Teaching My Kiddo To Navigate The Balancing Act That Is Life

One of my favourite ways to excuse myself to eat an extra cookie or sit on the couch all day reading is my friend, balance. The cookie is fine because I had kale in my smoothie, and the couch day is justified because I’m a mom and I never get to sit down so I’m going to take advantage when I can. Stopping for ice cream on the way home from yoga? Balance.

I joke about it a lot but truthfully, balance is one of the things that I strive to teach my child. As a perfectionist, it can be hard to let things slide. But I have a little trick that I think helps.

I don’t expect one hundred percent.

What does that even mean? It means that I don’t expect my kid to get straight As. If he’s acing every assignment, he’s not learning. I’d much rather see him get high seventies and know that he’s working hard and has room to grow. I don’t expect him to be the best tennis player at lessons, I just expect him to be respectful to the teacher and his classmates. I don’t care if he has to repeat a level at swimming, as long as I know that he’s listening politely. He’s the one that will quickly figure out when it’s worthwhile to work harder and when it’s not.

I forgive my kiddo when he screws up. I don’t hold grudges. Yes, I guide him to live a healthy lifestyle, but in my opinion a healthy lifestyle involves fast food once in a blue moon and an afternoon of video games. I want my kiddo to know the importance of hard work, but the equal importance of doing things that make him happy.

And while I know that when my kid is grown he will hate me for all of these choices that his father and I are making in raising him, that’s life. We have shaped our parenting to actively help him understand when to use his perfectionism to his advantage and when to let it go. Even in my own life, I’m still learning that when I do things like meditate because “I’m supposed to” it’s far less enjoyable and beneficial than when I meditate because I enjoy how peaceful and grounded I feel afterwards. And that when I berate myself for skipping a day it’s much harder to get back into the routine than when I shrug my shoulders and get to it when I get to it.

And I don’t just model these things, I talk to my son about it and so does my husband. We make sure he knows that there are exceptions to every rule. That it’s okay to play hooky. It’s okay to have cake for breakfast. Yes, it’s important to do our best but we can’t do our best in every single thing we do every single day. Sometimes it’s enough to do our best at listening to our body and what it needs. And hopefully one day, these little things will help him navigate the bigger things in life.

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Why I Try to Talk About my Child’s Giftedness Online

I’ve unwittingly made my child the poster child for dropping out of kindergarten.

I feel like a terrible mom admitting that, like I’ve somehow sold off a piece of his soul to a crossroads devil, but it’s the truth. I try to refrain from sharing too many personal details, I only post snapshots of our life on social media, and in this day and age it seems like a laughable worry, sure. But I’m a mom. It’s my job to worry.

However, the truth of the matter is that if it weren’t for other moms putting themselves out there on the internet I would not have survived the early days of parenting, and I know for a fact my child would not be thriving. From bloggers like My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Learners and secret offshoots of Babycenter message boards, I wouldn’t have known how to handle those earliest hurdles or where to find resources.

It’s funny, not in a ha ha way but a shit that’s devastating when you think about it kind of way, that one of the things I heard repeatedly at doctor’s appointments in the early days was “early intervention.” Our Parent Link, a local resource centre for parents of children under six, even encouraged us to fill out milestone questionnaires and have them reviewed because it is so important to help young children and parents at the earliest sign of developmental differences. And yet, even though it was obvious that my child was different, even though I was struggling so profoundly because I thought I was a terrible mother, it was never mentioned that I might have a *gasp* gifted child except by a friend who luckily planted the seed in my head. Despite giftedness reaching special needs status across school boards in Canada, it’s often one that’s left off of developmental milestone lists. Or, when it is included, it’s to reassure parents that *pat pat* their precocious little booger eater is probably anything but that.

So where does that leave parents? It leaves those of us with resources and too much time on our hands to resort to google and mommy groups on the internet. It leaves us vulnerable to being laughed off, mocked to our faces. But maybe if we’re lucky a kind stranger will take pity on us and lead us into a world that we can only wish existed when we were kids. Because yes, many of us were gifted, are gifted, too. But even if we were identified, the word probably leaves a sour taste in our mouths because we were anything but “smart” like we were told.

For those without the time and resources the picture is bleaker. If I had gone to work shortly after my son’s birth, you can bet I would have found his night-long screams and refusal to sleep more than frustrating. His quirks of knowing exactly what he wanted and screaming until he got it would have probably fractured our bond because I wouldn’t have had the time to say, “Hey, I’ll teach him baby sign language.” (True story.) He would have gone to school, got lost in the crowd, and either hid his intelligence and passions to fit in or lost all interest in trying because “why should I help you if you aren’t helping me.” It’s no coincidence that identified gifted children are predominantly white and wealthy— social injustice seeps down in so many ways it’s horrifying.

And while I don’t have the time to study giftedness intensively or become qualified to dole out proper advice to hungry parents because I am in the midst of raising my own hungry student, what I can do is give them the gift of an anecdote. I can give them hope that it’s all going to be okay, the reassurance that they aren’t alone, like so many moms have done for me. Not everyone has access to professionals, true gifted professionals are so rare, but everyone should have access to a pat on the back and warm cup of tea. And I hope, that at the very least, I can provide that.

So I hope that what they say is untrue. The internet is not forever. Any one of us who had a MySpace page can attest to that. One day my blogs may be gone but hopefully they will have helped a mom or two and their children. Hopefully by then parents will have access to real professionals who have studied giftedness, people who have experience working with these quirky, intelligent kiddos. I hope they won’t have to rely on hacks like me on the internet.

But at the end of the day, as angry as I am that it comes to this, no real help except comfort in bloggers blogging, I’m happy that in some way I’m not completely useless. That I am able to be there in some way for others on a similar path. Because as much as it’s my child’s story, it’s mine too.

Image Credit: @andrewtneel via unsplash

If you suspect you’re the parent of a gifted child, here are some excellent places to start:

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The Burden of Giftedness

boy running in the woods

The idea that giftedness is “not a burden” or deserving of resources is making the rounds again. It never really left but it’s loud right now. And it’s bullshit.⁣

Sure, giftedness does not have to be a burden. If you’re wealthy and white and in a neighbourhood where there are resources and you have peers and teachers and mentors and psychologists that get YOU then it can be well, a gift.⁣

But that’s not the reality for many. At all.⁣

It’s like saying my uterus isn’t a burden. But if I’m broke and spending my grocery money on menstrual products, if I’m making 79 cents or whatever it is on the dollar, if I’m prevented from making decisions about my body because of it, then it damn well becomes one.⁣

A lot of the issues gifted kids face are rooted in their neurodiversity, but if that neurodiversity is embraced and cherished then sure, it can be a wonderful thing. Being accepted for who you are and stretched the way you need to be stretched is wonderful for anyone. But if they are shut down by their peers, their teachers, the people they respect and rely on; if they are constantly denied having their very real and very different needs met, then it can be crippling. ⁣

Moral of the story: anything can be a gift or a burden depending on the culture one’s in. We like to say we’re a culture that admires “genius” but that’s only when we can exploit genius. That’s only when genius fits into the box that we expect it to. And often times it doesn’t.⁣

So maybe giftedness wasn’t a burden for YOU. But for many it is. Which is why we need better identification methods, better training and awareness to improve access to programs rather than disintegrating them altogether. Giftedness doesn’t have to be a burden, but our society often makes it one.

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Asynchronous Development and Parenting Struggles

Asynchronous development is possibly the most difficult part of parenting a gifted child. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, it basically means that a child’s development is uneven, causing them to be “many ages” at once and is sometimes considered to be one of the cornerstones of giftedness. (This article on NAGC’s website gives a good definition.) For me, asynchronous development is a bigger pain in my butt than:

  • finding appropriate activities and extracurricular classes
  • finding appropriate reading materials
  • staying awake in the morning after being kept up until midnight by a kiddo’s overactive brain that “can’t sleep” (and then dealing with my own!)

Yes, asynchronous development is behind at least two of these issues but it goes so much deeper than that. I’ve written about my struggles with asynchronous development as a parent before and I often joke about how unnecessary it is for me to have another child since I got a four-in-one deal, but I wanted to take a moment to revisit it. 

There’s a meme that makes the rounds every so often that I’m sure you’ve seen. It’s message can be summed up as saying that it doesn’t matter if you’re good at things, it matters more that you can control your emotions. And while I understand and agree with the sentiment behind it, I think it’s misguided. Many gifted children may struggle to control their emotions and in my experience, asynchronous development is at least partially to blame.

We as adults have expectations of the children in our lives, whether we realize it or not. And a lot of times gifted children fail to meet them. Whether it’s the three year old who uses ten dollar words not being able to share or a teenager who is doing advanced chem but lacking what seems like common sense, we tend to scold them with “You’re so smart. You know better!” While our frustration is understandable, it puts a lot of unneccesary pressure on them.

We’re the ones who need to understand that just because they are academically able to argue with adults doesn’t mean that they’re prepared (mentally or emotionally) to be treated like one. Every young person thinks that they have all the answers but sometimes adults get tricked into thinking that gifted kids actually do have them.  They very well might in some areas, but that should never extend to everything blindly. When in doubt, I personally err on the side of giving my child the patience, empathy, and understanding that would be granted to any other kid his age, and if he does know better, well we talk about that too but with the understanding that maybe there was more at play than knowledge alone.

While gifted children often possess the logic of a much older person, it’s impossible for them to have the life experience. They may seem immature in programs compared to their peers simply because they haven’t had as much exposure to classroom settings. They may have difficulty coping with life events that while they understand mentally, they don’t yet have the coping skills for emotionally. And while they logically may be able to make good decisions, they don’t have enough experience with their own feelings in order to make the right ones for them all of the time. All of those things come with practice, but because gifted children hardly seem to need practice, they sometimes don’t get the extra assistance that they need. 

Asynchronous development is something that I struggle with every day as a parent. Is his tantrum an age appropriate reaction that I need to help him through, or is he acting out for the sake of it? Is he taking ten hours to put on his shoes because he’s six and my priorities aren’t his priorities, or am I lowering my expectations too far? How do I teach him that sarcasm may not be the best approach for making friends until he’s a lot older? As of now, my husband and I are taking it on a case by case basis, asking ourselves which of our four children we’re dealing with at that moment and trying to act accordingly. It’s a balancing act. We don’t always get it right, but no parent does. 

So for now I try to soothe my whiplash by reassuring myself that it’s all just part of parenting a gifted child. I remind myself that this is why I put little stock into milestones personally. And I try to make sure that I’m giving my child all of the things that all of his different ages need in a day: a bit of silliness, a bit of mental stimulation, a bit of independence, and a lot of love. 

I think that’s probably a good recipe for any child.

I am not a teacher, psychologist, or expert in giftedness. Just the mom of a gifted child and a former gifted child myself, sharing my experiences. This post is a part of GHF Learners’ October theme, asynchronous development. You can find out more about GHF Learners here.

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Laura Dern on Big Little Lies is a mood and I’m here for it

I was about 5 minutes into the new season of Big Little Lies when I had to pause and rewind. Did she just say what I think she said?

Bear in mind my world is not the world of Monterey, California. Niagara Falls, Ontario is more working class, less CEOs and hedge funds. People move here for the cheap real estate (in comparison to Toronto), not our schools. Parents are more likely to turn down their child’s acceptance to the gifted program than to seek one out.

So when Laura Dern’s Renata Klein walked up to her daughter’s teacher on the first day of school and laid down the line, I knew exactly what the writers were doing. I knew they were setting the tone, reminding us that Renata is one of those moms, the ones who think their child moves heaven and earth and are going to be on your back every second of the day making sure you’re giving them your undivided attention.

And it was a thing of beauty.

Because here’s the thing. I’ve been in the gifted world long enough to know that an IQ of 152 is no laughing matter. It’s not “good in school” it’s radically different from the general population. It’s having a full on anxiety attack because of climate change. It’s being labelled “quirky” because your looks and physical abilities don’t match your intellect. These kids need parents and teacher who understand them and their needs.

Now, I’m not advocating for parents to walk up to a busy, overwhelmed teacher on the first day of school and start barking orders. But in comparison to my own advocacy style of “please, thank you, if it’s not too much trouble” and then sitting quietly and listening to blatant fallacies and downright discrimination and being walked all over, I think that every parent can learn a lesson from Renata’s cut the shit and get to the point confidence. Because if more of us start advocating for our children’s needs, the more we could change the education system for the better of all kids.

Not all gifted children are born to the Renata Klein’s of the world. They don’t all have parents who understand their needs, they don’t all have parents who have the time and resources to stay on top of their teachers, and they’re not all attending top schools in fancy neighbourhoods. Many are attending schools that are struggling with limited resources and cut funding thanks to idiotic politicians who have never stepped foot in a classroom in their life (*cough*Ford*cough*). And the unfortunate truth is that many of the parents who can find other means to have their children’s needs met will pursue them, whether it’s private school, homeschool, or extracurriculars and tutors. And it’s not fair to the kids who are left behind.

But if those of us with the time and resources used our time and resources to put on our big girl pants and stand up for the needs of our children, with the confidence and no-bullshit persona of a female CEO who has learned to navigate the world of businessmen, think of what we could accomplish! Of course there is a time and place, of course there is a way to go about it while being respectful; but I know that the first thing most parents do when receiving a diagnosis for their child is to read everything they can about it which means that we are qualified to be our children’s advocates. Even if we don’t feel like we are. (Hello, imposter syndrome.)

Honestly, I have tried advocating. I tried getting involved with my local gifted community and sitting on my local school board. But I am so, so, so much more comfortable behind a keyboard. I am too emotional of a person for politics. I am not lying when I say that I left every meeting and cried on my way home. So while the rest of the world probably rolled their eyes and said, “what a bitch” I sat and said “what a thing of fucking beauty,” and even if it was never meant to be a thing of inspiration, Laura Dern inspired me.

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Things I’m sick of hearing as the parent of a gifted child

Disclaimer: I am not an educator, psychologist, or any other professional related to giftedness or child development. I am just a former gifted child and the current parent of a gifted child, and these opinions are my own. Please proceed with a sense of humour.

Ask any parent what it’s like having a gifted child and they’ll probably tell you that it’s not all roses. Here’s a bunch of stuff that parents of gifted kids are tired of hearing.

(Okay, that I’M tired of hearing.)

“They all even out.”

Yeah because they’re bored to death and have stopped trying.

“Oh, like X character from blank?”

No, like the individual that they are.

“Oh, you have them trained!”

If my kid was trained he wouldn’t wake me up ever but here we are.

“If you let them learn they’ll just get bored.”

I’m bored talking to you and I’m surviving.

“Let them be a kid!”

Oh crap, there I go sending him off to the coal mine again. Oh wait no, I was just letting him do a math problem. Sorry, I got confused by your reaction.

“You have it so easy.”

This is exactly what every parent dreams of hearing, thank you.

“It’s because they’re an only child.”

It’s actually a neurological difference but ok.

“They need to be with kids their own age for socialization.”

Yes, because as a 31 year old I only ever socialize with other 31 year olds.

“I wish my kid was gifted.”

You’re confusing a special need with high achievement *loud whisper* it’s not the same thing.

“I know someone who skipped a grade, they hated it.”

That’s unfortunate, but research overwhelmingly supports acceleration.

“Don’t you want them to be normal?”

Define normal.

“Funding these kids takes funding away from kids who actually need it.”

We find room in the budget to fund huge companies, we can find a couple bucks to fund all kids and their needs because they all “actually” need it.

“How did you teach him to do that?”

I didn’t. YouTube did.

“They’re exhausting.”

So is hearing that.

“They’re such an angel!”

That’s because their perfectionism is so strong they’re hiding their real personality to please you.

“I can’t wait to see what they do when they grow up!”

I just want to see them reach adulthood without crippling anxiety.

“I know lots of gifted kids. None of them grew up to be successful.”

That’s probably because a high IQ isn’t necessarily indicative of success.

“We have lots of kids like them here.”

Statistically, you probably don’t unless you’re a gifted program.

“Socialization is so important. They need to learn to be around people who aren’t gifted.”

Considering 98% of the population isn’t gifted and I let my kid out of his closet sometimes, I think we’re good.

“They can’t be gifted, they don’t do x yet.”

Asynchrony is a characteristic of giftedness. Nice try though!

“They can’t be gifted, they have (ADHD, Autism, etc).”

It’s called twice exceptionality and it means they need extra accommodations for all of their needs and especially their giftedness.

“You’re just bragging.”

Umm yeah I thought that’s what we were doing here? Or are you the only one allowed to share cool shit about your kid?

“Where do they get it from?”

Okay, first of all, ouch. Second of all, apparently it’s genetic?

“They’re a genius!!”

Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Stephen Hawking are geniuses. My kid is just a kid.

“We don’t see issues while they’re here, so it must be trouble in the home.”

You don’t see problems because they’re bottling it up all day and bringing it home to me.

“They’ll be fine.”

Except they probably won’t be if their needs go unmet.

“Gifted programs are elitist.”

If you think equality is elitist.

“They’re so smart!”

Way to set them up for anxiety and imposter syndrome.

“You shouldn’t care so much that they’re gifted.”

Maybe parents shouldn’t care if their child is gifted, but not caring about the fact that they are gifted would be neglecting their special need and hindering their development.

“But their handwriting!!”

I didn’t know they were training to be a monk in the Middle Ages?

“We’ll accommodate them with depth and breadth.”

That’s useless for truly gifted children if it doesn’t also come at a faster pace with increasing difficulty.

“But they seem so normal!”

Umm… thank you?

“All children are gifted!”

All children are gifts, sure, but saying they’re all gifted is like saying “all children have brown eyes”– and it’s FALSE.

Parents: what did I miss???

Meme text reads: “What people think raising a gifted kid is like vs what it’s actually like:” and image is two side by sides of Mr Incredible. In the first he looks overjoyed and in the second he looks stressed and worn out.

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Travelling with gifted kids

Travelling with a gifted kid may seem like something only someone intent on punishing themself would do. Between overexcitabilities and the fact they these kids never seem to turn off, it’s difficult to just make it through the day. When would you even have the time to plan a vacation when you’re parenting a gifted kiddo?!

But what if I told you that travel can be an amazing experience for a family of overexcitable, never stop thinking, over-wired brains? You just need to approach it differently.

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Admiring the Louvre’s collections

 

Prepare Expectations

We are a family of overthinkers. We mull over the littlest things for hours. So after all of that thinking, sometimes plans don’t meet the expectations of overzealous imaginations. (Prime example: my 4 year old ordered “honeycomb” gelato and was severely disappointed that it was not a Winnie-the-Pooh style ice cream in an actual honeycomb.) It can be a big letdown. Or, on the flip side, we get stressed about the details. This is why it’s a good idea for everyone to be involved with planning. I’ve involved my son with the planning of vacations since his first plane ride at 3 months. Yup, I sat and rambled to a 3 month old all about airplanes and planning and itineraries. At first it was mostly because I was bored and needed someone to talk to. But you know what? It works. Now I make sure I tell my son as much as I can about what we’re planning so he has an idea of what to expect. We look at pictures, watch videos, and get books from the library about the places we’ll be visiting. We even watch ride videos before trips to Disney, and no, it doesn’t ruin the magic. What ruins the magic is a 3 year old refusing to go on any more rides because of that scary thing they didn’t know was going to pop out at them.

Know when to walk away, and when to stick it out

I know, you paid all that money and came all this way. But sometimes, that thing you thought would be oh so fun is really just too overstimulating and loud and crowded. Sometimes, all of the preparations in the world can’t overcome those overexcitabilities. If at all possible, leave and come back. Get some air, let little ears readjust, and take a deep breath. Take a minute to talk it out logically. “I know, my ears feel a little buzzy and it makes my head spin when there are so many people and sounds too! But I really wanted to see that exhibit, maybe if we focus on that one display, it won’t seem so loud.” “Yikes, that dragon sure is scary, but you know, it’s just pretend. It actually took a whole team of scientists and engineers to make it! Maybe if we go in, instead of being scared, we can try to figure out how they did it?” Then, try again. But if it still doesn’t work, and it’s causing a meltdown, walk away. It’s not worth it.

What about those times when you just know in your heart that your kid will love it and just needs a little encouragement? Try to find a way to encourage them to stick it out! Draw their attention to a single detail so they can take one thing in at a time instead of being overwhelmed and finding it all to be too much. Sometimes, all it takes is for them to see mom and dad being confident for them to gain a bit of bravery too!

Don’t make promises

Just don’t do it. Promises have never helped a parent ever. It could rain. A ride could shut down. An exhibit could be closed. Prepare them that the unexpected could happen. And try to model appropriate behaviour when things go wrong. Taking a wrong turn or getting on the wrong train isn’t the end of the world. Laugh it off. It’s an adventure.

Pick something just for them

You can’t expect any kid to just go along and do everything mom and dad want to do all day every day for a week. Make sure the whole family is taking turns and gets to do a “must-do”. Maybe your kiddo loves trains, or science, or art, or literature. Find something unique that you think they’ll love.

Enough with the hard, why travelling with gifted kids is the best!

I think in some ways, I may have it easier travelling with my kid than most parents do with similarly aged kiddos. For one, his reasoning skills are high for his age in most cases. I can usually explain to him why he needs to stay with mommy, or why we can’t do something that we hoped. He was an early reader, which meant I didn’t really have to entertain him while travelling after he was 2. I just give him headphones and a book and bam! Mama can nap. He loves to learn, so bringing him to art galleries and museums is always a winning activity. And if there’s an audio guide, ha! We’re laughing. Always get the audio guide, even if it’s just a scavenger hunt for your kids to find the numbers and press them! On our last vacation I had a chance to observe kids who were and weren’t given audio guides, and my unofficial statistic is that kids with audioguides are more engaged.

My son needs the perfect balance of physical activity and mental stimulation which is always difficult to get at home. But when we’re travelling, he’s walking and learning and guess what… he actually sleeps like a log! Plus, vacation is the one time that I don’t mind that he doesn’t sleep as long as his age mates. It means I don’t have to worry about getting back to the hotel for nap time or an early bed time, and we have more time for sight seeing. Who knew that lack of sleep could have a benefit somewhere? Plus, there’s no laundry or cleaning or cooking to take care of, so we can focus on just being together as a family. And that is priceless.

This blog is a part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop: Travelling with the Gifted/Intense. Please click here or on the image below to follow along!


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What is gifted anyway?

There I was, sitting across from the private school’s principal, conscious of the fact that I look more like a sixteen year old than a parent. I tried to keep a smile on my face, calm and cool and collected; not letting my crazy spill onto the desk in front of me. I had told her my son’s backstory, or as much as I felt was necessary to share with a complete stranger. Yet I felt myself jolted by her words when she said, laughing, “What is gifted anyway?”

I get it. Gifted kids are seen at best as anti-social nerds, and at worst, more for their overbearing parents than anything they’ve ever earned themselves. They are seen as “special” and “elite”: dirty words in this day and age. Everything in life will be so easy for them. And yet these parents have the gall to ask for more for them?

And here was an educator repeating my worst thoughts back at me. Even with test scores in my hands I suddenly felt like an imposter. Like a special snowflake mom wanting to take services from struggling children in order to give them to my child who already has “so much.” To be fair, she meant it in the way that their program adapts to the child, but don’t all kids deserve to come home having learned something that day?

So what is gifted? Gifted is sitting down with your child’s Junior Kindergarten teachers and being told that your 4 year old is welcome to stay in the program, but that they just can’t accommodate his advanced learning. That they’ll try to prevent his downward spiral, but it’s inevitable if he stays there. It’s visiting private schools (that you could never afford) who refuse to accelerate because their programs go a bit beyond public school curriculum. It’s calling every school board in your province and wanting to cry every time they say they offer a gifted program with “depth and breadth” but eventually admit there’s no real acceleration. It’s deciding to homeschool because your smiling, carefree, child is riddled with anxiety and suddenly refuses to read because “other kids don’t read.”

Gifted is being faced with the fact that your child will never be normal. Sure, normal is overrated, but they may never get to do that school pageant, or maybe even go to prom. It’s watching them try to engage their friends in a discussion of their favourite thing in the world and seeing it dawn on them that they’re different. It’s every milestone being met with panic instead of pride, because you’re not supposed to be able to do that yet.

It’s lonely. As a parent, you’ll be accused of hothousing when the reality is you’re so exhausted by the never ending questions that come at all hours of the day and night, that you prop your kid in bed beside you with Cosmos or Periodic Videos on the TV because it’s the only thing he’ll watch long enough for you to get a 20 minute nap. It’s asking, begging, pleading, for help and getting laughed at. Being told to just let your kid be a kid. And beating yourself up because you’re the one who offers to play dress up, but your child would rather you help them with their latest math equation. And what kind of a parent tells their kid to stop reading anyway? Even if you are already a half hour late.

Gifted is your child’s educational needs not being met because of handwriting. Or age appropriate behaviour. It’s being told school is just for socialization anyway, yet how much socialization is happening at a desk for 8 hours a day? It’s having your child’s special needs completely disregarded because he’s somehow perceived as “better,” even though you would never pit two children against each other in such a ridiculous way. Gifted isn’t a fast track to success. It isn’t always classic book smart and it isn’t an angel child who is always perfectly behaved. Oftentimes, it’s the opposite.

But gifted is something else, too. It’s seeing the joy in the simple pleasure of a book. It’s finding the magic of science and math. It’s marvelling at questions from a preschooler that most adults wouldn’t think to ask. It’s people coming out of the woodwork where you least expect it to lend a hand. It’s treasuring the people that get it without you having to explain it. For all of the hard, the gift is being touched when you find the good.

But you probably didn’t want to hear about all of that. So how about this: gifted is a neurological difference characterized by advanced cognitive ability. It is considered a special need. So how about we stop denying these children the basic services that any other child with special needs deserves and ensure they get it too. It isn’t either or. Shouldn’t it be all?

 

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Asynchrony, you’re killing me

Oh Asynchrony, you’re going to be the death of me! Whenever I get frustrated throughout the day, you’re almost always behind it. Every time I ask myself “WHY?!” there you are, whispering in my ear in your stupid sing-song voice.

What is asynchrony you ask? It’s a fancy word for “out-of-sync.” It basically sums up my life as a parent. My kiddo is lightyears ahead intellectually, but emotionally he’s 4. One minute, he’s telling me about right angles and the next he’s throwing a tantrum over having to put on his own socks. I like to say I have 4 kids between the ages of 2 and 20 all rolled into one. And it gives me whiplash trying to figure out which kid I’m dealing with at any minute. And sometimes it’s more than one! Like when he read the cover of I am Malala and I had to come up with a way of explaining the Taliban and women’s rights to a preschooler who simultaneously understands on an intellectual level but on an emotional level does not have the life experience to understand that bad things happen to good people. Talk about horrifying. My nerves are fried!

It’s impossible as a mom to know how to navigate each situation we’re confronted with. Every time we reach an impasse I ask myself “is this a reasonable expectation to have of him?” Because yeah, it’s not a reasonable expectation when you want your 4 year old to practice reading James and the Giant Peach aloud; but for him, it is. He can do it. And it’s my job to help him understand that he can do it. But is it a reasonable expectation to ask a 4 year old to not cry when he’s disappointed that his day didn’t go as planned? Well, I don’t freaking know?? Because emotional regulation falls under the 4 year old stuff and I have no gauge to know what 4 is like. All I can do is try to help him learn an appropriate response and coping skills and try to walk the line between being too hard on my kid and too easy on him. It’s exhausting.

It’s one of those things that you start looking for expert advice about. You know, the dreaded milestones. Theoretically, milestones are awesome checkpoints that help you discern if your parenting is on track. The only problem is not all children fit the checkpoints. Sure, the average child does the majority of the time. But what the fuck is the average child? No child is going to fit all of the milestones, even if their name is John Smith and they live in the family with 2.2 children and a station wagon in the 1950s. Kids are these crazy wild creatures that like to scare us to death. They sure as heck aren’t going to give us any kind of reassurance like succumbing to the almighty milestone checklist. So thanks, expert advice, but you’ve been useless here.

Okay, I shouldn’t say that completely. There are plenty of experts that have been a huge help to me. Experts that deal in gifted kiddos seem to hit the nail on the head. But the problem is, most children aren’t identified as gifted until as late as 3rd grade, the belief being that “all kids level out by 3rd grade.” I could write an entire blog post about my grievances with that one, let me tell you. And profoundly gifted is to gifted as gifted is to average. It’s a huge range. So, as far as I know anyway, there isn’t a “raising baby the gifted way” parenting book I can read while we navigate these rocky early years. I mean, I get it. There probably shouldn’t be a gifted baby book because even as someone who believes that these kids’ intelligence shows up scary early in some cases, I feel like it would be so completely abused by people who don’t understand that gifted doesn’t mean smart. It doesn’t mean successful. It doesn’t mean rich and powerful and right all the time. It just means a brain that works differently.

So what’s the problem with asynchrony? Well, how do you handle a child who:

Can hold intelligent conversations about the periodic table but doesn’t understand that you need to close your eyes to sleep?

Can explain that he needs to borrow instead of using negative numbers when doing subtraction but can’t remember which shoe goes on which foot?

Watches Periodic Videos and Crash Course Chemistry but cries when iPad time is up?

Can type a story with proper spelling and punctuation but can’t print legibly?

It’s frustrating as all hell. I look at this crazy intelligent kiddo and have to constantly remind myself he’s only 4. And I have to figure out the appropriate way to parent him. And sometimes, I know I get it wrong. I’m too hard or too soft and all I want to do is get it right!  And I can’t look to anyone for guidance. It has to be a balancing act within our own family. Which in some ways, is kind of a blessing.

So if you see me forcing my kiddo to do something that’s completely unnatural for a 4 year old, please don’t judge me. And I promise to do the same. Let’s be honest though, we’re both probably way too busy with our own shit to worry about what the other is doing.

And asynchrony, you confuse me, cause self doubt in my parenting skills, and exhaust every ounce of brain power I have. But I wouldn’t change you for a thing because you give us some good laughs sometimes.

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This is what advocacy looks like


As parents, it’s our job to look out for our kids. Not so that life is easy for them, but so that it is just. So that they can get the things that they need to grow up and be happy, healthy, and successful. I don’t mean win a Nobel Prize or make six or seven figures a year, I mean normal-human-being-successful: being able to meet their basic needs and a few wants without killing themselves for it, and not hating themselves (and others) along the way.

I think it’s safe to say that most parents can relate to this. We speak up when our kids are struggling, we adjust plans when they aren’t working, and we shout with pride when they’re doing well. But when you’re raising a child who isn’t “average,” you find yourself on an intense journey. I didn’t know this at first, and couldn’t figure out why parenting was so difficult. But as I’ve learned and become more comfortable in my position as advocate, I’m learning that this is the norm for parents with kids like mine. Apparently, you can’t just read the baby books and keep your fingers crossed. You are constantly questioning yourself, trying to figure out what’s right and then fight for it. It’s like being back in college and the final is tomorrow AND it’s worth 100% of your grade. Talk about stressful.

Late nights.

I am almost always up later than I should be because I get wrapped up in panic at the end of the day. I feel guilty that I didn’t do as much as I could have, or a new question arises, and my brain won’t relax until I solve the problem. Although in most cases, the problem isn’t solvable. So then I sit for a bit and panic about that. On top of that, there isn’t much time during the day to sit and read academic papers, so it’s got to happen before bed.

So. Much. Reading.

I would be a professional student if it paid better. I enjoy learning and reading. But a lot of this stuff is boring AF. I am so lucky I took a bunch of psychology courses with the hopes of a double major (no, I don’t have one, I got lazy) so I at least have some understanding about what I’m reading. Unfortunately, what I did learn about IQ testing and giftedness was about a paragraph in one textbook so there is more that I don’t understand than I do. I sit and I highlight, and bookmark, and print out everything that I think I might need in the next few months. That seems small, but honestly I have no idea where we may be next week, let alone a few months from now. And I like to be prepared.

Reaching out for help.

I hate asking for help. Hate it with a passion. I grew up with “if you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” and I agree whole heartedly! The only problem is that it’s impossible to do everything on your own. I mean sure, technically I could go back to school and get a BSc in chem but OMG guys, I have zero desire for that. And I definitely don’t have the time or money. So I am learning to ask for help even when it makes me look like a psycho.

Which brings me to:

Looking like a crazy person.

No matter how deserving my kid is of the things I’m asking, it doesn’t mean that people automatically understand or believe me. I don’t know how many people smile and nod politely when my husband and I say our son can read, and then come back to us saying “he can read read!” Umm. Yeah. This isn’t CVC reading. This is put a college textbook in front of him and he’ll figure it out reading. For over a year now. I get it, it sounds crazy. But for once it would be sooo nice for someone to take our word for it and help him out.

Having to cheer quietly.

When my son was first born, I was totally the mom posting pictures of “look he held up his head!” and his first bite of banana. When he first started reading, I thought it was adorable, so I posted a few things, but they got sparser. Now, I find myself questioning which of the things my son does are appropriate to share, and try to use humour when I do. When people compliment him to my face, I freeze. I feel awkward. I’m terrified they’re going to launch into an attack on how there is no way he should be doing what he’s doing. I don’t know why, because we’ve had an enormous amount of support from our friends and family, but it’s just a feeling that’s there. Not to mention that a lot of times it makes other parents worried if my kid is doing something that theirs isn’t, and that is an awful feeling. I don’t want anyone to worry! But I do want to be able to brag about my son, just a little bit. Isn’t that a mom’s right??! And then there’s always the flip days where I’m all, it’s better to just be confident, and then I am pretty sure I come across as a complete douche. If this happens, I’m sorry! I’m still trying to find the right volume level.

The fear of failure.

Profoundly gifted children are at risk for dropping out of school. I don’t have a link for that because it has been drilled into my brain from every article I’ve ever read about them. Why on earth would they drop out when it comes so easily for them? Because it comes so easily for them! People thrive on an appropriate amount of challenge. Children are programmed for learning. There’s a misconception that if you leave these kids alone they’ll be just fine. Best case scenario: they do okay but never reach their own potential and struggle with that knowledge when they’re older, and the world misses out on whatever greatness they could have offered us and themselves. I don’t want that for my son. I want him to work hard for what he has, learn from his mistakes, and use what he’s been given to its greatest potential. How he uses his gifts is up to him. But I don’t want them stolen from him before he’s able to make a decision on how he wants to use them.

Tomorrow, my husband and I are heading to one final meeting with the school. We have an IQ test and achievement testing. I have a number of articles printed with relevant passages highlighted. But still, I know there is no way we are going to get what my son needs: the freedom to move through school at the rapid fire pace he needs. I have such high hopes for this meeting that I already purchased a math curriculum for January. My husband and I are pretty set on homeschooling at least until “grade 1,” whatever that looks like for our son, and this meeting is really just a Hail Mary.

I am so excited to start our new adventure, but I have one issue that I keep revisiting. Whenever you opt out of a system, you lose out on the opportunity to change it. And while I know my son will be taken care of, what about the kids who aren’t? The ones who get left behind because their giftedness doesn’t look like “gifted” or who don’t have parents who are capable of fighting for them or pulling them out altogether? I won’t let my son suffer, but I do hope that I can find a way to help them too.

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