“Samudra” (meaning ocean in Hindi) is the name we chose to give our son at the time of his birth 9 years ago. Little did we realize that our bundle of joy would in years to come truly live up to his name and bring into our lives a tumult that we are still reeling under. Just like the ocean, his presence has colored our seemingly ‘ordinary’ lives with myriad hues and moods – at times calm and gentle, at times as stormy and voracious, sometimes deep, dark, mystic and mysterious and at times playful and teasing and downright hilarious! So much so, that our lives have become anything but ‘ordinary’. More of a rollercoaster – and the feeling that we are never getting off! (don’t take me otherwise: I love my little boy to the moon and back, but there are days, when I fervently wish, pray, and even hope for the ‘ordinary’. Just. for. a. few. moments. )
But it is not to be. For Sam, like millions across the world, is a ‘gifted’ child. There, I’ve said it. That dreaded word. Yes, yes dreaded. Much like a disease (oh yes, there are many who have looked at us as if Sam’s contracted some deadly virulent disease and should be locked up or kept away till he is cured!!). Elitist, misunderstood, and hanging like Damocles’ sword over us.
(For the want of a better word, and much against my desire to label or tag any living being I will nevertheless, use it in the writing of this blog – for now.)
It’s a word that, till about five years ago, I was (like millions of people/parents) vaguely familiar with. But the reality of it, and its foibles, hit us when Sam started kindergarten. Wham! Just like that. One fine day, when the kindergarten teacher called us to discuss his classroom behavior and ‘other things’. And she was one of the kinder, more ‘enlightened’ ones, we soon found out. She pointed out his exceptional abilities in the classroom and suggested we see a specialist to well, check his IQ. She had, so to say, seen the ‘spark’. Hadn’t we? Of course we had. Like when he recognized the color blue at 7 months. And all colors and their shades by 11 months. Like when he learned to speak English by himself in 2.5 weeks listening to his favorite TV shows on BBC. When he learned to read fluently at around 4 years by himself. Or when he discussed time travel and the Theory of Relativity at age 6. These were just some ‘sparks’ that caught our attention and promised to fill our days and nights with brilliance or electrocute us just as brilliantly! Especially since I remember when he first stepped into Kindergarten, put one step on the threshold, and with one intense look at his welcoming (read unsuspecting) teacher and proclaimed: “I am not going to be listening to you!”
Yep! It’s been more than five years since that day. The social niceties are still a struggle, if not dispensed with altogether. Heck anything that comes within the definition of ‘social’ norms, or parental (societal) rules, laws, are NOT to be followed. NOT unless there is logic to it, I will simply not abide just because YOU (that could include parents, teachers, or any figure of authority) say I have to! This is a lesson we learned early in our parenting. All that we knew or had seen, or been told about traditional parenting strategies (that generations had grown up with) had to be just locked up and thrown out the window!
Then came the intensities of emotion, and the overexcitabilities (as they are technically called). It’s like you take an emotion – like joy or anger; multiply it to the power thousand and before you know it you are staring into what could become a potential exploding supernova! No, not a meltdown, let me clarify. Just intensity. And anxiety (Are we lost, Mummy? No, no Sam we are just figuring out the route. What’s going to happen now Papa? Are we going to be lost forever? Are we going to be spending the night on the road? Or I am having a tummy ache. Am I going to be sick again? Shall I take XYZ medicine? I will never be able to eat chocolate again! Or is it going to rain today? What if I get wet? Enjoy it then darling! I don’t enjoy it! I need to take my umbrella!). And extreme excitability. We either just LOVE it or HATE it with extreme passion. No greys there.
We had to sink or swim. And swim we did. The past few years have seen us read, research, or collaborate with anything and everything related to giftedness. We’ve poured over books, research papers, theses, met and spoken with experts around the world, collaborated with online communities, parents of other gifted children and support groups – all with the single purpose of making some sense of this new world we are now permanently a part of. And if there is something that I have learned in this unbelievable journey is that it is a beautiful world – not an easy one for sure, not one I would have asked for, but incredibly beautiful nonetheless.
For me, the beauty is this little soul who has these exceptional abilities (and doesn’t know it, yet) that makes each day a wonder, a delight, and a new adventure. His remarkable ability to question what is. And isn’t. (oh yes, the questions are fired 24×7. At us, at teachers, at grandparents or whoever is patient enough to answer till he is satiated) His ability to not blindly accept what is a given, to challenge and push boundaries. The ability to think, and create wonders with the power of his imagination. The ability to use logic and reasoning to solve life’s little mysteries. The ability to push the envelope. Not accept status quo. And most astounding of all: the ability to learn anything and everything with little prodding. As one of his teachers’ recently observed: “Sam is like a sponge, soaking in everything around him.” Remarkably true. A sponge with a slightly defective filter (that’s the asynchronous bit, which I will be talking about at length in a later post). But with a beautiful soul nonetheless.
A soul that has so much to give. A soul with so much passion, it takes my breath away. It makes my job rather difficult (to say the least). Because at the heart of it, he is still a 9 year old. A precocious one no doubt, but still a child. With the intellect of a 15 year old for sure but the heart and emotions of a 5 year old! Did I say difficult? I did, didn’t I? Insurmountable on certain days. Herculean on others. To ensure that we (yes we: me and you) give him a fighting chance. To ensure that his ‘gift’ is not lost in the desire to ‘fit in’ to what is and isn’t socially acceptable. To ensure that the learning and the questions never stop. To ensure that he gets equal opportunities to live a life that is his own. To ensure that he is accepted for what he is, and not what we expect him to be. And most difficult of all. To ensure that his spirit – with all the intensities and the emotions and the social awkwardness – stays pure. Against all odds. And believe me when I say this: The odds are heavily against Sam, and against us. And against the thousands like him. Especially here. Especially now. The battle, or rather the adventure (depends which way you choose to look at it) has just begun.