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May 14 2010

The mental whiplash of parenting #gifted kids

Sometimes parenting a gifted kid is mental whiplash. No. Wait. It’s always mental whiplash. Especially when he’s twice-exceptional.

Parenting two gifted kids is a double concussion with a side of “they know your name at the liquor store.” Especially when one is twice-exceptional and the other is “vanilla” gifted and the school’s idea of the ideal high-achieving gifted child.

Note: I did not come up with the “vanilla” gifted concept. Others in the field have and I’m just using it here as an example. I used that phrase in a 2e parenting class once where no one had heard of it and my throat is still sore from parents jumping down it. Bungee jumping one after another.

I digress.

In March A had his 3rd grade specials night. Remember that? Hooboy, I do. It was the one where his gifted intensities grabbed him around every nerve ending and pulled in opposite directions. Drawn and quartered is the phrase, I believe, and was not a pleasant experience for anyone involved. He still talks about it, and is still quite adamant that he will never ever again get on stage for anything amen. Twice-exceptional kid. Gifted overexcitabilities and intensities that you can practically feel vibrating off of him.

Last night J had his kindergarten end of year concert and celebration. This is the “vanilla” gifted child, the high-achiever, the (forgive me for this) ideal gifted child in the eyes of a school. Hard-working, reading at a 4th grade level, doing at least 1st grade math but probably higher, able to focus, participates in class. Getting him gifted services next year will be cake: “Can he…?” “YES!” Sad but true. His concert last night…deep breath with a gulp and a tightness in the throat…was the complete opposite of A’s in March. He sang, he did the cute little motions, he had a great time. He was so excited about this concert and was so proud to perform. In March I made this comment, about other parents in the room during A’s concert:

This was the world I envisioned, the one with happily singing kids and proud parents with video cameras. How I envied the families in the audience, calmly enjoying an evening’s entertainment. I had to turn around and face the wall to hide my quiet sobbing; thankfully I was back far enough that no one could hear me. That is not my world, and won’t be. Our oldest son will always march to the beat of his own drummer, and little I do can change that.

Last night, for the first time, I was one of the calm parents enjoying an evening’s entertainment. A sat next to me taking pictures (note to self: for crisp, clear photos, do not have the bouncy child take the pictures in a dim room. Just sayin’…) while I took video. He kept saying, over and over, how proud he was of J, that he was doing such a great job, that this was something he couldn’t do and wouldn’t do again.

Mental whiplash. One marches to the beat of his own drummer, the other goes with the flow. I have to fight tooth and nail for services for one (and yet they’re pushed aside for things like assessments and state testing), the other will likely be welcomed into the gifted program with rose petals and herald trumpets. Both are gifted. One way is not better than the other, they are just different.

Mental whiplash.

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  1. Sarah

    Mental whiplash…. Oy… I’m getting a premonition here. But so glad Js program went well!

  2. Michelle

    Are we living the same life??? Are you hiding a four year old around there???

  3. MoCo Mom

    You are so right. Thank you for recognizing and celebrating them both. Sign me : Still waiting for the day when the emotionally ungifted, extrasensory, challenged-in-chaotic-situations, and otherwise drumming to their own beat kids are recognized by the schools in the way that WE recognize them.

  4. Heidi

    If my “fits the mold” gifted daughter is Vanilla, does this make my (suspected) 2E son Rocky Road? Thanks for putting a humorous spin on our oftentimes not so humorous days as the Mom!

    1. Jen

      LOL! YES! Love it! Rocky Road! LOL!

  5. Modern Mia Gardening

    Did my children come to live at your house? This is the first time someone has put into words what we go through at our house with my 2 boys. We thought something as seemingly innocuous as VBS would be a nice change of pace. It was an absolute nightmare for the oldest and me. My second son started out doing fine but then digressed into nightmare since his brother was doing it. We can’t even go to the library for storytime.

    Reading this has helped me immensely. Just knowing that I’m not the only one who’s slogging through these morasses helps me keep slogging.

    1. Jen

      I will say that it HAS gotten better. It’s far from ideal in many ways, but SO MUCH BETTER than it used to be.

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