It’s hard to describe, but oh so easy to recognize. It’s a tight smile, the eyes slightly glazed and fixed on a point across the room. And silence from the person with the look, maybe a soft “mmm…”
It’s the look I get if and when the subject comes up about having a gifted kid.
It’s the look of “aren’t you full of yourself, thinking you have a gifted kid. Gee, how easy your life must be” and/or “Christ, another mom who thinks her child walks on water.”
It’s not easy, and I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that my kid can’t walk on water. He’s tried. Didn’t work. Simply got wet.
I went to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new school last night. It had to be moved indoors because of heavy rain that turned the building site into 4 inches of mud and standing water (and made the trucks halt work at 1 pm thankyouGOD!). A friend (who also has a gifted son) and I were talking to another friend about the new school and how excited/encouraged we were that the new principal has extensive experience with gifted education, and the possibility that there would be a gifted program at the school.
And then came “the look.”
I will NOT hide the fact that my child is a different learner. I also don’t flaunt that my child is a different learner. It just is who he is, and anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes with him recognizes that. Gifted does NOT mean “super-smart,” or “mom is pushing the kid,” or “mom is living vicariously through her child.” It means that the child learns differently, whether that be quickly, or needing to learn something in depth (and I mean in depth to the point of driving the parent nuts). Gifted also has its quirks, and it’s these quirks that drive me to the edge of the abyss. I could go on forever about these quirks, but I don’t have that kind of time.
It’s especially frustrating when the gifted child has obvious deficits, in A’s case, ADHD and some sensory issues. You just want to scream at the skies, “You’re so smart, WHY CAN’T YOU DO THIS?” He just can’t, physically can’t. Can’t pay attention to something that doesn’t grab his attention, unless he’s on his meds. Can’t do it, any more than a diabetic can go without insulin. Can’t fall asleep, because he can’t turn his mind off at night. Can’t not ask questions, because he has this need to know.
At times, I wish he were more average. I’ve spent my life as a B+/A- kind of person; slightly above average, but not so far above that it draws attention. A is not like that, and it’s tough for me. Especially when “the look” comes into play. I’m not pushing, he’s pulling. I envy moms who have neurotypical (NT) kids; they think they have a hard time with their kids and they just don’t know. J doesn’t give us the fits that A does, but I have a gut feeling that he’ll surprise us when he gets older.
And then…I’m glad A is the way he is, and I don’t want him any other way. I wouldn’t know what to do with him if he suddenly changed. For now, I have a handle (slightly broken) on how to deal with him, how to teach him, how to guide him. And if he suddenly changed, I’d be lost. I envy moms of NT kids, but I also wish they could know the joys of having such a challenging kid. A kid who is so excited when he learns something new, like how solar power works. A kid who would rather do puzzles than play video games…most of the time. A kid who asks questions, very in-depth questions, at the age of 2 1/2 about the nature of the universe and makes you go to the internet to find the answers. No joke, when A was that age, I thought I was going to have to get a PhD in astrophysics to tell him bedtime stories.
Just, please, moms and dads out there. Don’t think parents of gifted kids have it easy. We don’t. Yeah, our kids are smart, but that comes with a price, a price you can’t explain unless you’re living it. I know a woman, a woman I truly don’t like (and they are few and far between) who has a daughter similar to A. We were out to dinner with a bunch of others last fall and, being seated across from one another, were talking about the challenges of raising gifted kids. We knew what the other was talking about, and no one else around us understood. We just raised our wineglasses in a toast to ourselves.
So, please, be careful with “the look.” No one realizes they do it, and you can’t prevent it. Just remember: we’re not pushing, they’re pulling.
Jen, I wish you still lived in Chicago! My son attends one of the regional gifted centers in the city, and I thank God everyday that he was able to get in. I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing if he had been in “regular” school all these years. However, imagine a classroom filled with 32 of these special little darlings. I could never, ever, ever teach gifted children (did I mention I’m a teacher?) I give his teachers so much credit. I can hardly deal with the ONE I gave birth to, forget about a whole classroom of them!
People don’t realize that gifted children are essentially in special ed. They have special needs, plain and simple! Are you lucky enough to have your son in a gifted school right now, or are you waiting for the one being built behind your house? I was blessed that my son has been at his school since 1st grade. He will be graduating in 3 short months from 8th grade (GASP!) I have such mixed feelings about high school. Will they be able to meet his needs? Will he be bored? Will he seize the opportunity to shine? Will he have trouble with the workload? (He’s done the bare minimum for 8 years now! Despite his intelligence level and potential, he’s managed to bring home mostly Ds and Fs for the past 8 years. Gee, how much prouder could a mom get!?) That’s probably my biggest worry, since he’ll be attending a Catholic high school, which means a HUGE tuition bill. He’s already been warned that his father and I will NOT be paying for Ds or Fs. Hell, how sad is it that I’d be satisfied with Cs?
Good Lord, I now intention of leaving a novel! I’m on to my next post!!
“we’re not pushing, they’re pulling.” THAT IS IT, in a nutshell. I’m gifted myself and it’s still not easy parenting these kids. Thankfully my bff also has gifted kids and so does another good friend. They provide an outlet for these conversations that I have learned not to have with other parents. Heck, I learned as a KID I couldn’t talk to a lot of adults about my needs, because they couldn’t and (more frustratingly) wouldn’t try to understand. I’m grateful to be able to share my own experiences with my kids but they have different intensities than I do so it’s not an apples to apples comparison. Anyway, to get back on track, thank you once again for nailing this experience.
Oh Jen, you just described my life right there! I have a profoundly gifted 9yo son and he has also just been diagnosed as twice exceptional – Developmental Coordination disfunction – a problem with the executive functioning, co-ordination and motor skills that are needed for writing).
We are in Australia, I get ‘that look’ all the time like you are boasting or something, I wouldn’t change a hair on his brilliant little head but that doesn’t mean it is easy, the impulsivity, over-reacting, sensory overload, perfection tendencies, emotional outbursts make every day a challenge and sometimes a rollercoaster of emotions for all of us.
Here’s to all us mums and dads that handle this challenge and lets hope that they will change the world for the better someday with their ‘out of the box’ thinking and learning 🙂