Today was a bit sad for me because I was reflecting on what I meant to write in this post. In the last few days, I’ve come across a good bit of internet disdain for gifted and twice exceptional kids – in a homeschooling group, and in a gifted group. I’m being an armchair psychologist for a moment: these attitudes stem out of ignorance and fear, and quickly turn to hate.
Ignorance is fairly straight-forward. But fear? Hatred? Let me explain.
Gifted and twice exceptional kids don’t fit into neat little boxes. They’re unique – they’re smart – they’re kids with special needs, in some cases. People don’t know how to relate to these miniature adults who can use logic to completely devastate an adult’s argument, but fall apart over a seemingly minor incident on a playground.
What people don’t understand, they fear. What they fear, they hate. What they hate, they destroy.
That’s the strongest way to put it. In a gifted situation, it’s a bit more complex. Someone who doesn’t understand a gifted child may be irritated by them. They might feel self-conscious, or they may feel like they have to compete (and win) against a gifted individual to prove that they’re just as good. For whatever reason, gifted individuals trigger insecurities of other people simply by existing.
If we’re being honest, let’s talk about how gifted individuals sometimes struggle with being smarter than everyone around them. That breeds ego and pride. If the gifted kid is hammering on the “I’m-smarter-than-you” button, anyone, especially kids, would become irritated.
Resentment grows. They downplay it: all children are gifted. They pull out the fair card: everyone should have these awesome opportunities, not just gifted kids! They deny the existence of giftedness, and argue that some kids just bloom later than others. They talk about how a high IQ doesn’t mean anything because they know someone who doesn’t have a lick of common sense but is super smart.
I’m tired of this attitude. Let’s cut to the bone here: it doesn’t matter if someone is smarter than you. Say it:
Someone out there is smarter than I am.
It’s true. And it doesn’t matter. Because someone else out there isn’t as smart as you. Who cares?
You are you. Wonderful, interesting, caring, unique, silly, inspiring, or whatever set of attributes makes you your own person. No one else is you. No one else can take your value away and make you less. That core of you – the thing that makes you yourself – is unchanged by comparisons to others.
In the grand scheme of things, someone is smarter than you are. Someone is your intellectual equal. Someone isn’t as smart as you. All that means is that you’re different – different people, different strengths, different abilities.
Everyone has gifts. Everyone has unique abilities. Not everyone has a high IQ with crazy brain wiring.
And that’s ok!
If I tell you I’m proud of my son for building a rhombicuboctahedron, that doesn’t diminish your child’s accomplishments. Can your kid go to the grocery store with you and not melt down? Well then, count your blessings! If I tell you my youngest child could pedal a bike before he was 2, does that make your kid’s ability to read early any less? Of course not!
We compare too much as parents. We watch our baby’s milestones and worry that they’re not on track. We look at what the neighbor kids are doing for extracurricular activities and wonder if we’re failing our kids by not sending them to swim meets, karate practice, parkour, and chess club. We fret about SAT scores and compare which colleges accepted our kids. We’re focusing on the wrong things.
I don’t care if you’re smarter than I am. Maybe you’ll discover the cure for cancer, or invent a spoon that doesn’t bend when I scoop ice cream with it (pet peeve of mine!) I don’t care if you’re not as smart as I am – I’m in awe of your compassion and your patience. I don’t mind you knowing the answers that I don’t, or doing math in your head when I need to reach for a calculator. It’s ok. It’s fine. It doesn’t define me!
By not caring and comparing, I’m free. Free to be me – free to grow and learn at my pace.
I try to give my kids that same gift of not caring. Sure, I worry about developmental milestones, and I fret over how difficult their lives will be as adults if they lack some abilities. I want them to grow into themselves – to figure out who they are without squashing their identity or ability.
Honestly, I blame the peer grouping of public schools for this attitude. If you squash a bunch of kids together that are all the same age and expect certain levels of work out of them, then it’s impossible not to compare. Those who excel feel special, those who fall behind feel lesser. It’s a bad model – this peer-group socialization idea. I would almost advocate going back to the one-room schoolhouse model, but I know might not work for special needs and ESL students.
It doesn’t matter if you’re “normal” gifted kid, twice exceptional, neurotypical, special needs, or just plain average: be free. Be yourself.
And give others the freedom to do the same.