It can be tough – parenting gifted children – and each of us has a different path, often a heartbreaking one, that has led us to the discovery of our child’s giftedness. I’ve written my story throughout this site, and hope to bring you other parents’ stories as well. Jennifer is here today to share hers…
You know those middle kids – the ones stereotypes are formed around?
Books are written about middle children. Jokes are told about middle children. And every parent out there has cried tears over their middle children.
I have a middle child. He’s always been a hoot – sarcastic, defiant, and stubborn.
For years I chalked it all up to his unique personality… and being a middle child. He was incredibly sensitive, a terrible sleeper from infancy, and shy, this middle child of mine, but he was also achingly sweet, thoughtful, and hilarious. He was a handful, but he was also a joy.
Until just before he started kindergarten.
We didn’t know what shifted, but our boy had suddenly become moody, angry, and explosive. He went from wanting to snuggle to wanting to scream. He was unpredictable, and unbearable. He and I were both in tears daily, and I was at a complete loss as to what big thing was happening inside his little body.
I tried everything.
I tried different parenting methods. I tried essential oils. I tried removing red dye. I tried adding caffeine. I tried prayer. I scoured my DSM for any diagnosis that would make sense, something that would give me answers, something that would give me HELP or HOPE.
But nothing fit.
When he started kindergarten a few months later, I didn’t have the typical teary, bittersweet experience. I was terrified. I was terrified of the phone calls I knew I’d get, terrified of how he’d behave and treat other people. And they came, those calls.
Finally, I swallowed my pride and admitted that he needed help, help that I couldn’t give him. He started seeing a counselor, who was, after nearly six months, equally baffled. Nothing fit. Nothing made sense. Nothing changed, apart from one heart-breaking development: he had lost faith in himself.
He was getting “bad colors” every day at school. He was always in trouble, always being punished, always letting someone down or not measuring up. He started referring to himself as a bad boy and wouldn’t believe us when we told him he was so much more.
No one understood him, and he knew it.
Several months into counseling, his counselor brought up the idea of contacting a pastor he knew who dealt with spiritual oppression and possession. I can’t begin to tell you what the bottom of that pit felt like, how hopeless and absolutely petrified I was of what my precious boy’s future would be. I asked the counselor through sobs if my son was a sociopath, and he couldn’t give me an answer. So, when we walked into his scheduled parent-teacher conference at the end of the first semester, my shoulders were tense, and I had waterproof mascara on in anticipation of the mountain of bad reports and my utter lack of answers.
That meeting changed everything.
The teacher looked at me and said, “I think he needs to skip first grade.”
I was shocked. (Partly because my Mommy Brain immediately acknowledged that this would mean he’d graduate sooner, and thus be gone sooner, which I didn’t want.) But, really because this had never come up.
Apart from the guilt I felt at being caught off guard, I had very mixed feelings. You hear a lot of horror stories about skipping grades, boys specifically. I spoke with a very dear friend of mine who encouraged me to email the school’s Talented and Gifted teacher for input on grade acceleration. Her suggestion is what lead us to the answers we’d been so desperate for, and I cannot thank her enough as long as I live. The TAG teacher – an angel on this very earth – read my email and, within an hour, responded with this: I pulled your son from class and spoke with him. I believe he is highly gifted, and would like to do some testing.
Jaw, meet floor.
While we waited for the first test – the WASI – to be administered, the TAG teacher allowed him to attend her third grade class. When I say we immediately saw results, I mean that we IMMEDIATELY saw results.
He started getting “good colors.” He started snuggling again. He wasn’t angry. As the test results came in, and I read blogs and books and spoke with people, it all came into focus:
He never slept.
He is sarcastic.
He is sensitive.
He is emotional.
He is creative.
He is gifted.
Parenting a gifted child can be… interesting. A gifted child may have the intellectual capacity of someone 10 years older, but have the emotional maturity of someone 3 years YOUNGER. Sort of like Daredevil, but in reverse, where as one sense increases, the others weaken.
So, imagine a person who can take everything in, but can’t handle it. We finally had a name, an explanation for his previous behavior. As his educational needs began to be met, as he was challenged, understood, and not bored out of his busy mind, he came back to us.
And, while he no longer needs counseling, the future remains unknown. We constantly work meet his needs and attempt to understand him, and I’m still not over the heaps of mommy guilt I’ve accumulated for having missed what is now so glaringly obvious, but we’re not flying blind anymore, we don’t look upon him in fear.
Now we just marvel at our middle child and say…he gets it from me.
Jennifer Vail lives in the great state of Texas with her smokin’ hot husband and 3 precious poppies. She spends her days learning about gifted children, trying her best to meet their needs, and wishing for naps and TV marathons. You can read more of her thoughts at JenniferLikesToBlog.
For more information about parenting gifted kids, check out: