Do you remember discovering giftedness or twice exceptionalities in your kiddo? Or the path to discovery or a diagnosis? I’ve written my story throughout this site, and hope to bring you other parents’ stories as well. Esther is here today to share hers…
I felt like there was something wrong with me. Like maybe I wasn’t “mom” enough for this.
I never loved infants. I wasn’t the one to go running to hold a baby every time a new mom walked in the room. Yet, this was MY baby.
Of course, I loved this baby, KJ. But it was hard. Harder than I expected. She wouldn’t fall asleep unless we walked around the house, bouncing her gently, for a very long time. She never fell asleep in the car as a baby. To this day, 7 years later, I can count on one hand the number of times she’s slept in the car (including 12 hour long road trips).
When someone asked me, “Is she a good baby?”, I was flustered and had no idea what to say. What do you say to that, anyway?
I don’t believe infants are good or bad – they are just babies. They express their needs when they have them – and I had a very expressive baby.
When we got to the toddler years, I enjoyed motherhood a lot more, but it was still challenging. Once she began talking, it never stopped – but at least I knew what she wanted.
Her expressiveness continued – she was, and still is, incredibly passionate about everything.
If something was good, she was the most excited, joyful child you could meet. If something was sad, such as Daddy having to leave to go to work, she would break down in tears. And if something was frustrating, well, that resulted in a full-on meltdown, often including falling to the floor and flailing – sometimes to the point that I thought she would hurt herself.
We started her in a preschool program at age 3, partially because she really enjoyed social interactions, and partially because I needed the break. Due to my introvert personality, it was intense to be at home with her all day, and having a few hours twice a week to myself was incredibly freeing.
She continued the preschool program at age 4, but after that, she went on to Kindergarten. She was the youngest in the class, and there were some “social skills” issues, but she was excelling academically.
First grade brought a few new challenges, including frequent tears over seemingly “minor” issues. The teacher thought it was due to her age, but now I recognize that it’s her emotional sensitivity. Looking back, I realize that I was pretty similar as a child, and I hated when I was referred to as sensitive in a derogatory way.
I always thought KJ was brilliant, and sometimes I was amazed at the things she would say. Sometimes she would make deep statements that astounded me. But I’m her mother – of course I would feel that she was exceptional.
One time, a teen in our church babysat her. When I picked her up, the teen and her mother commented on how verbally articulate KJ was. Her mother made a comment to the effect of, “I wouldn’t be surprised if she was gifted.”
She’s always marched to the beat of her own drum. Anytime we’ve done a sports activity (gymnastics, dance, soccer), she has done her own thing. She’s content to have fun picking dandelions on the soccer field while the rest of the team chases after the ball.
She’s also a leader, and she’s often coordinating a whole group of kids to do what she wants them to do. She’s never been too concerned about following along with the crowd.
Another part of our journey has been a significant challenge with anxiety. This began couple of years ago, when KJ was about 5. She started to become fearful of a lot of things – it started with bugs, then it progressed to being fearful anytime I was in a different room, then I couldn’t even step out of the car to pump gas without a major meltdown. This went on for several months, to the point that I reached out to a therapist I knew to get some guidance. She recommended the book, “What to do When You Worry Too Much”, which helped us a lot.
But the anxiety continued in waves until we moved into our new home later that year. As soon as we moved, it stopped. It was strange, since we were in a totally new, much bigger, environment.
Still, none of this led me to believe that she was gifted. To be honest, up until about 7 months ago, I didn’t know much about giftedness at all. I had heard the term, but really had no idea what it meant. Mostly, I associated it with genius-level high-achievers.
It wasn’t until this past Fall, when we began homeschooling, that things came to a head.
I started noticing how much difficulty KJ had sitting still for any length of time. When I was teaching her, she would literally be moving around the room constantly, climbing on the couch, frog hopping across the floor, or playing with a ball.
When we covered a topic that was harder for her, she would quickly shut down, often running away from the table or crying because she didn’t get the correct answer immediately. Oftentimes, she had her own ideas about how we should learn a topic, and she would become very upset if we didn’t do it her way.
In our homeschool group, I noticed that she struggled to recognize appropriate personal space boundaries. Sometimes, kids would avoid her because of this. In our classroom setting, I had to redirect her regularly to pay attention and follow the tutor’s directions.
All the little clues that had been left over the past few years, along with the challenges we had been experiencing, led me to believe that there was something more going on.
Related: Recognizing and Nurturing Giftedness
Then the anxiety hit – this time worse than before. She began waking up at night, sometimes 5-6 times per night, and having severe anxiety attacks. She refused to go back to bed on her own as she previously would have done. She wanted me or my husband with her, but when we would get her settled back into bed, she would begin to freak out the moment we stepped away from her. She would chase us down the hallway, screaming, and sometimes becoming physically aggressive. This was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting.
Finally, I was at my wit’s end. I felt like I was wandering through a maze, and just when I thought I had figured out one challenge, a new one would arise. As I discussed this with a few friends, I received some invaluable advice.
One friend told me, “You know your daughter better than anyone else – if you feel like something is off, then trust your gut.”
Another friend asked me whether the issues we were seeing were getting in the way of her functioning: school, friendships, spiritual health, ability to communicate with me, etc. As I stared at that Facebook message, my eyes welled up with with tears.
I knew the answer was yes.
The third friend, a former co-worker in the social work field, helped me wade through the process of contacting the special education department to request testing.
After sending the letter, it was a period of waiting. During that time, I continued to scour the internet for information. As we all know, you can find just about anything online – good and bad. But what I uncovered were little clues that seemed to resonate with what we were experiencing.
Related: Why Join a Parent Group?
Soon, I happened upon some articles about the connection between anxiety and giftedness. Then I started reading about overexcitablities in gifted children.
And the intensity.
I felt like I was reading an exact description of my child.
All of these issues that we had been dealing with over the years – the emotional and physical sensitivity, the overactive imagination, the anxiety, the inattention, the impulsivity, the uncontainable creativity, the uniqueness, the never ending curiosity – all started to make sense. I was discovering giftedness.
Then I found the Raising Poppies Facebook group, and that was a Godsend. As I read the posts in the group, once again, I felt like I could relate to almost everything the other parents were posting. I still didn’t fully understand giftedness, but I felt like I belonged.
As I write those words, I still squirm a little. I’m figuring out how to deal with this new information.
Discovering my child’s giftedness has not changed who she is. What it has done is given me a clearer understanding of how she works and what she needs. We’re on the path to getting help. Even though some days I still feel like I’m navigating an impossible maze, at least I have a few arrows pointing me in the right direction, and a few people to walk alongside in this journey.
Although I did not enjoy the month-long bout of night-time anxiety, I am thankful that it pushed me to the point of pursuing answers. I’m thankful that I took my friend’s advice to trust my gut.
Gifted kids are amazing, but they are also uniquely challenging. I have realized that I am not crazy, and that I’m not inadequate as a mom. The daily emotional exhaustion I have felt is not uncommon among parents of gifted children, and it reminded me that I truly need to be intentional about taking care of myself, so that I’m better able to be the mom she needs.
Some days, I still don’t feel like I’m cut out for this job. Yet, I know that God gave me this child for a reason, and I’m pretty sure she’s going to change the world.
Esther Littlefield lives in Maine with her husband Scott and daughter KJ where they enjoy as many outdoor adventures as possible in the midst of homeschooling, business, and church life. She’s passionate about helping moms take care of their personal, physical, spiritual, and relational wellness, and she writes at WellnessMomLife.
More Stories of Discovering Giftedness
We love hearing and celebrating stories of discovering giftedness, and parents’ experiences. If you’d like to share your story, contact us for our guidelines. In the meantime, here are some more gifted stories that might resonate:
- 100 Ways to Tell Your Kids You Love Them - July 7, 2020
- Finding Community: Building a Support System Online and In-Person - June 9, 2020
- Happy Cheetah | The Perfect Program for Struggling Readers - May 31, 2020