A few months after my son was born, I was exhausted. He was literally sucking the life out of me, between breast feeding and barely sleeping. He never seemed to settle down, and as he grew into an infant, everything seemed harder. He was a picky eater and refused, mostly out of stubbornness, to do the things infants do, like roll over and nap.
Everything he did seemed to be a little different, quirky almost. He didn’t crawl, choosing instead to sit cross-legged and scoot his bottom across the floor with his hands. He developed an extensive vocabulary by the age of 2 and could converse in full adult sentences shortly thereafter. His tantrums were epic; it seemed almost as if his body couldn’t catch up to the big thoughts in his head. Transitions from one activity to the next were impossible, and life revolved around making sure he had a steady routine. The term “one-track mind” was often used to describe him, and people were frequently shocked by his intelligence.
We knew our kid was “different” from an early age, but we felt like snobs when we tried to bring it up with other parents. I mean, how exactly are you supposed to say, “I think my kid is a genius,” without sounding like pretentious a jerk? Throughout his toddler years, I observed his behavior and learned to keep quiet about my suspicions, lest I look like a braggart. Thankfully, a kindergarten teacher suggested we have his IQ tested, and the test confirmed our suspicions: We were raising a child smarter than we were, and he was labeled “gifted” by his school district.
A lot is expected of gifted children, and unfair expectations are placed on them in school. He’s been subject to ridicule from his classmates, and teachers expect more that he can give in the classroom. I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with other moms who chastise me because my kid is “too smart.” The fact is, gifted kids are misunderstood, and parenting a child with an extremely high IQ can be lonely and isolating.
Here are some other things I want you to know about my gifted kid:
1. My kid has special needs.
Yes, he can read well above grade level and can do complicated math in his head, but he also struggles with demands of the classroom. Often the systems and routines of the classroom don’t match what works in his brain. He needs an independent education plan (IEP) to make sure his complex needs are met in the classroom.
2. My gifted kid isn’t always an honor student.
Gifted children struggle with mundane tasks such as showing all of their work or reading things that don’t stimulate their brains. As such, their grades often reflect their inability to show their algebra calculations. He may be able to do math in his head, but please stop expecting him to be the valedictorian.
3. Gifted kids aren’t always well-behaved.
When my son was small, if he was engrossed in an activity, it was very difficult for him to switch gears. Whether it was putting Legos away or leaving preschool, he would often have epic tantrums as he tried to process his next steps. Just because a kid has a high-functioning mind doesn’t necessarily mean he can handle it at a young age, and sometimes, they act out as they learn to handle what’s in their heads.
4. Gifted kids aren’t nerds or dorks.
On TV, smart kids are always depicted with nerdy clothes and dorky comebacks. They are always the sidekick, and rarely do they get the cute girl to date them. In real life, gifted kids love sports and have great personalities, and I haven’t seen one yet who actually wears a pocket protector. So, knock it off, Disney Channel, and portray gifted kids as they really are: normal kids.
5. It is exhausting to parent a gifted child.
Gifted children need routine and structure. They are often disorganized and scattered, and it can be difficult to manage in school. I’ve had countless meetings with teachers about his habits, routines, and needs. And I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve driven him back to school for lost homework.
6. Don’t tell me that having a gifted kid is a ‘good problem to have.’
My kid has needs, and while he’s incredibly intelligent, I don’t need you to make me feel bad about it. I am sensitive to the fact that your kid struggles to read. I know that another mom’s child needs tutoring for math. Just because my kid may appear to be smarter than yours doesn’t mean we don’t have legitimate issues that we deal with on a daily basis. We are all just trying to do what’s best for our kids.
7. Gifted kids struggle with anxiety.
So much pressure is put on gifted children to perform that, often, they feel anxious. Couple that pressure with the constant feeling of disorganization and scattered thinking, and anxiety can rear its ugly head in even the youngest of Einsteins. Be kind to a gifted kid because they are silently struggling with the weight of a very big mind.
Raising a gifted child has forced me to look at the world differently and to understand the way my brain functions in order to help my son manage the way his brain works. It’s been a daily process for many years, and it’s not always an easy road. We are proud of his accomplishments, but every day, we struggle with his needs even though many perceive them as insignificant or conceited. It’s also pretty great to also have someone who always knows how to help me log into my iCloud account…