“Your child is gifted! You are blessed!”
“He is such a gifted child! You have nothing to worry about!”
These are phrases that have become commonplace in my world now, coming from the miniscule few who understand what it means to be “gifted.” Sure, from where they stand – and it is a common belief – giftedness is often seen as this wondrous thing that will enable a child to get straight As, and sail through school without much effort. Let me say this straight away: NO. That doesn’t happen, not always. It’s the biggest fallacy (documented and researched) about giftedness. Yes, I love my son. Yes, HE is a blessing. But his giftedness, Nah. No. Nope. And, I have a lot to worry about.
My first worry? That he will always be a label. Yes, and don’t we just love to label everything? Just take a look around. Not just our clothes, or our food, but labels are today quick to be applied even on our relationships, our children and us. Everything has a convenient label. The ‘label’ makes it easier to understand the different. Those who don’t quite fit in the box. After all, we were taught our whole lives to color between the lines, weren’t we? Anything outside the lines, or out of the box is simply wrong! The label therefore is important. It helps to define and even justify different behavior. Sad, but true.
My second worry? That his brain is wired differently. And because it is, he thinks, feels, and functions differently. He doesn’t and may never “fit in” with the society’s limited boundaries of what is acceptable and what isn’t. That pertains to not only what is “acceptable” social behavior but also our archaic and suffocating education system and public mindset.
Let’s look at social behavior. We have been taught our entire lives to conform, to follow societal rules and not question and not speak unless spoken to. “Children should be seen, not heard” – haven’t we (and countless generations) grown up with this? And heaven forbid if you grow a mind of your own!
In my previous post, I had written about how my gifted nine year old struggles with social niceties. He doesn’t always pick up on social cues or sarcasm or even reading between the lines. He is often to the point, direct and states facts; that can often come across as being too blunt or insensitive or politically incorrect! That makes it hard for him to make lasting friendships, if at all. Paradoxically, he also somehow knows that friends are important. So he tries to fit in. In his own way, usually by ‘dumbing down’ (most gifted kids do this as a way to feel more accepted by their peer group). He prefers to clown around and be the class joker just so to ‘fit in’ and is vehemently against displays of his own intellectual prowess. He hates us taking videos or pictures or his musical recitals and performances or even talking about his accomplishments. He has of late become quite adamant about hiding his “gifts’. It worries us – this dumbing down- but we play along at times as we know how important it is for him to be one of the ‘boys’.
My next point of concern is my son’s supersensitivities also known in the medical world as Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilties (OEs). Basically gifted children display intense behaviors in many ways – emotionally, intellectually, sensually, imaginatively and in psychomotor. For instance, gifted children often are a bundle of energy and it takes a lot to tire them (psychomotor). Apparently my son’s impulsive behavior, compulsive talking, and nervous habits are an example of his psychomotor excitabilities! And they are often and quite commonly mistaken for ADHD. Like I had said previously and is so true in the case of our son, you take any emotion – be it anger, sadness, or joy – and multiply it to the power thousand and boy – before you know it you have a potential supernova in your hand! That’s two of the five overexcitabilities right there. In my son’s case, I suspect it’s all five and it’s not uncommon that a gifted individual have all of them. He definitely has sensual overexcitabilities too as he is hypersensistive to sound – in any form. Dog ears, as we fondly call it! Sound is his boon and bane. As a result, he loves his music and is a natural drummer/keen musician but equally hates and is wary of the sound of a pressure cooker or whirring mechanical noises. Which is why it is often difficult for him to sit in a classroom of 30 something kids and concentrate above the din!
The bottom line? My son, like many gifted kids, has his OEs and comes across as pretty intense and animated (most of the times). It makes him the subject of scrutiny and hard stares at school, in the bus, and in social circles as well. “Why is your son like that?” I was once asked by a mother of my son’s classmate. Taken aback, I was quite at a loss for words then (not so now!) for the subject was quite new and intimidating for me. Since then of course I have grown a thicker skin and learned to take the inane queries, and the wide-eyed stares in my stride. My fervent wish is that my son stays oblivious for as long as he can. But I know that’s not going to happen. Eventually, he will feel it too. He is already asking me sharp questions: “Mom, what is a special child?” “Mom, why does xyz kid in my class not play with me?” “Mom, why does he (referring to a particular classmate) not sit with me in the bus anymore?” “Mom, why am I the one to always be the target?” Gut-wrenching for sure but questions that need to be answered still.
Now – take all of these challenges and place them in the context of an environment that is just as archaic, misogynist, and regressive (not to mention an obsolete education system) and tell me, shouldn’t I be worried?