When I first considered writing this blog, and thought about this year’s theme from a gifted child's point of view, the obvious question for me was – “what would it be like to feel different, to think different, to try and fit in when the fit just isn’t quite right?’ But then I started thinking…
What about the parents?
How does having a gifted child affect parents, caregivers, siblings, and in fact all family and whanau of gifted children?
My son is gifted, he is eight, and he is a loving, empathetic, intelligent boy with an incredible imagination. He has always associated with a reasonably wide group of children, and has a few close friends. This pleases me to no end as I am acutely aware of the struggles some gifted children have with social relationships. What does worry me is what other parents think of my son, what they think of our family, and what they think of me. When I look at my son I see an energetic boy with an inquiring mind and some quirky mannerisms. When other people look at my son they possibly see a child that never sits still, who can't be quiet, and who is just a bit odd. As a parent that makes me feel like I don't quite belong.
I don’t belong with the parents whose kids are sporty – the passionate and competitive kids, while mine just enjoys having a run around with his friends at Saturday morning rugby.
I don’t belong with the parents whose kids are social, who will play with anyone, anytime, because my son can be painfully shy, even with people he has met before.
I don’t belong with the parents whose kids are confident – always involved and participating, because my son can get very anxious, and he hates to stand out.
I don’t belong with the parents of the average kids, because my son is just a bit different.
Strangely enough, I don't even feel like I belong with the parents of the gifted kids, because while a lot of them seem to be doing well, my son just reaches average because he also has learning difficulties, for which he get very little support.
As other parents with gifted children will know, it’s not always fabulous fun having a super intelligent child. Along with the intellect you also get intensity, struggles with social skills, extreme emotions, and enquiring minds that seem to never turn off.
People that don't have kids like this just don't understand. Its hard work.
My son is impossibly disorganised, he has a great memory for things that interest him but looking after his belongings is not on his radar. He struggles to follow instructions because his brain doesn't process sequential tasks easily. He never sits still...EVER. When he is on his feet he is using our furniture, or anything around him, as a parkour course. When he is sitting down he will be drawing, playing iPad games, or just wriggling around. Even when he tries to go to sleep he has to be doing something. He falls asleep mid action every single night.
The hardest thing for me is when he has tics. He call it his "twitches" or "twitchies". What he is actually doing changes a lot. Stuttering, whistling sounds when he talks, limbs twitching, eyes twitching, hands making certain repetitive movements. I can judge how his day has been, where his anxiety and stress levels are sitting, simply by seeing how twitchy he is. At its worst his whole body will jerk and move to the point where his muscles start to cramp. I have never met another parent that understands that. I haven’t met many other parents with twice exceptional children.
It is hard as a parent to think that other people may be judging your child. It is also hard when no one really understands. Who do you talk to? How do you unload the frustrations, and share the delights when no one else really seems to get it? To truly belong, to be truly accepted does there not need to be some understanding?
I do, however, consider myself lucky. I have a few friends that are truly accepting, who I know wont judge me or my family, even if they don’t truly understand what it’s like. But what about people who don't have that? Maybe they don't even have the support of their families. I know there are some members of my own family who don't ‘believe’ in giftedness.
No one should have to cope alone. No one should be left to feel like they don't belong, because if we don't get support and acceptance as parents, how can we provide that very same thing to our children? How can we raise our children with a sense of belonging, when we find this very thing a struggle ourselves? Having a sense of belonging is important. Knowing that they are loved, accepted, and understood without judgement, at home, at school, and in the community, is, in my opinion, the very thing that will provide our amazing kids with the confidence and self-belief they need to grow into the forward thinking, successful, and happy adults we all know they can be.
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