Suddenly, there was this community out there who knew my battles, who didn’t make me feel like a parental failure because of my outlier son, and who understood that it was possible to have a preschooler who demanded scientifically accurate bedtime stories on the same day he got his head stuck in a friend’s banister.
Books, books, and more books. No one got between me and my books. I read them, slept with them, and carried them with me wherever I went. Yeah, they may have been more advanced than what you usually saw a six-year-old reading, but the little kid books were boring.
Thought: I am a good little girl who does what she’s told, and when I’m bored, I won’t cause trouble, I’ll just quietly read my book.
I was one of a dozen or so fourth graders pulled into a classroom in the school library (excuse me, Learning Center) for a group called Horizons. That year, we studied advertising and how it grabs and manipulates our attention. In fifth grade we studied law, which included writing case studies for famous cases, putting on our own mock trial, and visiting several courtrooms in the Chicago area. The group of us stayed together through middle school, until different levels of math and language arts split us up.
Thought: Why am I here? My friends are really smart, and I couldn’t get my brain to work fast enough in that mock trial, proving I’m not as smart as they are.
My high school counselor strongly suggested I not register for honors science classes, despite my high grades in middle school science. My math scores were too low, you see, and math is everything in science. So I was enrolled in regular science and math and honors language arts—oh, and band, because I’m good at that.
Thought: Guess I’m not all that smart, after all. I’ll just live in the band room; good thing my brilliant friends are all in band, too. But hey, the less advanced classes mean I have time to do other things. There’s too much to do and learn to spend all that time studying.
I headed off to the state university, but in the honors college, because why not? I lived in the honors dorm, because why not? I had brilliant floormates, all quirky and with wild interests.
Thought: These people are far brighter than I am, half of them are presidential scholars. No idea how I fit in here, but I love the intelligent banter, quirkiness, and humor. And the honors program classes are fascinating.
All the way up to and through college, I really had no idea what giftedness was. I was certainly never called gifted; I was just put in more advanced classes. When you hit the ninety-ninth percentile in reading comprehension and other language arts areas, they gotta find something to do with you. Once in college, you’d think I’d have had more exposure and instruction into giftedness, as I was getting a teaching degree, but you would be sorely mistaken. In fact, a few years ago I was digging through files and came across my undergraduate transcript. It states that I had instruction in exceptionalities in education as required blah blah blah. I must have blinked or dashed out to the bathroom for that unit, as I don’t recall a single lesson on giftedness. Teaching kids how to read, absolutely—I had an entire semester-long class on that! (It was entirely unnecessary for someone getting a music education degree). But I don’t remember a thing on giftedness, in any form.
And then, in 2005, in a fit of frustration and despair, I typed gifted child characteristics into my search engine. You see, we had a four-year-old who was more—the only word we could use to describe him, the only word I could choke out of a throat swelling with months of unreleased tears. We learned he was twice-exceptional, that he was wired differently, and that giftedness wasn’t what the world seems to think it is. Suddenly, there was this community out there who knew my battles, who didn’t make me feel like a parental failure because of my outlier son, and who understood that it was possible to have a preschooler who demanded scientifically accurate bedtime stories on the same day he got his head stuck in a friend’s banister.
In the nearly fifteen years since I was first thrown into the roiling waters of G2e parenting, I’ve somehow gone from flailing wildly, convinced I was drowning, to tossing life preservers and cocktail recipes to parents new to the waters. The kid who drop-kicked me into a new way of seeing the world is now in a pre-college gap year, working full-time as a junior programmer as he preps for college and life on his own terms. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I probably am gifted, if only because I have friends who most certainly are, and they swear we would have a hard time connecting if I weren’t gifted in some form. That said, I still refuse to play against my husband in any kind of trivia, because the man is brilliant, with a brain full of useful and occasionally useless tidbits.
So now what? The 2e kid is almost all grown up, and his younger brother (G2e-ness still TBD) is almost halfway through high school. My days of hands-on parenting complex and quirky boys are nearly at an end. My relationship to the gifted community has been terribly uneven lately; I want to give back more and do more writing and speaking, but life replies with a figurative boot on the neck.
This is my community; these are my people. There are so many adults out there who don’t recognize their giftedness, either because it was never acknowledged as a child, or because they unconsciously internalized the myth that giftedness is only in education and not holistic wiring. Many of those adults are now raising their own likely gifted kids and dealing with their kids’ intensities as they learn about (and try to manage) their own.
Giftedness is lifelong, but I didn’t recognize that until my son’s wiring insisted I take a long, hard look at my own. I invite all adults, parents or not, to do the same. Acknowledge how the educational system accommodated your giftedness (or didn’t) and what you will now do moving forward. I’ve had to do that, and now?
I’m no longer the nice little girl who does what she’s told and heads off to quietly read a book. Now I’m the midlife woman who doesn’t have the patience to deal with willful ignorance and instead of reading a book, I’m writing them and shouting to the world that giftedness is more than meets the eye.