Things I've Learned About Parenting a Gifted Child
"Mommy, sometimes I feel like I miss something that isn't even there."
"Well, you're getting to the age when you will start having these suckers called 'hormones.' They help you grow your boobs, but they can be a real pain when it comes to emotions coming out of nowhere."
"Hormones make you feel bad?"
"Sometimes. When I was your age, I started to have anxiety."
"When you feel nervous or really excited or scared for no reason out of nowhere. If you feel those things, tell me, and I'll tell you more about it."
Saying these words gave me a huge download of anxiety, of course. Please, God, don't let her have anxiety disorder. Please give her my husband's even keel.
It passed, and she didn't mention it again. I don't believe in sweeping emotions under the table, as I feel my emotions with the strength of a hurricane, and I know how great or horrible they can make your life if they're kicking on too high a gear.
Last night, we went to parent-teacher conferences. Her classroom teacher talked about social skills and reading levels and practice those math facts!
Her gifted teacher invited my daughter to attend the conference with us. Her teacher talked about confidence with math and how my daughter needs to work on her confidence so she can take risks in that area. We talked about how scary it can be when you're gifted and just know the answers to some things through absorption, and then you hit on something that doesn't come naturally. She turned bright red.
Her teacher told my daughter she is intuitive and how important that would be in her life, to be able to walk into a room and understand which people were feeling good today and which people weren't. Her teacher complimented her on her ability to sense who needed a boost and provide that boost.
Then her teacher handed us a few articles on parenting the gifted child. I don't know if this sort of literature was available when I was in school or not. I haven't asked my parents yet. I was in one of those programs, and I don't remember anyone ever talking to me about the flip side of just knowing the answers to some things without having to learn them in any sort of thought-out way. I remember being completely unprepared for my first colossal academic failure and questioning my whole existence as a result when it happened -- the side effect of knowing the answers automatically to some things.
I don't want that to happen to my girl, but seeing her eyes dart around in a way I've never witnessed before and watching her practically climb the chair with anxiety when we talked about timed math tests reminded me of that feeling of panic when the answers don't just pop like they do with spelling or reading comprehension or wherever your gifted wheelhouse is academically.
Her teacher gave us one article I particularly wanted to share, because if you are a gifted person or are parenting a gifted child, it's important to understand the flip side of a brain that works differently than the "normal" people (a word I use extremely loosely). It's called Gifted As Asynchronous Development, and it's by Stephanie S. Tolan. Here's a short excerpt that grabbed me:
Often the products of gifted children's special mental capacities are valued while the traits that come with those capacities are not. For example, winning an essay contest on the dangers of global warming may get a student lots of attention and praise while her intense emotional reaction to the threat technology poses to the planet and its life forms may be considered excessive, overly dramatic, even neurotic. If she tries to act on her beliefs by going on strike to force her family or school to renounce what she considers harmful technology, she may be ridiculed, scolded, or even punished. Writing a winning essay is deemed not only okay, but admirable; being the sort of person she had to be to write it may not be considered okay.
When we focus only on what gifted children can do rather than who they are, we ignore vital aspects of their developing selves and risk stunting their growth and muddying or distorting their sense of themselves and their worth.