In celebration of National Parenting Gifted Children Week, Great Potential Press is pleased to present a series of guest blog posts covering some of the biggest topics in childhood development and gifted education today. GPP author and blogger Suki Wessling takes a closer look at how parents can support their gifted children.
When my kids were in school, one of the things I remember parents saying to me pretty often was a variant of, “You are so lucky that…” Then they would always follow with something that our modern school environment places great importance on: reading, math, being able to follow directions, scoring high on standardized tests.
I remember clearly the time a dad said to me, “You are so lucky that your son can read so well.” It had been a frustrating day. It took a lot to get my two kids out of the house and to school, where so many things were difficult for them. This man’s son was no scholar, but he was a well-liked, happy, athletic boy who was a credit to his caring parents. Thinking about the daily difficulties we had with our ‘smart’ kids, I wanted to say, “You are so lucky your son can hit a baseball!”
But I just let it go. Sometimes it’s not worth the effort to educate other people.
Most parents simply don’t get it, and I don’t consider it my day–to–day job to make them understand. But one of the reasons why I write about giftedness and parenting is to give other parents the words that so often escape us when we’re put on the spot.
Not only, “You are so lucky your son can hit a baseball,” but also:
“You are so lucky that the first parenting manual you tried worked for you,” and
“You are so lucky that your child hasn’t suddenly developed a horrible fear of public bathrooms,” and
“You are so lucky that you can spell words to your spouse and expect that your two–year–old won’t know what you are saying,” and
“You are so lucky your child hasn’t been bored to literal tears in the classroom” and
“You are so lucky that teachers are always happy to see your child in their classroom.”
The most important thing that people don’t get about raising gifted kids is that giftedness comes in a package: you don’t just get quick reading skills or advanced mathematical reasoning. You get a constantly questioning brain that needs to be fed, a tightly wound nervous system that tasks the most advanced parenting skills, and special needs that are not paid for by well-funded public programs.
A lot of this happens behind the scenes. Other parents see the blue ribbons and the child who gets sent off to another classroom for math class. They don’t see the complex dance each morning when you’re trying to get your child ready for an environment that challenges him emotionally, socially, and personally. They don’t see the child you greet after school who is suffering from tension–induced stomach aches and sore throats.
When parents of gifted kids advocate for better teaching techniques, other parents don’t usually understand that this will benefit their children as well. When parents of gifted kids ask for services their kids need, other parents often view them as pushy ‘helicopter parents’ who want something special for their children. When parents of gifted kids are at the end of their tethers and needs someone simply to understand, they most often run to their community on the Internet, since it is so hard for most of them to find any sort of community at home.
As parents of unusual children, we almost always find ourselves somewhere on the outside. We have commonalities with other parents, especially parents who have children with developmental problems, psychological disabilities, and even physical disabilities.
But parenting gifted children is a challenge that each day we have to face anew. It is largely a good challenge, one that we feel honored to have, but that doesn’t make it any easier. We almost always feel like we can’t possibly give our children enough: enough educational opportunities, enough time for creative exploration, enough understanding of the beauty of the difficult person we have found in our lives.
My children constantly amaze, perplex, excite, and confound me. I would never say that parenting them is easy, but it is a challenge that I know I will be faced with every day.
Suki Wessling writes about parenting, education, homeschooling, and gifted children. Her forthcoming book, From School to Homeschool: Should You Homeschool Your Gifted Child?, will be released by Great Potential Press in Fall, 2012. Find her at www.SukiWessling.com.
Read other posts from Suki in this series:
Read all the posts from our National Parenting Gifted Children Week series:
Technology and 21st Century Parenting - Arlene DeVries
A Parent’s View From the Psychiatrist’s Couch - Suki Wessling
ABCs of Being Smart . . . F Is for Fit and Flexibility - Dr. Joanne Foster
On Being the Parent of a 2e Child - Suki Wessling
Misdiagnosis: An Idea Whose Time Has Come - Marianne Kuzujanakis
The Difficult Question of Gender Identity - Suki Wessling
Understanding Twice-Exceptional Children - Dr. Carol Strip Whitney and Gretchen Hirsch
The Pressures Bright Children Feel, and Why They May Underachieve - Dr. Sylvia Rimm
The Role of Parents In Identifying Gifted Children - Suki Wessling
Spanking: An Ineffective Punishment With a Hidden Cost - Dr. James T. Webb