[Edited to add: you reall really ought to read the blog post referenced, titled “Why is ‘gifted’ such a dirty word?” This person gets it]
I came across this old blog post from Yet Another Homeschool Blog! (which I think has been abandoned). The title is “Why is ‘gifted’ such a dirty word?” That theme is not so new to me, but there was a passage about a gifted child growing up to parent her own gifted child that, sadly, really hit home:
And when she’s grown, and her two year old starts picking words out of the newspaper while on her lap, this young woman will be afraid to tell anyone and she’ll wonder what she did wrong, and if her baby has been somehow irreparably damaged by her mothering. And when strangers comment on the her toddler’s amazing clarity of speech, the mother will respond by pointing out that she still can’t jump, and she won’t nap, and she’s too active and once she almost fell out of a second story window. And anyway, doesn’t everyone learn to talk eventually? This baby is nothing special!
Ack! That’s me! I don’t know that it has anything to do with my own experiences as a gifted kid, but I have definitely said those kinds of things about Violet, especially when she was 3 (or 4 or 5) and people said, “Oh, she can read!” There I was saying, “Well, yes, she does, but she can’t ride a trike yet . . . can’t figure out scissors . . . can’t tie her shoes. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, you know!”
Why the rush to lump her back in with everyone else? God forbid I acknowledge that Violet is just plain different!
The article doesn’t say this, but I think in addition to worrying about blending in, I think that impulse to gloss over differences has to do with fear of seeming like a pushy parent. Through the Prufrock Gifted Ed blog I also linked to this opinion of giftedness: that the difference between gifted and non-gifted kids in schools is that “their parents don’t care about posing as crossing guards or PTA presidents.” [link now dead]
I mean really, would you claim that that record-setter of the 100-meter-dash only won all those races because his mom brought Gatorade to the track practices?
More bizarre was the author’s claim that these kids are lucky: “Lucky because they have parents who have the road smarts to know what it takes to make a child appear teachable, moldable. . . . Easily mangeable.”
Ha! Well that clearly doesn’t apply to us! Whatever Violet appeared to her teachers, it was not “moldable” or “easily manageable”!
But this is the reality, in public school or homeschool. You’re sitting around with a group of friends and acquaintances talking about school, books, summer progarms. Do you nod and smile and keep quiet while everyone else shares, or do you tell the truth that your kid is studying Chinese and algebra? Do you save face with a quick, apologetic addendum that, “she said she wanted to,” or do you figure no one would believe that anyway? (Like one teacher told me, “Kids are very quick to figure out what we want them to say.”)
I look forward to Violet getting older, when it gets a bit easier to seek out and get together with other gifted kids. And I’m sooooo glad to have the Internet now, where you can find those other parents who get it. (Just see Gray’s Academy, Mariposa, and Homespun, linked at right, for three examples!)
Yet another hat tip to the Prufrock publisher Joel McIntosh and his Gifted Ed blog.