By the time my children were born, I felt fully capable of raising two little girls, whatever their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. When they proved to be rather bright, I relished the gift of being the one to guide and nurture their curiosity and insights. My daughters’ daycare teachers were wonderful, encouraging them to explore, providing them just the right level of challenge, and introducing academic learning in a way that made it fun.
It wasn’t until kindergarten that it occurred to me that J and M’s intellectual gifts might present a challenge when it came to fitting into mainstream education. Thanks to their school in El Paso, I learned that their giftedness challenged the status quo. I was going to have to learn to be not just the mother of M and J, who happen to be smart, but to be a Mother of Gifted Children.
I confess that I fought the labels. Why couldn’t my kids just be kids? I could challenge them intellectually at home if the school couldn’t.
I finally gave in and bought A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children. It sat on my bookshelf for a while. When I finally cracked the spine, I wished I’d done so earlier.
My daughters, I learned early in the book, could be described as being at the lower end of the “profoundly gifted” category. As I read through dire warnings of teachers who don’t know what to make of gifted children, I was ever more appreciative of their teachers this year. While my girls have little to say about the research projects they’re working on with their Gifted and Talented teacher, they’re constantly bubbling with news of the extra lessons both their “regular” teachers teach them throughout the day, whether they’re done early with an assignment or seeking more excitement on a test than the basic instructions offer. Both teachers actually spend time with my daughters after school, while I’m still at work, giving them enrichment exercises, feeding their curiosity, and encouraging them to pursue their intellectual interests. I know, we are blessed beyond anything I could ever repay.
I was embarrassed to see myself described in early chapters of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, the mother who underplays her child’s gifts, claiming that a child is merely a good test taker and not “special” in any other way. I find myself fighting for equity between my daughters by explaining away the small ways in which M is stronger in math and J in critical analysis. When my daughters’ teacher presented their test scores to me, I tried to explain away M’s slightly higher scores. I, proponent of treating all people as individuals, was trying to force my two children into a single mold.
In the early chapters of the book, it served more as a self-help book for me than a guide to dealing with my kids’ above average intelligence. I appreciated the very first words of the introduction: “The Importance of Parents.” I’ve never been one to believe that it is the school’s job to raise my children. Given my kids’ smarts, sending them to school is primarily to help them develop their social skills. I had high hopes for the school I chose for them, but I really lucked out in having several teachers in the dual language program who are committed to nurturing each child in the class as an individual. I’m glad that the girls’ teachers push them, but if they didn’t, filling in that space would be my responsibility, not the school’s.
Unlike some of the other book reviews I’ve written this week, I don’t feel like I can summarize the key points of the book in a way that’s helpful. The thing about giftedness is that it is unique every time. Realizations I had about J didn’t, for the most part, apply to M, or vice versa. I knew I was going to have to advocate for my girls’ academic opportunities and appreciate the guidance the book provides on those issues.
If you have, or suspect you have, a gifted child, I’d recommend reading through this book to find gems that help you be the best parent you can be to the little miracle in your care.
To give you a feel for what’s in the book, here are some chapter subheadings that stood out me:
- What Exactly is Giftedness?
- Is My Child Gifted or Just Smart?
- Punishing the Child for Being Gifted
- Why Wouldn’t a Gifted Child Be Motivated?
- Avoid Power Struggles
- Develop Rules as a Family
- Types of Perfectionism
- Depression and Suicide in Gifted Children
- Peer Comparisons and the Gifted Label
- Unequal Abilities among Siblings’
- Does Common Wisdom Apply to Exceptional Children
- When Parenting Styles Differ
- When Scores Do Not Match Characteristics
- Trust Your Own Observations
- Can’t I Simply Trust the Schools?
- Financial Support for Gifted Education
Any of these headings jump out at you? If they do, consider checking this book out of you local library.
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.