. No more explaining to the teacher how, although they think they are extending my child, they are just practicing skills and not actually learning. There are no more direct comparisons between anyone’s work in class. And the best part is my children are the same creative, wonderful (full of wonder) little individuals they always were. Just happier. For the first time ever, they are having to think and work at their level. They lap it up. I am exhausted!

My only worry is when they go back into mainstream education, what will happen to them? My six year old is working at fourth grade level. My eight year old is working at tenth grade. The gap is widening. Already I have to check math work carefully. I worry how long I can homeschool them for. Yet who is there for me to talk to about my concerns?

B. December 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Oh the eyeroll! I hate that. Yes my child is smart but she’s driven and I want her to know that I’m proud of her hard work. It’s so frustrating not to be able to say, “A read an entire chapter book by herself!” just because her peers are still on letter sounds. All of our children are working for their achievements but I’m not supposed to talk about A’s.

genxatmidlife December 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Although I am supposed to be getting ready to head out for a party, I just HAD to read this post when I saw it pop up on my Facebook page (from the Chicago Gifted Center).

I love your point that having a gifted kid is not like winning the smart lottery. It sometimes seems that there is a point of diminishing returns once you get into that top 5th percentile in IQ!

And if your child is creatively gifted… watch out. Those sharpened (to a painful point) sensitivities are exhausting.

I think one of the hardest things is keeping all the plates on their spinners. You are balancing the extra work required of helping a gifted kid have their needs met and finding a way for your kid to fit into the world, in addition to all of the regular parenting challenges everyone faces. And I haven’t met a parent of a gifted kid yet who isn’t busy — whether it’s having special creative projects, their own intellectual pursuits or working as an advocate for their kid.

Thanks for the post!

Kylie December 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I am tired, I am exhausted and I am alone. I am the mother of two gifted kids, one will be 5 in March and the other is 2 & 1/2. They are totally different.

The one who is nearly 5 questions authority, has since she was 16 months of age. She used to challenge me on everything, I mean everything. I learnt to pick my battles, but some battles are not negotiable. She is slowly understanding that I am the mum for a reason, but now her emotions have ramped up and the intensity is beyond anything. She is a perfections, won’t attempt anything if she can’t do it 100%. She is frustrated. She focuses on the negative.

The other one wants to make me happy. She is determined, but I can usually reason with her. She is probably hard, but nothing can compare, for us, to her sister.

I find it so hard to keep them stimulated. They don’t really play with toys. They don’t need much sleep.

I have never really talked about their milestones. I felt people didn’t believe me, that I was bragging. We had the eldest one tested when she was 3 because her behaviour was difficult. I was made to feel by family and friends that it was the way we parented her. When it came back she was gifted I started telling everyone. I then started to feel that people don’t get it and this started to frustrate me, upset me. So, I am at the stage of not talking to my friends about it. How several times a week I cry through exhaustion. How it would by nice to go out and not be trying to be 5 steps ahead to stop a meltdown because there is too much noise. How if we change the routine too much, I have to explain why, and hope that the older one is happy to do it. How some days I feel so alone. How I was too afraid to like anything to do with giftedness on my Facebook page, because I was worried how people would react.

On a positive note. I have recently met some people ‘just like us’. I am thinking of setting up a support group. I don’t think anyone should have to go through what we have been through. As I always say, you don’t just wake up one day and your child is suddenly gifted! There needs to be more info available on the emotional roller coaster ride that families go through. I just might also write a book!

I am so glad to find this wonderful blog.

Oh yeah, I said stuff it and started liking everything to do with giftedness!

Fab December 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I feel the same way. Many times I find myself talking about my gifted kid progress or frusutrations with friends that don’t seem to be interested on what I have to say.
I want to start a group too but most of all, I would love to help the community of gifted children .
I feel that my son has been treated as a disable in the public school and not as gifteed because of his behaviour. He is not even included in the gifted and talented program at his school eventhough he belongs to 2 gifted and talented programs in our town.

Tara Lenga, Exceptional Kids December 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Taking this journey is always more fun when others “get it”. It is so important for parents of gifted children to not feel alone. I applaud you for helping to get that message out there that it’s exhausting to be parents of gifted children and that there are others out there just like us.
Tara recently posted …
http://www.exceptional-kids.com/1/post/2012/12/lego-girls-whatever.html

Ali December 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I am very new to all of this but this article hits spot on how I am feeling.

Kylie I am just like you a 5 yr old just tested and my 3 yr old has a lot of the same characteristics but we are hoping he is just copying his sisters behaviors (wishful thinking?). After reading 2 of the books the neuro psych recommended and a little research I am feeling at ease that I am not alone but it would be nice to know others were in the same boat. My husband and I feel like we have created a safe place for our 5 yr old which is so exhausting — we never knew this was not normal! only that she was so empathetic and sensitive and could really process things way further than we though was normal but who knows normal? She was not reading or any milestone like that but she was processing things way beyond her age that really made us go — wow! we just thought she was super strong willed with her power struggles and then no book worked for more than 3 weeks she would always figure out the process or decide to not care (i.e. time outs, love and logic, etc.).

3 yr old brother seems smarter he is obsessed with puzzles – could do 3 yr old puzzles at 18 months but he is more mellow. I have wishful thinking for him!

Her brother who is 3 is a little easier

Catherine Gruener December 9, 2012 at 8:59 am

Hi Sara,

Absolutely wonderful and I am sharing on my facebook and to others.

Thank you,
Catherine

http://www.facebook/GruenerConsulting

Sara December 9, 2012 at 9:33 am

Thank you, Catherine. I really appreciate the share and your visiting and commenting. ~ Sara

? December 9, 2012 at 9:19 am

Hi, former gifted child, current parent of a gifted child, here…

I can’t relate to this at all, sorry. Maybe it’s different if you were there yourself?

Sara December 9, 2012 at 9:32 am

I’m glad you can’t relate to this. I don’t think these experiences as a parent of a gifted child are necessarily reduced or eliminated if you were a gifted child yourself. I, and I’m sure many others, grew up as a gifted child. While it may offer insight and perspective about our child(ren), it doesn’t change the way others look at and evaluate us when our children are doing things that significantly above what is deemed “age appropriate”. Nor does it change that our pride is often seen as boasting rather than just sharing. I wish you all the best and thank you for sharing your personal experience. ~ Sara

kim/TheMakerMom December 9, 2012 at 10:40 am

Great piece, Sara. I’ll be sharing this out!

Sara December 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Thanks for sharing my post, Kim. Much gratitude, Sara.

Aliza December 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Maybe I’m missing the point, but what I find most troubling is the fact that someone had the nerve to make these statements to you in the first place! What is wrong with people? I’m sure you handled it with characteristic grace, and I’m equally sure I would have responded with a characteristically UNgraceful,”What the hell is that supposed to mean?” 🙂

As far a BabyGirl is concerned, you’re doing an amazing job, and she’s lucky she got you as her mom.

Sara December 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Thanks, Aliza, for stopping by. It was a bit of a shock to have someone ask me such an odd question. Then again, it seems people are becoming more and more intrusive with their questions as the idea of public sharing is more the norm. ~ Sara

NV December 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I can relate to some of your experiences. My 5yo is above average (that’s all we can call her–for many reasons), and I am guilty of not wanting to answer all her many questions. I survive by asking her 4 siblings to offer answers. I also wonder who I can discuss her abilities with so I can best direct her learning and growing. Because I homeschool all but the oldest of the 5 kids, I often am encouraged to spend more time with the one who’s having trouble since the 5yo is “way ahead.” My, my. I sure can’t give more hours than I have to give, but I do wonder what else I could be offering her.

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