There aren’t many people in my personal life who have heard me say the G word. I learned pretty quickly that it’s a big no-no; even if you’re simply trying to convey the challenges that can accompany it.
One neighbor, who knew my son had been bullied a lot, gave me “the look,” even though I tried to delicately – and humbly – broach the topic. And another mom I told now says, “That’s his gift,” or “That’s her gift,” any time we talk about any child.
She’s a family and marriage therapist, so I thought it would be safe to talk with her – and that she might even be interested due to her profession. Instead, she expressed her frustration about her oldest child, who is smart, not getting into a gifted program at school. I could tell she wanted to be empathetic, and that she wasn’t trying to minimize the bullying and exclusion my son had endured, yet a school program – that I hadn’t mentioned at all – was immediately where her mind went.
Unfortunately, at the time, I had only started reading about giftedness, so I hadn’t yet grasped that this was truly a different type of brain “wiring.” I also hadn’t fully wrapped my head around the numerous ways it can create learning and behavioral challenges. (There are many other paths it can take besides the ones my son experiences.)
The elephant in the room
Unfortunately, interactions with these ladies now feel awkward, even though I was simply trying to explain a huge milestone in my parenting journey. That I finally knew what was behind three years of stressful and perplexing social dynamics.
Moms are supposed to be able to share challenges and triumphs with each other, right? We’re happy for each other when a baby finally sleeps through the night, or when a child takes his first steps or hits his first homerun. Or when all his studying pays off and he gets a good grade in a subject that was difficult for him, or he gets accepted to the college of his choice.
The tide lifts most boats
Thankfully, society is becoming more tolerant – and accepting – of kids with other types of neurological “differences,” such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and others.
Yet perceptions around the G word are stuck in the Dark Ages.
Why does this particular type of brain wiring bring out parents’ competitiveness – or even disdain? Do they think that I have any control over how my child’s brain is wired, or crazier yet, that he does? Aside from avoiding certain dangers (like alcohol and drugs) during pregnancy, and making sure their kid wears a helmet when he rides his bike, do they have any control about how their children’s brains develop? Of course not. None of us do!
Yes, everyone has talents (or gifts)
I don’t think my child is better than other kids. Really. Not at all. Maybe he hasn’t struggled academically, be he has struggled – a lot! Just in a different way.
Regardless of what term we use for this type of brain wiring, every person – neurotypical and neurodiverse – has strengths and weaknesses. They differ, of course, but we all have them. One child may be a great swimmer who struggles with math; another may be a talented artist who has ADHD, and yet another may be a wonderful writer who is painfully shy, to the point of true social anxiety.
I agree that every child’s talents, or gifts, or whatever you want to call them, are wonderful – and should be celebrated.
The real issue
So, why become annoyed or competitive with parents themselves, who as I previously mentioned, had very little control over how their children’s brains developed? Or, worse yet, mock the kids themselves, who are simply trying to navigate life through what is a very different lens?
Is the disdain specifically due to the term “gifted”? Or is it because, part of what makes these children different, happens to be the of range of intellect they fall within (and not a talent, such as sports or art)?
If it’s the latter, that’s no different than shunning a kid, or his entire family, because he has Down Syndrome. The range of intelligence that he falls within, is one of several ways in which he processes – and experiences – various types of input differently.
If people’s main beef is the G word itself, I get it. It sounds elitist. However, I had nothing to do with creating this term. Families with G-word kids shouldn’t be penalized – or even vilified – for a word that someone else gave this particular type of neurodiversity long before we, or our children, even existed.
We hate it, too
It’s also worth noting that many parents with kids like mine, as well as their G-word educators, can’t stand the G word.
In fact, for that reason, there are several other terms for this type of neurodiversity just to avoid using the G word. (None of them seemed quite right to me, though, which is why I now say “kite kids.”) Hopefully one of these other terms will rise to the top and become commonplace.
In the meantime, however, when a child is evaluated for this type of neurodiversity, the G word is the term child psychologists, other pediatric clinicians, and educators use when the child falls within a certain range. And they don’t mean any disrespect by it. It’s just the term that already existed when they were getting their degrees.
In fact, the gifted educator at my son’s school says she never uses the G word with her students.
A costly way to live
Whatever the real issue is, I hate paying such a high price for people’s disdain for “giftedness.”
I’m not perfect, but I’m a good person. I grew up in a humble family. We volunteered through our church, and sometimes I accompanied my dad when he helped out at an inner-city soup kitchen. And in my 20s, I spent so much time doing PR work for a battered women’s shelter, that the communications director went above and beyond to recommend me to others.
Perhaps even more important, I’m instilling a sense of service and humility in my children. I’ve stressed, since they were toddlers, that they should be kind to everyone. They also enjoy going to a local nursing home and giving flowers and Valentine’s Day cards to the residents. And my artistic daughter and I enjoy leaving friendship rocks around our neighborhood for people to find.
Stop trying to compare
Can’t we all just accept what makes each kid unique, and stop turning this into a competition? Or worse yet, an excuse to mock or exclude someone?
I’m just trying to get through motherhood with my sanity intact – and have a few friends, who accept me unconditionally, on this journey.
Let’s all get along, please. I’m tired of hiding And I hate that my kid feels like he has to hide, too. That’s no way to have to go through life, especially when you’re barely halfway through elementary school.
We should all accept each other’s differences, whatever they may be.