In Defense of Gifted Children

Before you get all huffy, hear me out:

I don't believe that my children are "gifted" (or "advanced" or "exceptional"). I don't believe that anyone's children should be labeled "gifted", because that label defaults other children to be "non-gifted" or "delayed" or "un-exceptional". How is that fair? Don't all of our children have gifts? Isn't that the miracle of children - that they arrive with this passion to DO, to GO, to LEARN - despite our best efforts to make them stop, slow down, and be quiet?

(I'll admit it. I once put my daughter on a firm No Why Questions After 5-O'Clock Rule because I just couldn't take it anymore.)

I have to wonder how much of our generation's push toward homeschooling is a reaction to our bizarre, institutionalized need to put labels on our kids. We are so good at labeling each other: Tiger Mom, Alpha Mom, Super Mom, Slummy Mom, Green Mom, MILF, Homeschooling Mom.... And sometimes those labels are hurtful, and put up walls between us, and create virtual cliques with secret handshakes and rules of governance that exclude. Our kids will find their groups - hopefully many, hopefully overlapping, hopefully inclusive - on their own.

No kid needs a label. (Unless it's Princess, Bananica, Spud, or Stripey-Bandicoot. I'm just sayin'.)

I elected not to enroll my daughter in the "gifted" program at a nearby school because (among other reasons) the "Academic Challenge" kids are also classified as "Special Needs", there. You understand why I was not interested in getting her two labels for the price of one.

I elected not to respond to some messages I've received lately about how damaging my focus on early learning will be for my kids' development. About how my position on advocating for "delayed" children is unwelcome, unwanted, and ill-informed. I let those emails hurt me, because I still struggle sometimes to know I'm a good parent - and a good person - without consulting any external measure. I wanted to be hurtful in response, but (as my mum would say) what purpose would that serve? Who gains from another pissing match over Who's the Best Parent?

If your kids are happy and safe, then I'm not a better parent than you are. If your kids are usually safe and often prone to defiance, tantrums, bickering, and extended bouts of running and chasing and jumping off of things, then you and I have a lot in common and we should get together for coffee, sometime.

Even if your four-year-old can't read, and your two-year-old can't talk. Even if your daughter digs fashion more than science and your son likes painting more than Cars. Even if your son doesn't carry around a ragged stuffed bear, and your daughter isn't terrified of Disney movies. Because our kids will probably have some different interests, different skills, and different mannerisms next month or next week. One of the many gifts of small children is their persistent, and profoundly unintentional, ability to defy their labels.

We can do that, too.


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