We have not been tested as gifted. I don’t feel like we need to be in order to be gifted. The test does not produce the giftedness, it only confirms it. Even so, knowing that there is a label for people like me and my family has made understanding myself and my family infinitely easier and surprisingly less lonely.
My children have never been formally tested. I have never been formally tested. My parents have never been formally tested. I don’t feel like we need the test to know that giftedness runs in our family. Not being smart, being gifted and all that it entails. From the Aunt who cried because she spilled the milk to the cousin who would not sleep for the duration of her infancy…and toddlerhood. Signs of over excitabilities, Advanced learning and Asynchronous development can be found in every generations tales.
My grandfather was diagnosed as being a Sudden Savant. He and his two older brothers were all members of Mensa, but if you ask him about it (he is a Medical Nuclear Physicist and very respected in his field) he’s just an idiot compared to his brothers. I know very little of their mother, my great grandmother. We do know that she was one of the first Puerto Ricans to come to New York City with her husband, my great grandfather, and that she learned English in 6 months without an accent. We also know that she was the child of a wealthy plantation owner and his field worker, unclaimed until she went back with her own son’s who became the joy of his old eyes. Considered by all in their near Ponce area as a great beauty.
This is my history. I am a part of her legacy. She persevered through abuse, becoming a WWII widow, single mother of three gifted boys, racism and poverty. Always with her head held high and her faith immovable. She watched her oldest son drown himself in drugs and alcohol to dull the boredom of living. An insanely talented man gone too early and missed dearly by his family.
I was raised with this story as a warning. Intelligence is not everything. It does not save you from yourself. It does not protect you from pain. More intelligence is not always better or easier. These were truths passed down and will continue to be passed down. The pain that cursed our family is one no one wishes to see repeated.
However, being gifted, living with over excitabilities and fighting the existential depression that accompanies this is not something a warning can prevent. It is still there. Visible in every generation to varying degrees.
Rainforest minds, tall poppies, creatively gifted, people pleasing gifted, over excitabilities, asynchronous development, existential depression. It’s all there in every generation. Lying quietly, undiagnosed. We are not prodigies. None of us went to college at an extremely early age or created something that changed the world overnight. All of us are “normal”…but not enough to be normal.
I don’t know if I was the first to feel alone, in a room full of people. Obviously different, bullied for being too smart, held in place for being too immature. Its not something we talk about but from other conversations we have had, I believe that I m not.
When my first cousin was born, the first and only one to be labeled as anything officially, she stood out as being obviously different. It was the mid 90’s and in the early stages of the popularization of Autism (I sometimes wonder if she is 2E but came before the understanding that a person can be both). She was diagnosed and we all learned everything we could about it, even me who was barely 13 and living far away. My aunt took on every training possible so that she could assist in classrooms as she grew and was the first to homeschool as more than just an experiment. The epitome of a dedicated mother.
When my son was 3 they visited me and my aunt was the first to notice the differences. Not quite autism, like her daughter, but something was there that looked a lot like it. She gently pointed them out to me while we waited for our dinner and opened my eyes to a whole new world. Over the next two years I talked to pediatricians, read studies, delved into all the possibilities asking every question I could think of but he didn’t show enough of the markers to be Autistic or to have Aspergers. So what was it?
We knew the little guy was smart, we all are, so what.
He started his obsession with science at 4. He obsessed. He taught himself to read. He could not keep still. His hands made (still make) strange movements when he plays. He is extremely sensitive to sounds (a ballon being popped in the same room will lead to a meltdown…his father has conditioned him to prepare himself but occasionally he still melts down). His sense of right and wrong is BLACK and WHITE, there is no grey and his sense of justice is absolute. He can not control his emotions. If he is excited or happy he will literally bounce until you place your hands on his shoulders. If a wrong has been committed a melt down will occur. He has two volumes, thinking and loud. He is ALWAYS using his imagination, always.
His sister is a people pleaser. She will change how she responds to people based on the expectations of those around her. She has an absolute sense of right and wrong and cries to herself alone when she knows a wrong as been done. She is empathetic beyond belief and hurts when others hurt, yet covers it all with a strong facade. Looking at her the wrong way will cause the tears to flow or anger to flash. She has a concrete understanding of the world around her and she sees everything as a beautiful story waiting to unfold. She is a perfectionist and demands perfection from herself. She remembers everything you tell her, except when it comes to reading, which she hates about herself.
Her sister is stubborn. Set in her ways. NOTHING you can say or do will convince her to change her mind but you can persuade her to do things anyway. She is the queen of Meltdowns in our house. Not tantrums, meltdowns. She is the child who will cry uncontrollably if the tights have a tag, even after the tag has been removed. She will not wear those shoes without socks because the sparkles hurt her ankles. She cannot go to sleep without some sort blanket on top of her, preferably her favorite one. She understands people. She can manipulate them to do her will but she can also be surprisingly kind. She has been talking since before her first birthday, in complete sentences. Her vocabulary is so vast that people often assume she is at least one year older then her actual age. She LOVES poetry and stories. Not mother goose and Peter Rabbit, like most 3 year olds although she does enjoy hearing them and has the stories memorized. She wants to hear Robert Louis Stevenson and Lewis Carroll. She waited until her older sister had finally figured out how to read (after over two years of trying- of her own accord and pushing) before declaring that she too would now start reading…and then started reading. She also obsesses, although her obsessions tend to be based on stories and characters. For her, ALL ninja’s are intricately linked to NINJAGO.
Her younger sister spoke late. At almost 2 she was barely stringing together syllables, let alone words. After 2, syllables became words and words, sentences within a month. All of a sudden she is answering questions aimed at her older siblings, surprising everyone around. She never stops moving. Ever. She manipulates people who do not know her. She obsesses over information… right now its dinosaurs and fish.
Being gifted has nothing to do with them being smart, at least not to us. That’s not why I jumped for joy when I found a label that explained the differences and again when the pediatricians agreed. I know amazingly wonderful children, whom I love, that are normal or learning disabled children who are smart and wow me when I’m with them. Who’s parents pour developmentally appropriate goodness their way and their spongelike brains soak it up regularly. I don’t care if my children can read earlier than someone else’s. This is not a bragging right to me. I strongly believe that every child is bestowed with an Amazing gift, regardless of if they are gifted. To us being gifted is not about unwrapping a child’s gifts.
It is about being able to understand and cope with WHY my child is having a meltdown (at 7) because his younger sister said he was wrong when he knew he was right, just because she could. It’s about understanding WHY my daughter is being so hard on herself for not getting something right the first time. It’s about knowing WHY my daughter starts screaming for apparently no reason if we are at the store at 1138 and I don’t have a snack. It’s about knowing WHY my daughter fights sleep every night.
Its about HOW to help them through everyday and maybe one day they will be able to go through it without me. It’s about NOT being ALONE. As a parent trying to help my children. As a person who just wants someone else to get it. As a child growing in a world that simultaneously praises intelligence and condemns it. It’s about the HOPE that one day they will be stronger than me when faced with who they are and how firmly they stand in the PEACE of who they are and who our Creator made them to be. It is also about them NOT being alone, in a way that I have struggled with for most of my life. I want better for them. Like every other Mother out there.