As the parent of three gifted sons, my journey raising my children—and reassuring them, and fretting over them, and advocating for them, and continually trying to summon some hoped-for, yet elusive magical parenting panacea deep from within me—is not quite done. It’s been a rocky road for sure, as any parenting journey can be, yet raising gifted children seems to often be a rockier path where understanding and support are often hard to find. That’s been my experience as it has with many others and the one truly helpful nugget of parenting wisdom I relied on time after time when the fretting, advocating, reassuring and summoning overwhelmed me during those inevitable parenting hurdles was making a conscious effort to embrace my children’s giftedness.
As most who understand the social, emotional and educational needs of gifted children know, parenting a gifted child comes with inherent atypical issues—the wild, unexpected ups and downs which can seem like the deepest of valleys and the highest of mountains, sometimes at the same moment. For me, it became easy to fear the worst when I felt I should be expecting the best. I felt so desperately alone as a parent trying to raise a gifted child, and I worried that no one else could possibly understand the exhilaration and the exhaustion of parenting a child who was always intellectually sprinting several steps ahead of me and then many times falling into an emotional tailspin. During those highly anxious times, I was certain there was no one to offer me the answers I needed, no one who could just fix it all, and I came to accept it was all up to me, so I learned to rely on one thing: embracing my children’s giftedness.
I felt so desperately alone as a parent trying to raise a gifted child.
Understanding my children’s needs as gifted individuals and accepting their quirks, intensities, sensitivities and advanced intellectual abilities helped me to embrace their giftedness and accept it as our normal. When I found myself pulled into a seemingly-insurmountable issue or an emotionally-intense situation, much like debris sucked into the swirling vortex of a tornado, understanding that these intense situations stemmed from their giftedness helped to keep me more centered and level-headed during the storms.
I’ll admit, sometimes when I was caught up in one of my children’s turbulent emotional tornadoes, often caused by no more than a misplaced thumb drive or the inability to fall asleep quickly, I usually succumbed to the emotional tempests because I lacked confidence in my ability to successfully parent my gifted children. Hearing the silent words, it’s all part of their giftedness, repeated in my mind helped me to accept that this was our normal and to then step outside of the storm. Those silent words also prevented me from being pulled into the spiraling funnel of emotions at the onset, since once I was caught up in the storm, my ability to help my child was rendered useless. Accepting our normal was essential.
Consistently resisting being pulled in to those emotionally-strong storms was never easy, however. Sometimes I found myself on the inside, completely caught up in the fever-pitch of emotions. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz repeating to herself, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home”, I would repeat to myself, “This is all part of their giftedness.” Embracing their giftedness was the key for me to be able to stay outside of their emotional maelstroms where I could better support them.
Embracing my children’s giftedness was also helpful when I needed to advocate for my gifted child at school or other activities. Knowing and understanding the characteristics and behaviors common among gifted children gave me the confidence to push back on educators who did not understand my child’s needs as a gifted learner or those who refused to meet my children’s educational needs. I was less likely to fall for an ill-informed educator’s misguided suggestions as to why my child did not perform as expected in school.
Was embracing my children’s giftedness always a foolproof method? No, not always. When one of my kids’ emotional downspouts whipped up and caught me off guard, or I was distracted with another of life’s curve balls, repeating, this is all part of their giftedness, until the voice in my head was hoarse didn’t always do the trick. Yet, it was—and is—my one go-to parenting strategy which helps me when gifted intensities take control of my kids… and rescues me when their storms suck me in. And, as an added bonus—embracing giftedness helps with gifted spousal storms, too!
Embracing what giftedness is and who my children are has helped me to somewhat balance the inevitable ups and downs that raising gifted children can bring. It has helped me to be a more effective advocate for my child and for all gifted children.
AND, embracing my husband’s giftedness has made everyday life here at home pretty good, too.
So go on, embrace their giftedness!
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, mind on fire.