I was blown away to login to my brand new little blog here and see so many amazing comments from other parents, parents of both gifted kids and special needs kids, who GET IT. As I find my way through the maze of mothering both of my girls, I find that often I feel fairly alone in the issues I face, and a bit isolated day to day.
I take responsibility for that. I do not tend to speak up. I tend to listen to what everyone is saying yet am very selective of the words I put back out there. I find it’s “safer” to stay quiet, and not have to deal with the people who don’t get it. The problem with that plan is that it makes it very hard to find those others who do get it. Self isolation I guess, but still isolating. So it’s always like a big gift (pun kind of intended) when I come across people who get it. Like a breath of fresh air and a sigh of relief, all at once.
I find it interesting that with my two girls, it feels easier to tell people that my younger one has special needs, and is delayed, than it does to tell them that my older one is gifted and is advanced. Really how different are they? I guess to get technical they are both a matter of standard deviations away from the “norm” (whatever that may be). But why should I feel comfortable to say that one is behind, but not feel comfortable to say that the other is ahead? And more importantly to me, what message does that send to them?
I have two theories why we (or at least I) avoid saying the word “gfited”… My first theory is that the term “gifted” seems to come with the thought that one must be bragging or boasting. It’s not a greater than, or a less than, just a different. I’m not saying my kid does better in school than others. I’m not saying that she’s smarter. I’m not saying that she’s superior. I’m just saying she may be a bit different. And some of those differences don’t seem like things one typically brags about. Ridiculously stubborn? Argumentative? Bossy? Intense? Sensitive? Picky? Yup, she’s all of those, and I think they are very much a part of being gifted, at least for her.
My other theory is that there is such a strong stereotype tied to the G word. Gifted clearly must mean that she’s perfectly dressed in her preppy attire, with a perfectly organized binder in her backpack and a perfectly neat desk at school. She plays chess and then rushes home to do her homework, and loves every minute of it. She never watches TV and reads the classics. HA!!! Not at all. Let’s see, she goes to school dressed in the most insanely uncoordinated, wrinkled, mismatched “creative” outfits I have ever seen. Her binder? Good luck finding anything in it and she FAILED her last desk check at school. After school you’ll find her at dance class, belting out “Jar Of Hearts” in lyrical, dancing to Tori Amos in Jazz and doing her solo to the theme song for Corpse Bride. Homework? Bitches and moans through all of it! TV? Usually Phineas & Ferb or if it’s on the DVR, Dance Moms. Books? If it’s not a ghost story or center around tornadoes, it’s not happening. So that stereotype… oh how I hate it, because it couldn’t be more off track for my kid.
While I may not be comfortable working the word gifted into many conversations, it’s vital to me that my daughter does not think that being gifted is something she needs to hide. Studies have shown that gifted girls are very good at hiding their intelligence, and we do not need to give them any reason to. One of my goals this year is to stop hiding or downplaying or avoiding the G word. I spent too much time last year trying to hide the word gifted when people asked me why my daughter changed schools. Let’s be honest, she changed schools for the self contained gifted program (because the one at her old school – that we never put her in – was full by the time we decided to switch to it – but that’s a whole other post). She’s lucky enough to live in a district with an amazing self contained program, and we should celebrate that, NOT try and hide it. These kids have amazing potential, they truly could change our world. That is something to be celebrated. And those of us that are raising them, I think we can all benefit and community and support and the sharing of resources and ideas, but we can’t find each other if we are afraid to say the word. GIFTED.