I’m a Mom of a Gifted Child
Reflections on guilt, t-shirts, loneliness, heartache and fitting in
Who would have thought that cleaning out my gifted child’s closet—sorting through the keepsakes, the clothes to donate, and throwing away the not-fit-for-anyone stuff—would pierce through my tightly-sealed vault of painful emotions—the emotions I’ve tried to avoid and keep tightly locked away until now.
Guilt, blame, sadness, hopelessness, shame, despair, confusion, anger
I’ve made t-shirt quilts for each of my children when they graduated from high school. Keepsake t-shirts from my children’s most memorable events, schools, clubs, achievements and teams filled storage containers until the time came to sew them up into a quilt full of childhood memories.
As I sorted through my youngest child’s t-shirts, I was struck with the shear number of t-shirts he had accumulated. As I looked at the emblem proudly printed on each shirt, my heart sank and tears streamed down my face as the realization sunk in that way too many of my child’s shirts represented the times in his life he would rather forget—the many failed attempts of a gifted child to find a place to fit it in.
Each new school, new club, new team or new group gave us hope that this would be the one, and so, each time, full of optimism, we bought the commemorative t-shirt as the symbol and validation that he was indeed part of this new group—a group where a gifted child could fit in.
I sorted through shirts from the public school P. E. class he left after six weeks, the school who wanted me to believe their honors classes were gifted classes, so we moved on; from the magnet school who refused to understand and address his needs as a gifted learner; from the private school who had no clue about giftedness; from the robotics team who relegated him to the one, mundane task of designing the t-shirt so he would stop showing the team how to do things better; from the school band he was in for only a few weeks before leaving to find a better school; and from the multitude of teams, clubs and groups he was a part of in the ongoing search to find a place where a gifted kid could be accepted and understood. Where he could fit in. And find friends.
So many t-shirts seemed to represent a failed attempt, an unhappy memory, a time of hope and then crushing disappointment.
As a mom of a gifted child, we walk a lonely, difficult and heartbreaking road on our unwavering quest to help our gifted children navigate through a world that does not understand them, within a society who often envies and resents them. Exhausted, we pray our gifted child will just come out on the other end with enough self-esteem to be able to live a happy, successful adult life.
As a mom of a gifted child—*
I’ve watched as my 4 year-old child was excluded by peers because he wanted to discuss the mechanics of a pneumatic engine instead of throwing dirt clods at other kids
I’ve listened, astonished, as I heard a neighbor scream at my gifted 5 year old to “shut up and stop talking!”
I’ve put my house on the market in the hopes of buying a new house in a neighborhood with children who would accept my gifted child
I’ve cried when my child had hope and happiness in his heart at the prospect that somewhere in this new group of kids he would find friends—but didn’t
I’ve argued with teachers and administrators at many schools who did not understand that my child was not lazy or arrogant—he was simply gifted
I’ve panicked when I learned that my child’s school system was trying to do away with the gifted program under the guise of lies and lip-service that the new program in the regular classroom would be better for ALL children, not just the gifted
I’ve commiserated with other moms of gifted children because only we seem to understand the real struggles of raising gifted children.
I’ve driven my child across town twice everyday for a year so he could attend a school who seemed to understand gifted children.
I’ve moved my family to another state just so my gifted child could have the education he so desperately needed.
I’ve taken on a second job so I could afford to pay for a private school who does understand and address the educational needs of gifted children.
I’ve felt despair because my gifted child had to switch schools so often in our search to find the education he needed and deserved.
I’ve been thunderstruck when my child’s principal called him an anomaly.
I’ve downplayed and hidden my child’s giftedness to avoid the nasty and envious comments from other moms.
I’ve endured trepidation and embarrassment when I had to admit my child was gifted.
I’ve been wounded by the eye-rolling and the clicking of envious tongues.
I’ve been insulted by educators claiming that they knew more about my child and his giftedness than I did, when in fact, they didn’t.
I’ve cried myself to sleep after an argument with my gifted teen which ended with him screaming out, “I can’t mom, because I’m not normal!”
I’ve hugged my gifted child when his teacher has excluded him from recognition at school because “we don’t want the other kids in the class to feel bad.”
I’ve sacrificed my own social and work life to homeschool my gifted child because no traditional school near us could educate my gifted child appropriately.
I’ve fought back tears when a judge curtly told my 4th grade son he needed to stop raising his hand because he wanted to hear answers from the other competitors.
I’ve witnessed my child fall apart when his hopes for new friends were dashed after he met, for the first time, some of the kids in our new neighborhood. They said they had to leave, but would be back in 20 minutes to play. It’s been two years and they haven’t come back to play.
I’m exhausted from the never-ending search for the right group, the right school, the right club and the right neighborhood for my gifted child to finally find a place where he can fit in.
I’ve begged for help, support, sympathy, understanding only to be told that being gifted is a net positive.
I’ve consoled other moms who are struggling on the same lonely, painful road of raising a gifted child.
I’ve been heartbroken when I realized that my gifted child has not had a real friend in years.
I’ve been enraged when teachers have told my child, “well, if you are so smart, you should be able to make better grades” or “I know your mom thinks you are gifted, but you will have to prove to me how smart you are.”
I’ve become upset when family, friends or neighbors tell me that my gifted child is probably not really having problems, he is just pulling the wool over my eyes
I’ve worried if I’ve done too much to help my gifted daughter navigate her world and if I let go now, will she survive?
I’m remorseful that I tried to fix my son, when in fact, it was his school’s baseless expectations of him that needed fixing.
I’ve regretted not doing a better job of protecting my gifted child from the inevitable resentment and intolerance from others.
I’ve witnessed an academic team coach yell at my gifted middle schooler for not knowing an answer at a quiz bowl—“You should be smart enough to know this!”
I feel guilty for not knowing about his giftedness sooner so I could be more proactive in order to prevent some of the rejection and mistreatment he has endured.
I’m disillusioned by our educational system who do not fully understand our gifted children as learners and subsequently neglect their education.
I’ve been so confused as a mom of a gifted child, always worrying if I’m doing this right.
I’ve become pissed as hell when I see the sentiment, “All Children are Gifted”, which marginalizes my child.
I’ve felt so alone believing that my child, my family, were the only family with such problems with their gifted child—my child is gifted, he should not be having problems, right?
I’m heartbroken and angry that my gifted child is so misunderstood that news anchors feel it is okay to make fun of gifted children on national TV.
These are the sentiments from the mom’s of gifted children in their comments on this post. I will continue to update these as I receive them in the comments:
I’ve been angry at a superintendent for telling me “we’ve had lots of smart kids at this school- yours is no different”
I’ve been angry because my child was set in the hallway after a teacher asked “Do you think you are smarter than me?” after correcting the teacher on a pronunciation.
I’ve wept with my child because “I don’t have any friends mom.”
I’ve wept because I know the feeling of not letting everything I know or feel out because I won’t be accepted.
I’ve been angry my child was told to stop answering so many questions and give the other kids a chance in a quiz bowl.
I’ve been angry my child was not allowed join a class because doing so would give her team an unfair advantage.
I’ve wept and feared because my child had a complete breakdown becoming totally non-verbal in an anxiety attack and I feared I would have to turn them over to “health professionals” who didn’t understand the reasoning behind it.
I’ve felt my heart in my throat when my daughter said, “Mom, do you ever feel like you just don’t fit in anywhere? Do you think I ever will?”
I’ve worried for the future when my 4yo demonstrates levels of existential angst I can hardly comprehend.
I’ve felt the heartache behind the PG adult’s words when he says, “You want to change the world, but who are you changing it for? No one understands you, no one is like you, no one knows why you want to do these things. It’s not about finding others with the same intelligence. It’s about finding someone like you.”
I knew I had to homeschool when my kindergartener would come home and ask for ‘mama school’, every single day. He was not thriving.
I knew I had to homeschool when my son (at age 5) started have anxiety and breakdowns, most mornings before school. THAT should never happen; especially in kindergarten.
I am disgusted at the conformity that schools wish to put on young minds. Tragic way to stifle creativity and quest for knowledge.
I am sad and pissed because my son was bored and no one could see it, even after I mentioned it. He was scribbling with crayons on his math paper because he did not want to color certain answers per the directions. He wanted to do 10×7+1= type math problems – in kindergarten.
I’m tired of being told that my child isn’t gifted. It’s just me being a helicopter parent and want him to be gifted that’s the problem.
I’m tired of being told that the public schools in our area will solve his gifted problem.
My heart hurts when I see my gifted kids work hard to make friends in our neighborhood but get rejected because “they know too much”.
I’ve been made furious by a principal who told me to “not have any more children, they’re too hard for us to manage”.
My heart has broken as my 9 year old son banged his head against his bedroom wall in an attempt to make himself not gifted.
I’ve been terrified when in the first week of kinder my son came home from school saying “mum, they’re teaching me the difference between a word and a letter, and I’ve just finished reading Harry Potter”.
I’m angry at myself when I feel deprived of “typical” childhood experiences, based on society’s predetermined expectations.
I feel disheartened when my own family “understands” my gifted child, yet continue to think his needs “aren’t”.
I feel defeated every time I muster enthusiasm to fight for the way things should be, and met with several individuals on why it can’t.
I feel confused by rules which are reasoned without logic.
I feel sick when I hear about standardized tests, and the degree to which our schools are dictated by their results.
I feel exaughsted in my relentless attempts to find my sons passion(s).
I feel failed when all my efforts are directed towards giftedness, and everything else has become neglected.
I feel minuscule in a fight against endless odds.
I am elated my childs life won’t peak in high school.
I am grateful for parenting a gifted child as it has changed me in infinite ways.
I am hopeful that the challenges faced in childhood will send these kids forward in life far more prepared than their oversheltered peers, not swayed by rejection and disappointment- but utilize it to propell themselves forward.
Some good- no matter how seemingly microscopic must come from the determination and passion of parents on their quest for what it right. Nothing in life is impossible- only people that say things are.
If nothing else, I’m optimistic that the greatest challenges my child will face will be during the time he resides under my roof.
I am furious that the best anyone can do for my gifted child is to try to encourage him to be “normal.” Every teacher, therapists, even close family.
I’ve been proud of my three year old deciding to invent hearts that would never stop so his mama would never lose another friend too young to a heart attack… before I knew that my three year old “shouldn’t” ask questions of sufficient depth to understand a heart attack, nor should he understand the concept of “death” enough to know he never wanted me to deal with it again.
I’ve held my six year old as he sobbed in my arms because we would all die one day, his Hammie and Buppa first, and then he would be all alone. I’ve had to explain our contingency plans for his care so that he could sleep without fear that if we died in the night, he would be left all alone. That same night, I got to tackle the notion of whether or not God is real, and that my son would indeed die someday.
I’ve had to deal with family members who don’t understand that my son needs to understand – he will not blindly obey. This has left him the target of anger and abuse.
I’ve pulled my child from a playplace because the other kids somehow knew he was different from them – which left my son punched in the face, twice, and then knocked to the ground and jumped on. These were four year olds. My son thought he was being punished for their bullying him, and promised he’d ask them not to hit him so hard next time. But gifted is positive, right?
I’ve walked into a parent-teacher conference to be greeted with “Your son is cheating! I can’t do those problems in my head, so there’s no WAY he can either!”…
I’ve wondered (and then wanted to kick myself) what it would be like to have a “normal” kid, instead of four outliers with anxiety, sleep issues, noise and texture and taste sensitivities, most of whom can not fit into a classroom….
I’ve spent years dreading August because school is so damn stressful for all of us….
Then gotten to spend one glorious August looking forward to continuing to homeschool!!!
Now I get to dread August again, because my kids want to try returning to school because “maybe it will be better this time”, in spite of all odds (and because they don’t want to feel “different” because they are homeschooled while their friends all go to school)…
I’ve dealt with a mother-in-law who told me straight out that she didn’t like my oldest son (yes, her own grandson) because he was too busy and intense (at age 3)…
I’ve had a child who quit napping at age 18 months, and spent the 15 straight hours a day that he was awake asking “why”, “what if…”, “how come…” , when he wasn’t my only child…
But I have four intense, incredibly intelligent, independent kids that (if I can help them survive until adulthood) have the ingredients to be wonderfully successful people…. and I love them all!
I’ve felt my heart break when I’ve held my sobbing 7 year old, hearing him say “I wish I wasn’t alive any more mummy because there’s nowhere I belong in this world”.
I’ve had tears in my eyes when been told ‘why do they call it being gifted when it is anything BUT a gift’
My husband and I have had to fight for at least one of our three gifted children every single year at school, to get them what they needed. Or at least the best option available at the time, which was very often lacking.
I was told I was pushing her when I moved her to another middle school so she could take Algebra in 7th grade even though that was the first time in school she was challenged enough to learn any kind of work habits or study skills.
I was also called a “traitor” for moving her to that school in a different town, and her friends from here didn’t talk to her when in public.
I cry a lot about this.
I feel like I’ve tried everything to help him be successful except drugs, which some of my friends with highly gifted kids have resorted to. (To help them focus. ) We refuse.
I feel like I’m failing him because he is failing to fit in at school. He is a “gifted underachiever” and it is a constant struggle to keep him engaged at school and keep him from failing his classes. Everyone just says “we know you’re smart enough, you just have to do the work.” He is super social and had loads of friends, but none he really connects with. His smart friends are all straight A, super involved which he is not, and his average friends he can’t really be himself with.
I helped fight to get Advanced Academics classes in all schools in all grade levels and the IB Programme at the High School, thinking that would help, and it has, but it is still vilified and watered down constantly.
I was told I was pushing her when I moved her to another middle school so she could take Algebra in 7th grade even though that was the first time in school she was challenged enough to learn any kind of work habits or study skills. I was also called a “traitor” for moving her to that school in a different town, and her friends from here didn’t talk to her when in public.
My husband and I have had to fight for at least one of our three gifted children every single year at school, to get them what they needed. Or at least the best option available at the time, which was very often lacking.
I could feel my child’s pain when he said “I had to cover my ears, I could’t listen to that teacher anymore, it was so boring”
My heart was broken when my son came from school and asked “Mom, why I am being treated like a shit?”
’ve felt anxious when the swimming pool changing room after toddler swim group fell dead silent. He had been squirming impatiently at me dressing him, until he noticed the sign that showering was mandatory. Then he loudly started calling out the letters. None of the other mothers said a word to me there ever since.
I’ve felt appalled (sp?) at my father in law calling my 1 year old “dumb” when he was unable to answer questions no schoolchild could answer. And painfully reminded of all the times he tried to bring my husband down a notch when he seemed ‘too smart’.
I’ve felt endeared when my 21 month old found a 6 year old girl with whom he could share his hobby of writing out sums and lines of numbers. I’ve felt a bit shaky noticing that she (accelerated a year at school, gifted child) made some mistakes that my son never made anymore.
I’ve felt too weary of jealous remarks to let my 20 month old give his grandma the drawing he made for her as a birthday present. It was her name written several times in rainbow colours.
I’ve felt deeply hurt at accusations of pushing him. And more so at the insinuations from those too cowardly to downright say it.
I’ve felt exasperated at my mother in law saying homeschooling would make my son an unsocial loser and that kids were better off playing outside. She informed us that even our countrys princesses go to a regular school. She considers the claim to giftedness arrogance and the search for proper education just wanting special treatment. Mind you, she was the one who made a video of our son speaking his first complete sentence at 10 months, after which he runs off and kicks his ball a couple of times.
I’ve felt uncomfortable when a friend who found out my son was reading asked me how to teach her kid to read. I’ve felt hurt when after they failed to make theirs read, too, they claimed that I had pushed him too hard and stopped calling.
I’ve thought to myself “oh please let him not start reading” when I met other mums that I had a pleasant chat with. I’ve felt my heart sink when he did. I’ve felt helpless as my son turned from potential playdate to freak in their eyes.
I’ve felt downright fear and awe and wondered how I could ever raise such a child, several times when he made new leaps in his development.
I’ve felt deep deep love for this sweet boy who seems to want nothing more than to please everyone. I’m worried for him, for his future.
I’ve felt a profound fear when I considered the option of him ever becoming evil or hateful. The damage he could do with a mind like that… I’ve wondered how to reply when me 20 month old said that mommy and daddy lie too, and lying gets you what you want.
I’m glad my boy is so much stronger and taller than his age peers. I’m glad his father is a national martial arts champion. I’m worried he will need to defend himself more than others.
I’ve felt grateful for the few people who just love him and cheer at whatever he does – be it slinging yoghurt around the room or correcting them when they try to identify a plant when we walj through the park.
I feel 100% sure that my son is gifted, despite (as someone else posted before me) his being too young to even test.
If you are a mom of a gifted child, I’ve experienced your struggle, I feel your pain, I know your heartache and I understand.
Please add your sentiments as a mom of a gifted child in the comments below. Let’s share and support each other.
*These “as a mom of a gifted child” experiences were all gathered from many moms through my work as a gifted advocate
Category: Bullying, Education, Gifted, Gifted Advocacy, Gifted Education, Gifted Teen, Parenting a Gifted Child, Schools, Twice-exceptional / 2E · Tags: advocating for gifted, asynchronous development, bullying, education, emotional intensity, family, gifted, gifted advocacy, gifted and talented, gifted children, gifted education, gifted learners, gifted students, parenting, parenting gifted children, public schools, sensitivity, underachievement in gifted children
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