Understanding Gifted Parenting
“How are you doing?”
My friend, an educational professional who has worked with gifted children for many years, had asked me intently as I wearily plopped down in my chair at the coffee shop in need of a friendly chat—more so, an understanding ear. I heard the sincerity in her voice and saw the empathy in her eyes as I abandoned my standard “I’m fine” response for the truthful, “It’s hard! I wish others could just understand how difficult it is to raise a gifted child. Mentally, I’m so exhausted. I just wish others knew this.”
Of course she understood completely what I was talking about—her long, successful career has been spent teaching and guiding gifted students and their families. And the truth is, I do wish—really, really wish—others could drop the gifted-children-are-smarter-so-they-have-it-made stereotype they hold of our children and simply try to understand that parenting a gifted child can be very challenging.
“The mountains will be higher, but the valleys will be lower.”
I was told the above idiom by another friend who had retired after many years as a gifted education specialist; as well, she had a profoundly gifted adult son of her own. Is it only those who parent or teach gifted children who can understand the roller coaster we are on? Yes, I wish for just a little understanding for all of us parents of gifted children, but it seems that understanding may only come from those who have walked in our shoes on this crazy road we’re traveling.
Adjectives, aphorisms and analogies abound when it comes to describing life with a gifted child—a wild journey; a crazy road with many pot holes; a roller coaster ride with ups, downs, twists and turns; extreme highs, despairing lows, exhaustion and elation—and all describe the intense emotional tug of war parents of gifted children often experience when raising their gifted children.
The many adjectives we use to describe our daily lives as the parent of a gifted child are often polar opposites which conflict with each other, often in the same day, at the same moment. The analogies describe some sort of sanity-stealing life surging us up and then sucking us down, way down. Often. Daily. Hourly. It’s one tough gig!
Predictable, even-keel, typical–not adjectives one would often hear from a parent of a gifted child to describe what it is like to raise their neurodiverse offspring. I love my gifted kids, but sometimes I just want to get off this elevator—up and down. Up and down. Up and down.
As parents of gifted children, if we can’t expect understanding, could we at least hope to have less push back, animosity or ambivalence from those who don’t understand the parenting challenges of raising gifted kids?
Why is raising a gifted child, a child who most believe to have an advantaged life, so taxing? I could throw all the medical, educational and psychological facts at you, instead I will give you my own, personal analogy which may explain the why—just another attempt to foster some understanding of what it is to have a gifted child.
If you take a typical child with the typical cognitive functions of intelligence, emotions, senses, social understanding and others, and you put them all under a magnifying glass, they become emphasized, enlarged—MAGNIFIED. That is how I see a gifted child–with larger-than-life emotions, an immense vocabulary, tremendous intellectual and reasoning skills, king-sized sensitivities, and more pronounced educational needs. Their intelligence is magnified, their emotions are exaggerated, and all sensory and informational input and output passes through a filter which amplifies it all. And this in turn makes parenting gifted kids more intense, more challenging, and more, just more.
Hey, all I’m asking is for a little understanding for all of us on this dizzying ride parenting a gifted child. It is not always a bed of roses or a daily glide down a rainbow, y’all! Please understand, it’s like olympic-style parenting–MAGNIFIED.
This post is part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum November Blog Hop, The Highs and Lows of Gifted Parenting. Take a look at all the other posts discussing the highs and lows of parenting gifted children.