People will politely listen, but they don't truly understand. We have struggles with our son that we don't feel like we can share with others. People don't think it's so bad. "He's so smart," is something we get a lot. Yes, he is, but socially and emotionally, he's not even a 10 year old boy. He's more like a 7 or 8 year old boy. There are so many pressures from outside and so my criticism. People pull at you two different ways. "You should push him harder because he's so smart." "Just let him be, he'll figure it out." The problem, like with all kids, is they need both of those things, but gifted kids often need things we're not equipped to give them, because we, ourselves, don't understand. My son, at age 10, is a more advanced computer programmer (this was said by his programming instructor) than most of the 14 and 15 year olds in the same class. My son is the youngest child in the programming class, as well, with most of the other students being a minimum of 2 years older than he is. Last year, he took an advanced robotics class where he was 12 years younger than the oldest student. Yet, he still has trouble tying his shoes. Yes, of course I know that computer programming and shoe tying are very different skills, use different parts of your brain, and different muscle functions. However, most kids tie their shoes by age 5 or 6. At ages 5 and 6, my son was too busy reading Harry Potter on his own to learn to tie his shoes (we won't get into his fine motor issues in this post). As his mom, of course I was thrilled that he was reading at such a high level. As a reading teacher, I was thrilled with his love for reading and ability to do so at such a high level with good comprehension of the material. As his mom, though, I also couldn't figure out why he just couldn't tie his damn shoes.
Then there's also the loneliness of when you feel like maybe you can talk to others with gifted children, but hold back because of your guilt. I mean, they understand the struggles, right? But, then the guilt hits. The guilt of really sucking at parenting a gifted child. I've done the research. I know all about hypersensitivity and other emotional issues that a lot of gifted children face. I know how gifted children tend to underachieve and get in trouble for not doing what they are supposed to because they are bored in class. I get that a lot of gifted children have social issues. I can help other people who are going through it with their kids and I remind them to be patient. When it's my kid, though, all of that goes out the window. When he has a breakdown about putting on socks because he feels rushed. When he comes home telling us he, yet again, got in trouble for reading when he wasn't supposed to. When he comes home telling us of things that he's tried to do to fit in with his peers that seem so very juvenile and it wasn't well received at school. It's different when it's your kid. Logically, I understand it all. Emotionally, why can't he just do what he's supposed to do and be like everyone else? All that guilt makes you feel even more lonely because, even if you had someone who understood, you don't want to admit that you just suck as a parent. You don't want to admit that you blow up and yell at your kid because he came home once again saying he was bored in class with a "My Bad" slip. You don't want to admit that you yelled at your kid and told him to suck it up and just do what he has to do when he's breaking down about getting ready to go. Because not being sensitive to their needs makes you a bad parent.
There are support groups out there for parents of autistic children. There are supports for parents with children with sensory issues. There are support groups for children with social anxiety. There support groups for pretty much anything under the sun. Yet, there is no support for parents of gifted children. Again, most likely because people don't get it. If you kid is super smart, why on Earth would you need support? Sometimes, just knowing you're not alone is all you need. A few weeks back, I had something amazing happen. I talked to someone whose son was getting in trouble for reading all the time. Really. How could it be that I actually met someone with the same problem? It felt so good to just talk about it and know that she really understood, not just empathized, but truly got it. But the truly amazing part was Monster's reaction. I came home and told him that I was talking to Mrs. [S] about her son reading when he wasn't supposed to. Monster looked at me and said, "[He] gets in trouble for reading, too? I thought it was only me!" Not only have Husband and I been feeling alone on our journey, but Monster has been as well. It's something we just never though of. We are here to support him, but our support isn't enough. He doesn't see other kids doing the same things he does. Quite honestly, he sees kids doing things so much worse and he can't figure out why what he's doing is so bad. This one little conversation made him feel less alone.
There is so much that parents of gifted children can't discuss with other people. There's so much that parents can't even discuss with each other. There's so much more loneliness that our kids feel. Yes, I'm thrilled my child is brilliant. Yes, there could be so many worst things (don't even bring up the guilt I have for feeling bad about my kid when there are children out there truly suffering). I wish that society could change so we all wouldn't feel as lonely. I wish we could all accept and help each other. Sadly,it's not like that. So, we all just have to feel like we are completely alone on our journey.