The dentist asks my seven-year-old son what grade he’s in. He stares at the wall behind her and lets out a deep sigh.
Does she mean what grade level am I on, and if so, which subject? Should I say I’m homeschooled? Why does she want to know? Does she even know what homeschooling is about? Am I gonna have to explain that to her?
The swim coach heard he’s smart and holds his fingers up. “How many is this?” He gives another blank stare.
Does he need help figuring it out? Is he playing a joke on me? What does this have to do with swimming? Doesn’t he know I know fractions and chemistry already? Should I tell him everything I know so he doesn’t ask me these types of questions again?
Those poor unsuspecting adults. They didn’t just walk right into it, they ran up cheering, hit their head, and fell smack on their faces into it.
My son couldn’t turn off the questions, couldn’t stop thinking and analyzing to “just answer a simple question,” because, to him, they weren’t simple questions. Nothing is simple when you can’t stop thinking, when there are so many variables to consider.
And that’s why the outpouring of words that followed flabbergasted each of them. Of course, he answered all the questions, even the ones they didn’t ask. My son is not an extrovert, not an overachiever, not a know-it-all, not a (fill-in-the-blank). He’s gifted.
More … Something
Because my son and I constantly process information, we can’t Just. Stop. Nor do we want to even if we could.
Gifted is a different way of thinking, a different way of behaving, a different way of learning. We’re not all Sheldons, but we are all a little … more. We seem to be alike only in the ways we are different from others. That’s why it’s so difficult to determine giftedness without testing, especially in those of us who are twice exceptional, or 2e (gifted with a learning disability). But you know. As a parent, you just know.
Because we’re gifted, we can appear insensitive, aloof, like know-it-alls or show-offs. Paradoxically, it can make us appear hypersensitive, needy, or slow. We can be complete opposites, sometimes at the same time. We don’t all look alike. We don’t all think alike. We don’t all have the same quirks (or overexcitabilities).
Giftedness doesn’t make us more special, or more important, or higher achieving, necessarily. It doesn’t make us more of anything; it just makes us more—intense, sensitive, pensive, energetic, spirited, creative, argumentative, impulsive (to name a few possibilities)—just more.
I struggled for the last couple years homeschooling my son because I didn’t know our giftedness could be so similar yet so different. I questioned everything—from his giftedness to his behavior to my parenting to my own giftedness, and everything in between. In my tiny rural community, it seemed no one else was in a similar position or had similar circumstances. We “just don’t talk about those things.”
To top it off, at the beginning, I barely knew anyone who homeschooled. If I had known someone else with experience homeschooling, or had I been part of a supportive community of homeschoolers with gifted kids, such as that found with Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, I might not have struggled so long with coming to grips with my son’s giftedness. I might have had a better handle on what it means to be 2e. I might have spent more time celebrating strengths and relishing joys instead of anxiously agonizing over every aspect of our gifted/2e life.
Real life can be a real struggle for parents raising gifted/2e children and confronting the vast unknown variables of alternative education. Choosing an atypical method of educating an atypical child means really real life rushes head-on into the intensity, the sensitivity, and the more-ness of giftedness. The struggle of/with mores is real, and you are not … fill-in-the-blank. You’re likely gifted, too.