It was just a few days ago that I was talking about all of the reasons I don’t say the “Gifted” word very often. Joyce Slaton over at BabyCenter apparently hates hearing about our gifted children, so she probably appreciates me keeping the gifted thing on the down low. I read her post, rolled my eyes and moved on. However after reading the amazing and spot on post by Laughing At Chaos in response to Joyce’s post, I figured I’d work through some of my thoughts about Joyce’s post. As a parent to a gifted child and a parent to a special needs child, I have a few opinions on this subject.
Joyce says that she “prayed for better than normal” and apparently doesn’t feel as though she got that. Looking back, I don’t remember praying for that. I also don’t recall praying for a child who was stubborn, argumentative, sensitive, intense, emotional, exhausting, bossy, overwhelming, easily frustrated, loud and sometimes just plain hard to figure out. Did I mention exhausting? Somehow I got all of those anyways – and it was in the form of, dare I say it, a gifted child. Is that the “amazing super child” you were picturing? Are those the things you hear people bragging about? Because at least in my experience, those are a big part of what being gifted is about.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that when I do hear someone bragging about their “gifted” kid and the amazing things that they do, more often than not I’m hearing someone who has worked very hard and invested time and resources into pushing their child into what they see as the “gifted” category. Maybe those are the ones who Joyce sees that are excited and proud. The parents of gifted children that I know fall a bit more into the exhausted and concerned category. Not all gifted kids are created equal, and neither are their parents. And a word to the wise, that one you hear so loud and so proud, dropping the gifted word here there and everywhere, that’s not the gifted parent spokesperson, just so you know.
Joyce says she feels like crap when someone brags about the “advanced-aheadedness of her kid”. Let me put some perspective on the table for you, Joyce. Do you have any idea how you talking about your child doing average things, mundane things, everyday things, makes parents of special needs kids feel? I’m not sure that “crap” covers what I feel like when someone is talking about the things their toddler says and does, when my sweet little daughter is severely delayed. I feel deflated, I feel depressed, I feel heartbroken, I feel confused and I feel absolutely positively terrified for her future. I hope that I can hold back the tears that are always right at the surface and that if I can’t, that my sunglasses can hide them. I’m guessing that your “conflicting emotions” when moms talk about their gifted kids probably don’t add up to the conflicting emotions that special needs parent feels when you talk about your average kid.
Let’s be honest, you didn’t do anything wrong by talking about the totally average and normal things you child does. It’s who your kid is, right? It’s her normal, right? You aren’t one upping or trying to be superior or show off or make anyone feel bad. You are just sharing your day to day life, trying to connect with other parents. Well just know that your normal can make that other mom at the park feel like crap and feel like you are bragging. But it’s your NORMAL. It’s not bragging, it’s a matter of fact – it’s your experience of your child. Just as my one daughter’s giftedness is her NORMAL. Just as my other child’s special needs are her NORMAL.
If you talk about what your child did, it’s just talking. If a gifted parent does the same, it’s bragging. As a parent of a gifted child, I’ve found it’s a lonely road and a hard one, and god forbid we talk about it, because someone is sure to think we are bragging. Most of us go out of our way to not talk about it, I know I do. If I learn someone has a gifted child, I NEVER think “wow, they must be so proud”. My first thought is more along the lines of “I wonder how tired they are?”.
I wish people would quit seeing giftedness as something it is not. It’s not better or worse, it’s DIFFERENT. If my gifted kid is better than your average kid, by the same logic that means my special needs kid is worse than your average kid. They are children and they are all amazing, and all different. I have a child who falls into what they consider “profoundly gifted” and a child who falls into “severely delayed”. They are both awesome individuals who light up my life. One is not better and one is not worse.
So to Joyce, and those out there who share her views, step back and remember we are all parents. We are all doing the best we can. Maybe there are some braggers out there who are trying to one up you, but please, don’t lump them in with gifted parents, lump them in with annoying people. Know that there are special needs parents out there who fight back tears when hearing about the average things your kids do. I’m not saying that to make you feel like you do anything wrong or should change what you do, but just to let you see another perspective.
We are all in this parenting thing together. And it’s tough. They used to say it takes a village to raise a child, but it seems that these days the villagers have no time left to support each other as they are far too busy comparing themselves and their kids, competing with each other and worrying about who is better or worse. It’s truly a tragedy and I wonder where it’s going and if it will ever turn around. As parents we should support each other. We should respect that while we may not always do or say the right things, most of time our hearts are in the right places and we are trying out best. Let’s show our kids what it’s like to build each other up, not tear each other down.