My son is gifted. We knew it from the time he was a baby. He talked long before his first birthday. In full sentences. At a year he could say and identify his letters and numbers. His IQ is 130. The tester said it’s likely higher, but he got bored with the test and just started throwing out answers. His verbal score was 160, that’s better than Mensa. It was the highest she’d ever seen. He’s 12. It’s incredible.
His behaviors are a little odd. He has many Aspergers tendencies, but doesn’t officially qualify. He is the brainiac at school, always having the right answers. He is incredibly socially awkward and interested in things most kids aren’t and talks about them ad nauseam. All of this combined has made it almost impossible for him to make friends.
When he was little, he was precocious. It was cute to listen to him rattle off the Latin names of all the fish in the tank at the pet store. Adults adored him. They could talk to him like a little man. And they did. All the time. His best friends were his grandparents. That’s not unusual for a three-year-old, but being able to talk about politics is. That was him. He was interviewed on the news at four for a story that involved his dad. They were obsessed with him. Blonde hair, blue eyes and knowledge. He just kept talking and people were enraptured.
But when he started school, things became difficult for him. An adult would listen for hours as he rattled off everything he’d read in his fact books. And when you have a photographic memory, that’s a lot to listen to. Other kids, they didn’t care. Their attention spans are so small that they would just tune him out and walk away.
As he has grown, it’s really gotten terrible. Kids are older and they became meaner. They made fun of him for being smart, talking too much, and being the teacher’s go to for answers. He’s small in stature and not athletic, that didn’t help things. He was in a very small school where everyone played sports and the kids definitely thought that they were better than those who didn’t. Gym class was a nightmare. But instead of crying, his frustration manifested in intense anger. Once he knocked a desk over, he often yelled at other kids, he was just falling apart.
He can’t help that he is intelligent. And I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to tell him to dumb it down for other people. But fuck, can’t somebody just give him a break? Due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to pull him from his tiny Catholic school in 7th grade to attend another. At first I was terrified, but then thought, this could be great. A fresh start. No one would know his past, his anger, his intelligence. Maybe they’d just think he was quirky.
Things started OK. He made a few friends who he played Minecraft with and texted every once in a while. He mentioned kids’ names and said they were his friends. Due to the pandemic, I didn’t think about him not being invited anywhere because no one is going anywhere. But he lost phone privileges for a week. I looked at it and he had zero text messages. None. My heart broke. How lonely that must be. How hurt he must feel. I hate it.
I look at him and think there is so much for him to offer this world, but people don’t give him the chance. Particularly kids. They think he’s weird. But what they don’t get, and they probably are incapable of at 13, is that he is someone’s child, brother, grandson. He has feelings and worth. He is my baby and I love him with all of my being. But while his intelligence is certainly a blessing, it is also a curse. I guess all great things in life probably are.
I have often discussed him with his teachers and school counselor and they assure me that he is doing well, and his grades reflect that. They love him, as most adults do. But I want to know he’s not sitting alone at lunch and not in the teacher’s lounge! Thankfully, he’s not. For that, I am grateful.
I keep telling myself that this will get better, that he will find his niche. He will eventually find his people. I know that they are out there. He has an opportunity in two years to attend a high school with an incredible STEM program. This is a perfect fit for him. He will make friends in that program. I can feel it in my bones. There will be kids just as quirky and they will like him for who he is. I pray for it every day.
I will never stop worrying about my kids. And I will never stop encouraging them to use their gifts for good. He’ll make it through these tough years and there will be a reward on the other end. Look at some of the weird kids, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, he could certainly be in worse company. I can’t wait for him and his tribe to take on the world. I’ll be cheering him on and will have my middle finger in the air to all of the assholes who never gave him the time of day. They’ll be sorry.