In an earlier couple of posts I bemoaned the problems that one has with some people when one’s child is doing more than their child is. In this post, I talked about how I hate it when they put their own kids down, how much I hate comparing kids against each other, and some of the problems I have with other people feeling like their kid doesn’t measure up to mine (and I do think mine is wonderful, but I expect everyone else to feel the same about their kids).
In the original post, I mentioned an experience I’d had at a birthday party and how it made me uncomfortable, and how I grew to be silent early on about many things that my kid could do. Some of the comments were heated and at least one was derisive in a way in which I have grown to be familiar over the past few years. And it again caused me to question whether or not I was imagining things and if I was the only person who has ever felt like I cannot talk about (and possibly need to hide) my kid’s accomplishments because some other parents frankly get jealous, if I’m being uncharitable, or are “concerned that I’m not allowing my child to experience childhood,” if I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot about parenting a gifted kid because some things involved with that have seemed a bit overwhelming recently. There’s a post on preschool perfectionism somewhere in the queue waiting to be finished, and I haven’t written one on the challenges of having a kid who is always on the go, never sleeps, etc. but maybe I should. Little bits of that have made it into (previous and future) RBOC, like my kid’s “why” song sung to the tune of Frere Jacques. Plus there’s the preschool running out of things for hir and making hir a little teacher to keep hir occupied.
Reading these books has been great because my kid is NORMAL… for a gifted kid. Not an above average or below average gifted kid, just, you know, average gifted. That’s nice. Not at all like reading the baby books.
And reading, I’ve discovered that only am I not crazy, but I’m not alone. Even if it sometimes seems like I am.
Here’s some quotes from Gifted Children : A Guide for Parents and Professionals. 2006. Edited by Kate Distin.
See, even if the previous commenter has never met any fiercely competitive parents, they exist somewhere besides my imagination.
One of the more baffling attitudes that can be encountered is the fierce competitiveness of other parents, about everything from their babies’ first words to their first teeth, from when they can wave to when they can begin to get dressed. We describe this as baffling for several reasons: because many of the arenas for these competitions are matters of pure physiological accident (no amount of parental encouragement or infant genius can affect the age at which she cuts her first teeth); because these sorts of people tend to relish the competition only when their children are the winners, and would prefer not to know that your child’s development is incomparably more advanced than their own; and because they so often resort to blatant scepticism if a gifted child’s parent does recount her achievements. Connor could not walk independently until he was 14 months old, but had been able to walk if he was holding an adult’s hands from when he was just four months old: his parents just did not bother to tell anyone else what he could do. Their elder son, Patrick, had done the same at five months, and they had quickly learned to recognize the expression of disbelief when they mentioned it. (p. 105)
As do the comments about pushing even when we’re not. (S)He’s just the way (s)he is.:
‘You shouldn’t be pushing him to do so much,’ ‘I wouldn’t be happy if my child spent so much time with his nose buried in a book,’ and so on. All of this can conspire to make it feel easier, much of the time, simply to keep quiet about a child’s giftedness. This can involve a big personal sacrifice by parents. It is a rare parent who does not enjoy sharing anecdotes about her children, their achievements and the things that they have done to make her laugh. The parents of the gifted child, however, are hardly ever able to share their delight and pride in his gifts. (p.106)
And my loneliness is real, and my reaction (to not say anything) completely normal:
Parents of gifted children can slip into the habit of isolation without even realizing it. When they spend time in groups of other parents who do not appear to be thinking and feeling the same things as they do, the natural response can be to keep quiet, to hide their differences and to be reinforced in their existing feelings of being cut off from the majority. (p.109)
Anyhow I think I’m not crazy. Not on this subject anyway. And I think I’ve gotten over the embarrassed silence. I’m still not going to go out of my way to brag, except among a select few relatives and childless folk, and maybe occasionally on the blog. But I’m going to stop trying to hide. (Admittedly this is a bit easier now that DC has figured out (s)he can read silently.)
So that’s my experience. My question is, “Have you ever felt isolated in real life and found a community, even in a book, to which you felt you belonged and were normal?” (Bonus points if you mention Ender’s Game.)