Monday, February 15, 2016

I Know Nothing

What I have learned about parenting a gifted child is that I desperately need stronger anti anxiety medications, a steady supply of cinnamon bourbon, perhaps a week in a high quality asylum and at least a degree in hostage or contract negotiations.  Deep pockets, a sound proof padded room and a straight jacket might also help, but those would be more for subduing the child in question.

Child in question is a perfect mishmash of both my husband and me.  The arrogance, the stubbornness, the intelligence, the fear of failure, the procrastination, the abstract ideas, the overwhelming ability to walk past something 15 times and not notice it, the lovely habit of putting things in perfectly logical areas with zero recall of where those places are.  He's just as afraid of trying and not succeeding as I am.  He promises himself he will do his work and concentrate on it, just like I did only to reach the same blocks I reached back in 1987 when I too was 17.  He has the cocky arrogance born of insecurity that my husband has.  He has every negative quality both of us have, they might even be slightly magnified.

He has so many wonderful qualities that few people ever see;  his keen sense of humor, his masterful arguing a point, his empathy with others, his need to connect and help others feel welcome and secure.  Some of those traits have gotten him made fun of over the years.  He's been called so many names because he comforts those in need or in despair.  He wants to be the person people count on (aside from his parents and teachers).  He really is a remarkable child in his sense of wrong and right and his inability to watch suffering.  He'd give his last dollar to a hungry person without thought.  He almost got suspended from school for giving his friends lunch money.  The administration accused him of purchasing drugs when he was literally only giving his friends lunch money for the day.  I intervened and supplied the proof that my son was clean.  His sense of right and wrong won't allow him to watch another be bullied, (good natured teasing among friends is fine) He argues points for other people.  I'd swear that he'd make an excellent trial lawyer if  he could only spend his time arguing cases without doing the legwork.  Then there's the whole commitment to going to school for years that he's not very enthused about.  The word filibuster should have his photograph in the dictionary with the definition.

I have learned that I know exactly nothing when it comes to raising my son because it's like raising me or my husband.  I can identify with certain aspects of his personality, my husband the other parts.  Both of us are at a total disadvantage when it comes to actually convincing him to do what we'd like him to do.  I realized the parenting books were excellent fodder for the compost bin.  Our first lesson in that was pretty straight forward.  Give your child a choice between two acceptable items.

 (please hear these words in dreamy disney princess detached voice with vacant eyes)

Teaching your growing toddler to make decisions is easy!  With gentle direction they will do as you ask while still retaining control.  Give your child a choice between two approved items such as:

Do you want to wear the yellow shirt or the blue shirt?
Would you like oatmeal or eggs for breakfast?

Your child will choose from two healthy safe choices and feel more grown up!  You will get what you need without the fight. Just keep reminding them what the choices are calmly.

The reality???

(said in the closest to vacant voice I could muster)

Honey, do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt?


(this went on for an unreasonable amount of time before I just let him wear the same filthy pumpkin sweat shirt he'd been wearing for weeks on end.  Fail on trial one.

Dear, would you like scrambled eggs or boiled eggs?


(this too went on for a really long time)

Eventually he had either bologna and pickles or perhaps grits.

Anything was met with his immediate and strong refusal to choose either thing even when the choices involved his favorite things. He wanted to argue for a different outcome as early as 2 or so.

His development is asymmetric meaning he's much more advanced in some areas than others.  That's a total ball of fun there.  Sadly it's also very much like his parents.  I can't count the number of teacher's who've called home because this tiny dictator had the ability to take over the entire class room and reroute the teacher's lesson to one he wanted.  I'd warned them to never ever argue with him, never to enter into a debate and never answer a question not directly related to the material at hand.  Not one of them listened.  Poor saps. One day an entire hour long Algebra lesson turned from actual Algebra and devolved into a discussion about why we use  Arabic numerals than Roman numerals.  The call home about that one was the same. Teacher felt he deserved an answer so she started down that long and winding detour to avoid the work he didn't want to do.  In that regard he's pretty mature and calculating.  At the same time he believes everyone tells the truth which is a pretty immature attitude to have especially when he's seen that isn't the case.

For all of you parenting or dealing in any way with a gifted child please understand, all gifted children are different and they don't automatically translate into the educational superstars you'd think they would be, gifted doesn't mean " all A's"  Gifted children actually struggle and fall through the cracks limping along at barely passing while basking in under achievement.  They are often dreamers and make plans that they know won't come through just to avoid having that opportunity then failing or facing mediocrity.  They hate to fail publicly.  Their development will never progress at the same rate as that of their peers.  Each child is totally unique and they must find their own motivation.  My son is intrinsically motivated.  The surest way to get him to dig his heels in and not do the work is to offer a reward, extrinsic factors do not work on him even if it's something he truly wants.

All I can do is try to identify trouble spots before they become too hard to get out of and work with him to find the best way to finish his tasks.  There is a wealth of information online, but don't count on any teacher taking the time to read it and work with your gifted child.  They do not have the time.  This is your job and your child's job.  Many of these kids get a label slapped on them that doesn't fit.  They do it for extra funding, they rarely label them as gifted, their go to words are "AD/HD" "OCD" or the new catchall "high functioning autistic".  The schools get extra funding for these classifications yet they still don't work to reach your child because there is no one system to learn that works for all kids in this boat.

I'm along for the ride and hoping that he reaches something in his life that helps him feel rewarded, keeps food on the table and a roof over his head while still allowing him to retain his own uniqueness.

So at 45,,,,I must admit that I know absolutely nothing because the rules keep changing and the arguments are endless circular logic paths.


RJ Veendy said...

The "Child in question" is lucky to have you as his mom. I was a gifted child before they labeled us ADD or OCD. They said I was a discipline problem and my parents-not knowing any better-agreed, and treated me as such at home. So, school and home life sucked equally.

I just can't shut up said...

Thank you :)