Before I start writing, I should probably point out that none of my kids are genius piano players or composers. They don’t speak 7 different languages, write perfect poetry, or spout science facts at completely random times. None of my children are geniuses. In fact, I’d say none of our family are geniuses, including Mr. Genius who probably ranks the highest in the family gifted hierarchy.
Hierarchy? Yup, I have a mental kind of hierarchy that goes like this (don’t murder me when you read this kiddos!) :
- Mr. Genius – age ancient
- The Destroyer – age 3
- The Engineer – age 6
- Me – age I’m not telling
- The Princess – age 4
Now, I’m somewhat guessing at this point because A. we have 2e issues, and B. the Destroyer isn’t really talking that much yet (see 2e issues.) And to be honest, most people would mock me or make nasty comments about considering a 4-year-old or even a 6-year-old gifted without a battery of tests. That’s ok. They don’t know my kids. They don’t live with the crazy stew of twice exceptional that we do.
The fact is, our family is not average. Our kids are not average. They are not even remotely close to being “normal.” They’re gifted, but their gifts all vary in different ways.
You may have read my list and noted that hey, the toddler is listed at number 2! What? Yup, the toddler is probably the smartest kiddo in the bunch. I’m not completely sure, of course, but after living with and raising two other gifted kids, some things are very apparent very early on. And some other things are apparent too – like the 2e is strong in this one, and I fear for my life and sanity if I have to raise and teach 2! of them.
So how, exactly, are they so different? Personalities vary, of course, but even at a young age they show a certain tendency. A predisposition, if you will. As they grow and age, they’ll apply those tendencies and skill sets to whatever passion they land on.
The Engineer, like his name suggests, is intellectually gifted. Curious, questioning, problem solving kiddo who will do whatever it takes to figure out how to get what he wants. He is stubborn as all get-out, and he is defiant like no 6-year-old I have ever met. He is the intellectual equal of most adults we meet, most of whom don’t even bother to realize it. He is a math whiz, and generally picks up on concepts the first time we go over them and requires little to no practice for mastery. He has no patience for boring subjects, and any subject becomes boring after about 5 minutes. He has a mind like a steel trap, and having heard it once, can almost always repeat it (assuming he was paying attention in the first place.) He also has perfect pitch from what I can tell.
The Princess, like me, is more creatively gifted. If that’s even a term. She is highly articulate, she is artistic in a way that none of my other kids are, and she picks up on emotions like nobody’s business. She has imaginative and emotional overexcitabilities in spades and is destined for a career in acting at this rate. That said, she and the Engineer had a detailed discussion at lunch today about who hibernates during the winter, and SHE corrected him (didn’t go well) when he stated that butterflies hibernated. (He meant migrated, got the two words mixed up.) She is clearly smart, and spent hours today curled with a series of different books pouring over them. She even brought one to me after thoughtfully going through the entire 100+ page book to ask what it was about: Beowulf in graphic novel format.
The Destroyer is too young to pin anything on him, especially because he has Sensory Processing Disorder like his older brother. That said, I do not know any 1-year-olds who could pedal a trike around the alley and up a hill, and I certainly don’t know many who could accurately throw a ball and hit their sister in the head. He’s done a lot of practice, that’s for sure. His physical coordination is amazing! He can dance to music in a way most kids his age cannot, and he can keep the beat better than his two older siblings. He has rhythm, something that I never had. He is probably destined for some sort of athletic giftedness because he is beyond average in coordination despite his SPD.
I understand that all or none of that could mean that they’re gifted. And to you, the reader with older kids reading this post, it might seem like I’m stretching. Reaching for something I desire, something that I want my kids to be. I’m not. If you trust me to be honest at all, believe that I never wanted giftedness for my kids. I never wanted this neurodiversity that causes us so much heartache. I wanted my kids to be kids – to love life, to not stand out as different, to be who they are without worrying about the opinion of others.
After all, I’m married to the man at the top of that list. The man who is profoundly gifted, the man who casually told me “it’s just a differential equation, it’s not that hard.” The man who pushed me to take tests in college to skip classes (skipped English 1, no surprise there, but I even skipped Algebra) because he thought that it would be easy. It wasn’t. For me, at least, but I managed.
This is the same man I caught teaching string theory to the kids. At age 4 and 2. He’s so darn smart it hurts. He is the textbook intellectual gifted stereotype: high achieving when he wants, bored as heck when academics are not interesting, and easily the smartest man in the room anywhere he goes.
This is the man who, in grade school, had a stack of not-even-touched homework under his desk so tall that it hit the underside of his chair because he refused to do busy-work. The former kid who sat in class, frustrated because his classmates were all learning subtraction while he was doing algebra. This is the man who skated through school without any challenges until he hit computer engineering courses in college.
This is the man who wistfully told me that he wonders how high he could have reached if he had the same opportunities as a child that our kids do. Who mourns that lost potential because he wasn’t challenged and his educational needs weren’t met in school. He breaks my heart.
So yes, I do know what I’m talking about. I know the joys and the challenges. I know the heartaches and the tears. Like the Princess, I know the soul-crushing pain of something that seems minor to others, but so important to you. I know the joy of inhabiting a body that effortlessly does what you ask of it, like the Destroyer.
You see, I am gifted too. Less, perhaps than Mr. Genius or the Destroyer. Maybe less than the Princess. In my early years I was good enough to be a concert pianist, or at least train for it. I know the joy and wonder of listening to my fingers dance through music with ease. I am an artist now, and I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at that (when I have the time to actually create!) Because I am not intellectually gifted, I automatically rate my abilities as less: as lower than someone like Mr. Genius.
It’s important to realize that gifted comes in all shapes and sizes. All colors and types, in various kinds of abilities. Not all gifted are “book smart.” Some of us feel deeply, love strongly, and live in the moment. That’s our gift. Some of us are physically gifted: poetry in motion in dance or athletics. Some of us can touch the emotions of others and act out totally different personalities at the flip of a switch. And some of us can create vast and beautiful worlds that are richly filled with an entirely new universe.
We don’t always celebrate those who add joy and richness to our worlds. We focus on grades. We focus on business acumen. We gasp at breathtaking mathematical prowess, or amazing spelling bee champions. We should celebrate those, but we should also celebrate the rest of gifted: the unsung creators of beauty. Because I can tell you from experience, the rest of gifted isn’t “normal” either.
The rest of gifted is neurodiverse in a way that even intellectually gifted doesn’t understand. And it’s neurodiverse in a way that the rest of the world will never understand. It’s like living in a color bubble surrounded by a monochromatic world. It’s like a burst of feeling in a logical, staid, and unemotional setting. We’re gifted. We’re just not like you.
It’s ok to be different. As a parent, it’s even more important to realize that it’s ok for my kids to be different. To not expect all of them to dazzle with intellectual accomplishments. To not force that academic achiever stereotype. To love and celebrate all different types of gifted, including my own.
I am not less than you. I am not better than you. I am gifted.
(If you routinely read my blog, you may have noticed that I labeled the Princess as gifted in this post when I previously expressed doubt. Well, I’m not doubting it much now, I’m just realizing that she’s plain vanilla gifted compared to my crazy 2e kidlings. It’s such a different personality for me that I mistakenly thought she was average. Nope. I’m pretty resigned to the whole gifted thing now.)
This post is part of the Gifted Homeschooler’s Forum Blog Hop: Uniquely Gifted: The Different Areas Of Giftedness. Please click the image or link to go read more thought-provoking articles on this subject!