Archive for the ‘Gifted and Talented’ Category
For the last several years I’ve been just a wee bit obsessed with rainbow-farting unicorns*. My friends have been more than helpful in sending me videos, pictures, GIFs, cartoons, you name it. I have quite the collection of images stored away, and they all make me laugh. I’d say that’s a good reason I’m always searching for a rainbow-farting unicorn, but not the only one.
For me, a rainbow-farting unicorn is a fluid metaphor for what I want and need for twice-exceptional kids. Things like societal recognition and acceptance (this includes the education system), accommodations for challenges in addition to deeper work for the intelligence, and (ohhh, the Holy Grail) a 2e kid with executive function skills that, you know, function. Things like that. Things that, if they suddenly appeared, would ride in on the back of a large unicorn, followed by a glittery rainbow emanating from the hindquarters of the aforementioned mythical creature. Just because I haven’t seen any of these with my own eyes doesn’t mean they don’t exist, so I continue to believe in rainbow-farting unicorns and can’t wait to see one of my own.
However, as with all good things, there is a dark side. My family gave me a birthday card last month, complete with a unicorn (A drew in the rainbow fart…he’s awesome). It had an amusing, yet ominous, message:
Crap. I hadn’t considered the sparkly unicorn poop. I guess if I had considered it, I would have assumed it smelled good, as sparkly unicorn poop should. But according to my birthday card…and we all know birthday cards don’t lie…sparkly unicorn poop smells like poop.
Dragging this crappy information (heh…my thesaurus gives “poop” as a synonym to information) back to my metaphor, I have to wonder what kind of droppings would follow the appearance of my rainbow-farting unicorn. If a 2e kid got accommodations plus deeper learning, and society recognized and accepted the child for who he is and not trivialized for what he cannot do, and suddenly the kid acquired razor sharp executive function skills…I can only assume said child would then bring about the zombie apocalypse with all he would be able to accomplish. So apparently magical unicorn poop = zombie apocalypse. You’ve been warned.
But I still want my unicorn. I just won’t feed it; nothing in, nothing out, no zombies. It’s a magical creature, it’ll be ok.
Just as long as it farts glittery rainbows.
*Once, just once, I would like to spell unicorn correctly the first time, instead of “unicron,” and then having to redo it. Everyone should have such problems.
When I chose grateful as my Word of the Year 2012, I knew it would be a challenge. Trying to be grateful when life continues to throw skull-cracking curveballs is far from easy. Most days I call it good if I make it to bedtime without cursing everyone and everything in my path with a terminal case of armpit fleas. I realize now that most of that attitude stemmed from my personal biochemistry, feeding off of stressful situations and running amuk, and I’m actively trying to get out of that mental Möbius strip. So grateful has been far more of a challenge than I anticipated.
But being grateful for the details of our lives keeps us sane, relieves stress (so I’ve been told…still working on that), and reminds us that for every pitch-black cloud there is a silver lining hiding in there somewhere. One of my biggest stressors is A. He is the most amazing kid, but parenting him is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done…and I popped out his brother sans drugs. How do I find the silver lining in the very thing that causes me the greatest stress? It seems that every moment brings another frustration, every experience yet another (often painful) learning opportunity, every activity an exercise in patience. I have had friends assure me that things will likely even out as he nears puberty, and I truly hope that is the case, ’cause right now tween attitude + 2e + my whackadoodle biochemistry = where’s that damned silver lining?
I know it’s there, I just need reminding. So I asked on the Laughing at Chaos Facebook page, “If you have a twice-exceptional kiddo, what about the whole shebang are you grateful for?” And lo, the responses came, mostly grateful for the lens through which their kids made them see the world. That particular lens in my arsenal is still slightly out of focus, but being fine tuned daily. After asking that question last week, I’ve been struggling to answer it myself. It is easier than I care to admit to find the frustrations of raising a 2e kid – I could talk for hours about that – but the silver lining? It’s been hiding.
But search I did, and finally found my answer. I’m grateful that my twice-exceptional kid has given me a greater compassion for the hidden struggles parents endure. I judge others so much less because I don’t know what hell they may be living behind that tired smile. Strangely though, I also have a lot less patience for those who snidely comment on the choices other parents make without knowing (or caring) why those often difficult choices were made. Someday I’m sure I’ll say something (I only hope I can keep it polite); for now I keep my mouth shut and just let my respect for the commenter drip away. I realize that increased compassion/decreased patience & respect may be mutually exclusive; I accept that, I’m only human.
I found one little thread of the silver lining, which leads me to believe there is more in there somewhere. I know the challenges of parenting a 2e kid must have more silver lining than I have found so far, and I’ll continue searching. I’m embarrassed it took me a week to find that one little thread.
I actually do not like this quote much, even though it is true. This quote is the rallying cry of most parents, but none so much as for those raising complex kids. Those kids, whatever their diagnosis or issue or condition, who need balls-to-the-wall five-alarm advanced parenting. I’ve been living on this fraying knot for far too long, and I know I’m not the only one. What choice do we have? Seriously, we have no other options. We keep on keeping on, tying and retying that knot, one foot in front of the other, because we have to. It is painful, it is exhausting, and it takes a harsh toll.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” “Adjust your air mask before helping others.” It is easy to tell a parent that she must care for herself first, but insanely difficult to be that parent when you know what you’re up against. I was doing so well caring for myself, and then we moved. And then school got ugly for A. And then I homeschooled. And then my husband took a new job. And then the stress of the previous three years plus a bunch of other crap smothered me like old laundry until I saw my breaking point (it was ugly and scary), and I finally saw my doctor to ask for help (family, please do not call, I am fine). I’ve had insanely low blood pressure my whole life; seeing numbers that are technically pre-hypertension was not good for my mind.
So what can parents do to take care of themselves?
- First and foremost, for the love, see a doctor if your “end of your rope knot” has frayed beyond recognition and you’re convinced you’re going to plummet into the abyss. If you can’t function to even figure out a plan to take care of yourself, you need a hand up. Guess how I know this.
- How’s your diet? No, not the “gotta lose 20 pounds before Tuesday” kind of diet. What sources of energy are you putting in your pie hole? Crap in, crap out. I know I need to reduce the potato chips (mmmm….salty fatty crunchiness…hey, I thought I had low blood pressure, cut me some slack!) and up the veggies. And for me, gluten is a brain killer. When I get gluten poisoning, I have the pleasure of three days of a full body headache (including brain fog, extreme irritability, exhaustion off the charts, and the deep desire to rip someone’s head off) followed by 48 hours of stomach problems. It’s so awesome to be around me when I’ve been glutened.
- Move much? For close to a year in 2009/2010 I was lifting weights at the gym several times a week, and hit a yoga class maybe every other week. I loved how I felt. Strong yet relaxed. Both of those fell by the wayside when I had to
take a chainsaw totrim the budget, and my stress levels rebounded badly. Mind, body, and soul all benefit from physical activity that you enjoy doing. I’ve often thought about taking up running, but I hate running and will be zombie chow because of it, so I stick to things I enjoy.
- Who are you? What do you like to do? Are you doing it, even a little? I’m playing in a new local wind ensemble, and it has been fantastic for my soul. My body is pissed as hell; the flute is leaking like a sieve, I sound like death, and my hands/wrists/arms are sore from trying to compensate. It and the piccolo are going to the flute spa next week, and hopefully they will return all happy and sweet.
- Call it meditation, call it counting breaths, call it getting to pee in peace, you need some time alone where no one can bother you unless the building is burning down around your ears. I do not have this. My husband works from home, I homeschool A at home, I work from home (or try to)…and this aforementioned home is considerably smaller than our previous home; the bathroom is pretty much the only place I can hide. As I type this, I have on big sound-reducing earmuffs. I look like the airplane-waving-guy at the airport gate. I can’t hear a thing, but it also means I’m not distracted by my husband on the phone/A laughing at a YouTube video while he eats breakfast/the guy across the street mowing down bushes with a chainsaw.
- Ask for help. AGH! No! Not that! Anything but that! Sigh. I’m horrible terrible miserable at asking for help. Beyond bad. My guardian angel has given up with the ::headdesk:: and now just walks around (flies around?) with a little desk glued to his (its?) forehead. Easier that way, less opportunity for whiplash. Years ago I was driving to see Tom (this was before we married) and my car was having problems. A cop checked to see if I was ok, and I said I was fine and sent him on his way. Yeah. So I’m trying to get better at asking for help, preferably before I hit danger levels of stress and fall into the abyss.
So what can I say? I can’t do it for you, I can barely do it for me. But our kids need us to be functioning adults, and we can’t be functioning adults if we don’t take care of ourselves. Sometimes that just flat-out means our kids will have to do without us on occasion. It’s either that or “mommy has to go away for several weeks because she had a complete nervous breakdown.” I don’t have the time or money for that. I hate that I’m not SuperWoman, and have to actively care for myself, especially since (sigh) I’m not getting any younger. I can’t handle stress the way I used to, which was to just hunker down and ride it out. I have another 10+ years of active parenting ahead of me, I just can’t hunker down and ride it out and expect to be hunky dory on the other side.
I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert, I’m a living laboratory. Those six points are things that I know I need to do for me. What are some suggestions that work for you? ‘Cause I’m gonna need some backup ideas once I get those six under my belt.
Welcome to the very first 2e Tuesday at Laughing at Chaos! This is a series I’ve wanted to do for awhile, and just have never gotten around to do. I don’t have any more time or brain power now than before, but I’m jumping in anyway. With a guest post. Because I have no time or brain power right now.
2e Tuesday was originally the brain child of Tiffani over at freeplaylife, back when she wrote more on unschooling. Now she writes more on authentic living and being awesome, and since 2e Tuesday is too good to wither away, I’m running with it. (BTW, I adore her and am jealous of how she has transformed herself the last few years. It takes a lot of brass to change yourself, to do what makes you happy and hang the consequences, to live an authentic life.)
I put a call out on my Facebook page for 2e Tuesday ideas, and got quite a few. However, because of the lack of time and brain power mentioned above, I have done absolutely nothing with those. Well, I read them and oohed and aahhed over the ideas, but that’s about it. I spent the weekend painting kitchen cabinets; between three days of fumes and my current stress level, I’m just barely coming out of that alive. So I asked Kim, a mom who wishes to remain anonymous, if I could repost a comment that she shared on a previous post of mine. She wrote of being twice-exceptional with such a detailed story that I couldn’t let it just live in the comments section. These are her words, her story. And it’s great.
On Being 2-E (a view from the inside)
A link Jen posted to an article Re: 2-E inspired (made) me face up to explaining to my new boyfriend, who is rational, functional and has the secret password to “normal” behavior, what this 2-E thing is. Thank goodness we live a time zone apart, so it can sink in. Poor guy!
Dear Unsuspecting New Boyfriend,
Imagine, if you will, that you are in a Ferrari. Take a moment to run your hands over the sculpted dashboard, acquaint yourself with the cockpit, adjust the mirrors and settle into the seat that cradles your butt with an iron grip. Seat belt on? Let’s take her for a spin.
Your first destination is Point Zenith, atop the highest peak overlooking a quaint village. There are 26 check points along the way to guide you through the labrynth of village streets. The other cars are lined up at the starting gate, aaaand there’s the flag–GO!
You touch your foot to the pedal and “poof” you’re at Point Zenith. You have no idea how you got there. You look around, and see the other cars snaking their way through the checkpoints. A couple of cars are leading the pack and are approaching checkpoint Delta, several cars are clustered at checkpoint Beta, and the majority of cars are bottlenecked at the first checkpoint, Alpha. A few stragglers are bringing up the rear, and one car is stalled at the starting gate.
The race judge on Zenith tells you to go back and pass all the checkpoints. “Why?” you ask. The reason for checkpoints is to guide the drivers to Point Zenith. You’re already here.
“But, the rules state you must proceed through the checkpoints in order to get to Zenith,” says the judge.
The spirit of the rules is to direct drivers from the starting gate to the desired destination, but rules have become reasons unto themselves. You know that makes no sense. But your arguement goes nowhere with the judge.
So here you sit idling in a magic Ferrari, full tank of gas, that will instantly take you to your second destination, “Luna”, but the judge has told you to go back and pass through all the check points. This particular Ferrari doesn’t operate well in first gear, and as you head back down the hill it sputters and bucks, and occasionally lurches forward nearly causing you to collide with cars heading in your direction. Then it jumps past some check points, requiring you to circle around to hit them. Now the checkpoints are out of order and you have lost track of which ones you still need to visit. Finally, after making sure you’ve got them all at least once, you’re back down at the starting gate.
By now, you’re exhausted, angry and frustrated. Everyone else is either at Zenith or getting there. You touch the gas pedal and “poof” you’re at “Sol” one stop past “Luna.” Oh shit! How did that happen?
This is my life. This is my brain. I don’t know if I can explain to you how I magically know things or can do things.* When I can or do, it feels as if I haven’t earned them and don’t deserve them. On the other hand, when I try to conform and do things the way they “should be done”, I am utterly lost and confused.
Part of me lives in despair, because I’ve never fully known what to do with this fucking Ferrari. And to put sugar in the tank, because I don’t get to Zenith or Luna or Sol the conventional way, or even in a way I completely understand, I can be standing on it and think I’m lost, or can be lost and have no idea how to get unlost, because there are not standard checkpoints when you go my way.
All of this is allegorical, of course, but it’s the best way I know how to describe the confusion that is my life.
The condition I have is called being “Twice Exceptional” usually abbreviated as “2-E”, and because God has a sense of humor, DS has it too. The simplest description is we’re Forest Gumps, lovably clueless with unexpected shots of brilliance. There is no IQ score for us because part of our brains are Einsteins and other parts are practically dead they’re so dysfunctional. An average IQ is 100 — a standard deviation is 15 points in either direction. If you are two or more standard deviations below 100 you are considered learning disabled. If you are two or more standard deviations above 100 you are considered gifted.
But what if you are three, four or in DS’s case, NINE standard deviations apart from yourself? That’s our world.
Please feel free to ask questions, because this manifests itself daily in our lives.
* Post Script
Being the incredibly nice guy he is, Normal Guy never questioned anything. Let me say, what he does effortlessly is equally magical to someone like me, who lives in a fog. His dishes are always washed; clean laundry is impeccably folded and put away. His files are in perfect, labelled order. He ALWAYS runs on time.
As for the Ferrari owners: It’s not that we don’t really know how we get there, but it’s like trying to dissect every move you make on a sprint across rocky terrain. You just instinctively do it — springing off the sides of boulders, grabbing handholds on fallen logs, leaping across streams. It would take someone without ADD to go back and analyze every move, calculate the force, angle, foot placement, grip, velocity, etc. Something, unfortunately, my Ferrari would permanently stall out trying to do.
So, if you have a 2e Tuesday idea, share! If you’re interested in doing a guest post, tell me! If you’ve read my book, leave a review! The “if-then” game is fun!
It’s been seven glorious The Angels Are Singing days since J went back to school. A, of course, is staying here with me as we start our first full year of homeschooling. It’s a new kind of Back to School for us here in the House of Chaos, one I never expected. It’s a change from the previous several years, but a necessary and welcome one. He and I are both looking forward to homeschooling and the gentle routine we established last winter. The end-of-summer sibling bickering was driving the entire house up a wall; a return to a more stable routine has been a relief.
What hasn’t changed is A’s wiring. He’s still gifted in the summer, and I think that’s something that is often forgotten. Even by those who should know better. Shortly before school started I got this postcard in the mail:
If it’s hard to see, look in the upper left. Back to School/Back to Gifted. This on a mailing from the National Association for Gifted Children. It’s a reminder ad about their WOW! (Webinars on Wednesday) series, essentially online professional development for educators.
Sooo…this irks me badly. Deeply. On a cellular level. I got the postcard and scanned it, flipped it over to see what the webinars were, re-read it…and felt my brain slowly rise to its full and imposing height and say quite clearly, “What.The.Hell?” Six little words that quite clearly give the impression that returning to school equals returning to giftedness.
And I finally decided to write this post, one that has been simmering in the back of my mind since last November.
The NAGC has moved towards a definition of giftedness that is talent development focused. That is, achievement based. The organization has a page dedicated to the various definitions of giftedness in the field, and in reading them it’s hard to not scream in frustration. Six different definitions of giftedness and one for every state in the union. Oh.For.The.Love. (As a personal aside, it’s worth noting that our former state of Colorado includes twice exceptional in the definition and our current state of Illinois does not). Is it any wonder that society as a whole thinks that giftedness is elitist or made up or just another blip on the radar of a helicopter parent? We can’t even agree on a single definition ourselves!
That, however, is an entirely different (though equally important) post. My concern here is the implication that giftedness is only an issue in school, and the message that sends to parents of gifted children by the organization presumably charged with representing their children. So I must ask…is the organization truly representing gifted children?
Over the last few years, I have corresponded with many, many parents. We have commiserated over the challenges these incredible children present, and have shared ideas back and forth on how to juggle our sanity with those challenges. And I will tell you, I don’t think a single one of those parents would say that yup, all those gifted challenges evaporated in June, but dang they popped right back up with the Back to School shoe sales. Gifted children are gifted year ’round, and need services and support regardless of what the calendar says.
As a parent of a twice-exceptional son being homeschooled, I do have to ask: is he considered no longer gifted because he’s not in an educational institution? Achievement is not the primary goal in our homeschool, and when the NAGC has this as part of their definition of giftedness: “As individuals mature through childhood to adolescence, however, achievement and high levels of motivation in the domain become the primary characteristics of their giftedness,” where does that leave us? Achievement according to whom?
The NAGC has a position paper on its website, Redefining Giftedness for a New Century: Shifting the Paradigm, where the implications of the redefinition for various groups is stated. Implications for educators, barriers to attainment, adulthood, adulthood, implications for policy makers…does anyone else see what’s missing? Hm? What about the implications for parents? And more importantly, the implications for the gifted children themselves? Isn’t their whole gifted self every bit as important, if not more so, than what they achieve?
For all that the organization intends to represent and support parents, I can’t help but feel forgotten, especially as a homeschooling parent. My twice-exceptional son is not in school, but is being intensely educated, at his pace (speedy in some areas, so slow as to be almost backward in others). I don’t believe education is a twelve year race, but lifelong, and I also don’t believe giftedness ends with high school graduation. As the parent of a challenging gifted child, I (and all the other parents) could really use acknowledgment of the painful difficulty of what I do. To essentially be marginalized by the national organization for the sake of policy makers and academia does not sit well with me.
For many reasons I’ve decided not to renew my NAGC membership. For starters, it apparently expired last fall and I don’t recall ever being notified. But I’m also not feeling the urge to somehow produce membership fees out of thin air; the grocery budget has already hit “grad student rice and beans” levels. I wanted to go to the national conference this November, partly to return to Denver for a few days, and partly to get more involved. The exorbitant cost slammed that door shut, and my current feeling of marginalization locked it down.
I’m disappointed in the NAGC. Disappointed and sad and far too aware that academia and policy makers are bigger players than parents. My take on it is that there would be no gifted children (and thus no gifted research or gifted education or gifted anything) without parents, but it seems that few share that opinion. I would like to see the national organization acknowledge and actively support the needs of parents…or acknowledge that the needs of parents and gifted children are secondary to research and policy, and that they would be better served by other organizations. The NAGC has children in their name; I’d like to see more focus on them and their needs. Trust me, they’re plentiful.
Back to school does not mean back to gifted. Even if it’s a quick, thrown-off slogan designed to promote educational webinars, words have power and influence. Gifted is 24/7/365 (or, as any gifted child would tell you, 366 this year…I’ve been corrected repeatedly since January). Parents know this, they live it every single day, no breaks, little respite. My boys went back to school last week, and it was glorious.
But they never left gifted.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college I had the pleasure of a tonsillectomy. It was necessary really; after ten years of begging doctors who insisted I didn’t need one, it took contracting mono the previous spring to convince an ENT to do a little snippy snippy on my throat. Nothing like being told, “Here! Take this Prednisone so your throat doesn’t swell shut while you sleep!” My poor roommate. It was hotter’n hell that summer, and our house didn’t have air conditioning, something I remind my sons of every freaking summer. I spent two weeks…yes, that was the number two followed by the words weeks…on the sofa bed recuperating. When you have four…yes, that was the number four…tonsils removed, recovery tends to be a bit extreme. I couldn’t swallow because then I’d gag on my hangy-down-thing, which resembled nothing so much as a grape. You’re welcome for that mental image. It was hot, I was miserable, and I had little patience with anything.
This is a long winded way of saying that I’m flashing back to that summer, lo those 20 years ago, because I seem to have contracted some miserable Back to School Plague this week. I am hot, I am miserable, and I have little patience with anything. Only now I have the pleasure of homeschooling my uber-intense twice-exceptional son while ill. I just lurve discussing the origins of the universe through a pounding headache and multiple deadlines.
Early this morning, before I’d had a cup of coffee or even recognized that I had left my bed and was standing in the kitchen wondering just what the hell I was doing there, Tom patted the iPad and said softly, “Sweetie, when you’re feeling up to it, there’s something on CNN that you really need to read.” He and I need to have a little conversation on levels of CNN importance, because I think it was only my sleep-deprived state that kept me from flying right into a holy crap it’s another September 11th code red level of panic. Thankfully the world was still spinning. He wanted me to read an opinion post by a single mom about her gifted daughter, a wonderful, lovely post. For the first time in ages, I read about giftedness in a mainstream publication, and it wasn’t spewing hate and ignorance about my sons and their wiring.
And then this afternoon, against my better judgment, I read the comments.
Note to self: stop reading comments. That’s where the trolls live, and they’re not there to collect a toll so you can cross the bridge, no no no…they’re there to spew hate and ignorance and make themselves feel better.
I got about a dozen comments down before I realized that if I kept throwing up in my mouth a little with every one I was going to have a volume problem sooner rather than later. There were a few incredibly coherent comments, all on the side of “giftedness is wiring and gifted programs are academic interventions,” but for the most part the comments were atrocious.
And it occurred to me, in my ibuprofen-popping state, that there is one clear reason for this.
People are willfully ignorant of giftedness. As in, they want to be ignorant of it and will go out of their way to convince themselves that they do not need nor want to be corrected. Because if they cracked open their minds just a little, to perhaps even consider the possibility of another point of view, they might have to confront the possibility that (gasp! ohs noes!) they could be wrong.
It’s the willful ignorance that bothers me. General ignorance doesn’t, it just means you don’t (yet) know. But standing on a street corner, refusing to open your eyes, and screaming that the sky could not possibly be blue because behind your eyelids you see black….AGH! Willful ignorance.
I wish there was a gifted community somewhere, preferably Napa Valley, where the families of gifted and twice-exceptional kids could say screw you to willful ignorance and go live their lives. Where learning was life-long, self-paced, and multi-aged. Where ideas could flow freely and ignorance was an opportunity to go learn something new. Where there was a tap to the wine barrels in the cellar.
I’m so tired of this. I’m tired of being accused of bad parenting, of elitism, of bragging. I’m tired of being on high alert all the time, of putting my life and what’s left of any possibility of a career on hold for my son’s educational needs, of the guilt from yearning for a different life because this one…
Willful ignorance, people. That’s what it comes down to. And that’s more difficult to fight than any issue our kids present us. Chandra Moseley, I don’t know you but wish we could have met before I moved from Colorado last year. I feel your pain, babe. I’m on your team.
It’s the International Week of the Gifted 2012 and with the corresponding blog tour I’ve seen one amazing blogpost after another this week. Me? End of summer stress-induced writer’s block. I always seem to forget to set things up for the boys in August and so we all suffer. Badly. I’ve been meaning to sit down all week and write
something deep and important anything, but the laps the boys do on the main level, riling up the dog, topped with the endless bickering alternating with whining…well, my attention has been nil and my irritation has been high.
But the truth is, I’ve been struggling of late, trying to figure out what exactly my future role will be in gifted advocacy. My 2e son is now homeschooled, and his younger brother has not yet been identified. Bear with me as I try to explain this, as it’s hard for me to put into words, plus as I type I’m half watching the Broncos bury the Bears in preseason play. At this time in Illinois there is no funding for gifted education. None. Zip, zero, zilch. Colorado, with considerably less spent per student, funds gifted ed. Priorities, people. At this time, the prevailing winds indicate that (sigh) giftedness is indicated by achievement, and apparently that achievement is most evident in schools. So while I could advocate for gifted funding in the state, 1) I’m not too keen on pushing a rope, 2) it no longer affects us directly, as A has been very clear that he does not wish to return to public school, and 3) the state is not only broke but very broke and there’s just no funding for anything so I might as well save my breath for telling my child for the umpteenth freaking time to quit chasing the damn dog and making her bark because my office is in the corner of the living room and it’s too loud to think OH MY GOD QUIT MAKING HER BARK!
Ahem. As you were.
So I will leave that area of gifted advocacy to others. My focus is a little off the beaten path. If there is to be any change in gifted education and awareness (for example, if I hear or read another freaking anything that leans towards gifted education being elitist, my head is going to do a little spinny thing and I don’t have a massage therapist to fix that), it has to come from parents. Parents can move mountains when it comes to their kids, but when they are ignored, vilified, or put down because they are not “the experts,” it’s hard. Really, really hard. Parenting is already full of self-doubt and guilt; raising an outlier just ups that by a magnitude of infinity.
So I think my area of advocacy is in parental support.
Seriously, don’t ask me what that might look like, I’m still trying to figure that out. But I’ll tell you, over the last few years of writing here, and now with my book out in the wild, I have gotten some heartbreaking comments and emails from parents raising gifted and twice-exceptional kids. They…we…feel so alone, fighting an educational system and societal opinion that thinks we’re elitist, when really, we’re just exhausted parents trying to help, and oftentimes protect, our kids. Gifted education isn’t elitist, it’s an academic intervention for kids on the far right hand side of the bell curve, and it needs to include kids who may flirt with the left hand side of the curve too. Talking about our kids isn’t bragging, it’s talking about our kids. So I want to support parents, give them the strength to not only find each other, but band together and move mountains. Because they will and the change will change the future.
As part of International Week of the Gifted 2012, I have two copies of my book If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional to give away. To enter, just leave a comment here stating what you might do to advance gifted advocacy. On Wednesday August 15th I will pull one of the boys from the daily Chase Rosie And Make Her Bark Until Mom Turns Purple race and he will draw two winners. Tell your friends and family to come here and enter as well. Then tweet, share, scream it to the skies. Good luck!
It may be a week recognizing gifted individuals around the world, but it’s something for which we need to advocate every day of every week. What might you do?
On Friday at An Intense Life I wrote about returning to my flute playing roots. But long before I ever picked up a flute and worked up a pucker, I wanted to be a writer. I wrote stories for fun, kept a writer’s supply box (pencil box full of sharpened pencils and sweet smelling erasers), took creative writing classes. In 3rd grade we had to write to an author as part of language arts; I wrote to Judy Blume and included one of my stories. I actually received a very nice reply back, and I’d give my arm to find that letter from her. Sadly, that all fell by the wayside when I started band.
While still a flutist, I’ve now added author to my life description. If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional will drop within the week. While I’ve been working on this for several months, it still doesn’t seem quite real. Me? An author? Really? I’m excited and terrified and so proud of this book. It’s my hope that everyone reading it feels less alone, knows they have a tribe behind them as they struggle, and most of all gets a giggle or two. The second I hear the book is live I will scream it to the skies…erm…the Twitters and the Facebooks and the Interwebz.
When I first started this blog six and a half years ago, it was on a lark, to see what this whole blogging thing was about. It has turned out to be so, so much more. And for that, I am grateful.
If you follow Laughing at Chaos on Facebook, you may have seen my post (and possibly others’) this evening about the book. If you follow LAC on Facebook and didn’t see it this evening, well, Facebook is being a bit of an ass with pages. If you want to see new posts you have to go to the page, hover over “liked,” click “show in Newsfeed,” and bless a rainbow-farting unicorn. Or just click “like” on damned near everything you see from Laughing at Chaos that comes through your feed. Then Facebook has a DUH moment and realizes, “OH! That person really did want updates all the time, and not just when we think they deserve to get them! Our bad!”
It’s day two of National Parenting Gifted Children week, and I’m a stop on today’s blog tour. Sadly, I’m also getting this up mid-day instead of earlier as planned. Last year I wrote, hit publish, and then dashed off to sell my house and spend 11 days homeless as we meandered a thousand miles east with two boys and a flatulent dog, waiting for a closing date on the other side. This year my only excuse is…um…let’s go with the cumulative affects of the last several months, culminating in PAINT ALL THE THINGS! summer (no, we are not completely finished) and essentially moving into our house for the second time in 11 months.
Oh, and finishing my book.
So you want to know how to parent a gifted child. Me too. There is no handy dandy mass market book, like What To
Fear and Loathe Expect When You’re Expecting, and probably wouldn’t be much help if it did. These kids are the ultimate in personalization, the difference being you can’t order up parenting strategies like a grande hot decaf triple five-pump vanilla non-fat no foam whipped cream extra hot extra caramel upside down caramel macchiato from the barista. So let’s go with a mindset, a generalized list of sorts. Pick and choose what works for you.
1. Toss the standard parenting books, magazines, and websites out the window (psst…not this one). Your kid isn’t in there, and you’ll feel tons better not having those around mocking you. They do mock, and they also reproduce at a frightening rate when you’re trying to help your kid. Toss ‘em, or better yet, build a bonfire and make s’mores. Mmmm….marshmallowy gooeyness…
2. Listen to your kid. Not listen to the kid while still wearing the “I need you to be a certain way” filters, but truly listening to the kid. Listen to what he is saying, and especially listen for what he’s not telling you. For years A begged to be homeschooled, and for years would cry out, “Quit trying to fix me! I’m fine the way I am!” He’s right. And I listen better now.
2a. Conversely, quit listening to
the jackholes those offering up well-meaning advice. When you’re raising an outlier, advice from the middle will only make things harder.
3. Nevernevernever say never. I said for years that I’d never homeschool A. It was a line in the sand to never be crossed, and I was just never going to homeschool. Well, a big ol’ wind came by and blew that line in the sand out of the water (just how many metaphors can Jen mix in one sentence?), and now I’m homeschooling A. It ain’t always easy, but it’s hells better than school was for him.
4. For the love, get out and take a break. These kids…sigh…these incredible, amazing, gonna-change-the-world kids are just…well, you’re going to lose your everlovin’ mind if you don’t take care of yourself. Ask me how I know this. I have screwed up my body, mind, and soul over the last several years, and a lot of it can’t be unscrewed. Also? If you have a gifted kid, chances are pretty high that you and/or your spouse are as well. So you probably have similar intensities that will play into your parenting. You will be a much better parent if you get away from them sometimes.
5. Find your tribe. Online, real life, whatever. Avoid imaginary unless they buy the drinks. Then call me, ’cause if an imaginary tribe is buying drinks, then there is likely a rainbow-farting unicorn with them and dude, I gotta see that. Being with other parents of quirky gifted kids is a balm to the soul. I had coffee with two moms this morning and it was a relief not having to explain why things are the way they are. They get it.
6. It doesn’t always need to be fair, if it is what is appropriate for the kid at that time. At least, that’s what I remind myself whenever the boys complain that something isn’t fair. Sometimes they’re right and the situation isn’t fair, and sometimes it’s a case of what the kid needs when the kid needs it and the other one has to find a way to deal with it.
7. Fake it til you make it. I have no idea what I’m doing. At all. But if I keep going as though I do, eventually I’ll get it.
8. You owe no one anything. This is your kid, you get to raise him your way, and if that’s by letting him go sockless 341 days of the year because the seams blow the top of his head clean off, then that’s that. I had to institute a “socks on the feet if snow’s on the ground” rule. Now A just turns them inside out.
9. Wine. Just…yeah.
10. Accept that you’re doing the best you can, with what you have, at this moment.
ten disclaimers. Do I follow all of these? Bwahahahahahahaha…no. I got #9 down, and #7 is just my M.O. All the others are a work in progress and I struggle with them daily. Hourly. With every breath. I am no expert here, so get out your salt shaker and enjoy a few grains. But I know what has helped me, and what has sucked, and what I hope to do better. I wish there was a parenting barista, ready to whip up exactly what was needed at a moment’s notice. Instead, we will all just band together and do the best we can with what we have at the moment it’s needed.
With extra whip.
I’m back home from this weekend’s SENG Conference and I’m still reeling. I can’t yet read my notes, mainly because MacDreamy2 apparently needs some sort of exorcism and won’t read my iPad notes (I will never attend a conference without an iPad ever again; I’d rather go commando). But also because I’m still digesting what I learned.
Nearly every session was thought-provoking, and this week I’ll be sharing tidbits in the hope that you will attend the 2013 conference in Orlando, Florida. I’ve already informed Tom that we will each sell a kidney to attend, because nothing says Family Vacation like a few days at a conference centered around the emotional needs of the gifted. Followed, perhaps, by a few days in the horizontal position on a Disney cruise ship. One can dream. One is also applying for various jobs, so one shall see.
It was so good to get away for a few days, and just wonderful to meet the friends who live in my computer. Mariam Willis, Mika Gustavson, Lisa Rivero, and Stacia Taylor are all women who fall into that category. They are also SENG rockstars, and their presentations were so good I wish I had audio recordings. I had a fantastic roommate, the delightful Kim who writes at Delicious Minutiae, and we managed to both hide our introversion long enough to get out and have a great time.
Folks, you have a year. Give up shampoo, say NO THANKS to central air, join us in the mass selling of kidneys. If you have a gifted or twice-exceptional child, you really need to attend a SENG conference. It’s for parents. Not teachers, not administrators, but parents. There are also programs for your kids, so you can haul them along and they can find they’re also not alone in their quirkiness.
I am so thankful an organization like SENG exists. In a time when giftedness is considered to be simply what one accomplishes, to have an organization focus on the whole person is a blessing. I suspect I’ll be more active in SENG in the future, but for now I’m just grateful it is there and that I can learn from those who went before me.