You’re not alone

Today I got to have coffee with a new friend.

I was introduced to her because she has a child who is similar to mine.  Her little guy is only four and they are getting ready to embark on the daunting journey of finding an educational program that works for their particular child.

I was excited to have this conversation.

The idea of helping someone along the path is something I really value. Throughout my tenure as a mother I’ve looked to others for advice and ideas on how to do this thing called parenthood. Especially with kids like mine.

I thought I knew what I was getting into

You see, when Emily was a baby I read lots of books.  I knew stages of development and milestones we could expect.  I understood that each child was unique, but most followed a structure of growth that was fairly predictable.

However, Emily didn’t exactly follow that path.

She made physical milestones along the way and was growing into a healthy baby, but there were other ways that I observed that she was different.

Emily loved books from a young age. She would sit on her nursery floor and “read” these books, page by page.

She was 10 months old.

Her favorites were books with other babies. We bought her books to help learn baby signs. It’s sign language for babies that can’t yet talk.

She took to baby signs like it was a life-line.  She meticulously looked at the books.  On each page she would look at the baby doing the sign and she would do one of two things.  She would either make the sign, because she knew it, or she would look at me and expect me to make the sign for her so she could learn it.

By the time we went to her sixteen month check up the doctor asked me how many words she knew. I will never forget the shock he had when I said that she had upwords of 150 vocabulary words under her belt.

There wasn’t a single idea that she thought that we couldn’t understand.  She was stringing together multiple signs in order to make complete sentences.

That was one of the first times I realized my girl was different.

My kids weren’t like other kids (and it was frightening)

She didn’t match the other kids.

Everyone is smart. Everyone had great and shining moments of brilliance. Emily just had them, when it came to words, writing, and logic, faster and more often every. single. day.

But there is a flip side to having kids who are gifted.

She was also impaired by extreme emotions.

Emily had another board book with baby faces in it.  You know the kind that teaches about emotions.  One baby was “happy,” another was “sleepy,” and still another was “mad.”  Emily loved that book.

But without fail, every time we turned to the page of the “sad” baby, Emily broke into uncontrollable sobs.  She couldn’t stop. Not just for a minute. For more than half an hour! It was as if the feelings from that baby infiltrated straight to my little girl’s soul.

Since then we have noticed that whenever she is in a room with strong emotion, no matter what it is, she is affected.  She cannot tell where her emotions stop and someone else’s begins.  She becomes whatever emotion is strongest.

She struggles with socks too!

Another adverse affect of Emily’s abilities is her aversion to certain “feels.”  Tags have always been an issue.  Socks cannot be worn due to the seam in the foot. This isn’t a simple dislike of clothing, this is a fight tooth and nail that can last more than an hour. For socks!

We’ve been on a journey

Throughout our time of having Emily we have been told how lucky we are to have a child with high abilities.  I totally agree.  We are blessed to have Emily. She is truly a gift, as all children are.

She is a blessing with a lot of issues.  Since her babyhood we have dealt with sensory issues, peer relationship issues, and issues with uncontrolled anxiety, fear and nightmares.

I do not know what it is like to have an easy child.  I do not know what it is like to have a child with disabilities.  I do know what it is like to have gifted children.

It isn’t the charmed existence that it may appear to be on the outside.

That’s why I’m writing this blog, along with my husband.  We are ten years into this journey.  We are far from done, but we are, perhaps, half way there.

There are others who have kids who are amazing and also completely frustrating in the same moment.

Parents who want to share that their three year old is writing complete sentences or reading chapter books, but feeling like it may come across as bragging.

The reality is that, without many people talking about it, parenting these kinds of kids is scary. It’s stressful. And there’s one feeling that you have more than any other:

You’re alone in this.

And that is a lie from the pit of hell.

Parents who are up until all hours of the night with a child who just never sleeps or parents who struggle with kids who won’t wear certain clothes. Or parents who deal with verbally gifted kids who debate for hours. Or the parents of empathetic kids crying all the time.

This blog is for you.

I want you to know, you are not alone.

My husband and I are on the journey with you. And we want to help in every way we can.

Let’s have coffee.

I love having coffee. But even more than that, I love the conversations I have while drinking my coffee. Like today’s. It was so great to be able to tell someone else, “that’s actually normal.” It’s not normal in the big sense of the word, but it’s normal for us.

Are you in that spot? Let me know. Maybe we can have coffee.


Successful adults for a lifetime

I have two kids.

Both of them are significantly gifted in many ways.  Emily is almost ten and Christian is eight.  Both of them think fast, have strong wills and use amazing vocabularies.

Kids like this bring lots of joy to parenting.  It is fun to watch them learn things and take this new learning to places you never thought they could go.  There are times when my pride is bursting and I am filled with wonder by who they are becoming.

Except when their ability to think fast and process quickly and negotiate well works against me.

The joy I felt can change to incredible frustration fairly quickly.

Both of my children take classes through Stanford University’s Gifted and Talented program.  Emily takes math and language arts through them and my little guy just takes math.

This program allows them to move at their own pace and we have access to a tutor who is able to help them through the rough patches and help me navigate our educational path.

“I’d like to talk…”

Last week my son and I had our first one on one meeting with our tutor.  Her first words in this meeting were, “I’d like to talk about what happened yesterday.”

These are not the words any mom wants to hear from her child’s teacher or tutor.

Apparently, my son had figured out how to skip complete units of math in record amounts of time.  I watched in horror as she showed me in screen-shot form all the blank questions that Christian had skipped.

The next day was Thursday.

That’s the day I lost it

I happen to lead a Women’s Bible study that day and my homeschooled kids tag along and help out in the nursery.  This is all on the agreement that they will diligently get their schoolwork done when we get home.

However, more often than not, this schoolwork comes with complaining and whining and it drives me nuts!  I do not sound like a happy mom and they do not sound like gifted and engaged children.  We all sound really out of control.

Well, last Thursday (they day after the Stanford “skip my math” incident) I lost it.

It wasn’t pretty, to be honest.

I screamed and yelled and wasn’t someone who I ever envisioned I’d be when I wanted children so badly ten years ago.

Emily couldn’t find her pants for Kung Fu.  Christian had whined his head off about math and every other type of assignment I’d asked him to day and I finally snapped.

Have you ever had that moment?

The kids are building off the energy of each other and they have found that proverbial button on a mom, any mom, and they start pushing and pushing and getting more and more carried away until you finally come unwound?

Yeah, just me, right?

I am embarrassed of how I acted, but I am thankful for the results.

While my kids did Kung Fu, which lasts for two and a half hours on a Thursday afternoon and evening, I had a lot of time to think.  During dinner, which occurs part way through that period, I had time to apologize for my behavior, but I also had time to start building a small boundary.

Boundaries are everything

Most every Thursday night I give in to my kids and take them where ever they want to go.

But I really wanted Indian food.  I told them that and my daughter looked at me and said, “Well, I think I should eat something I like since that is so important for my Kung Fu.”

I responded with strength, but not meanness.

I held my line and ate my Indian food while they ate at a restaurant right next door.

Maybe that isn’t a big step and it may sound insignificant, but my girl looked at me and said, “Wow, that fight really affected you.”

I informed them over dinner that things were going to be different.  I couldn’t allow them to grow up with disrespect for me, for education, or for their friends.

I told them things would be changing.

And they have…I’m not perfect, but I’m trying my hardest to hold the line.

Boundaries are so important.  

I want my daughter to negotiate well, but with respect for authority.  And I want my son to use his ingenuity to figure out ways to solve problems, but not to hack systems for his own gain.

Preparing kids for the path, not the other way around

This summer I attended a conference for parent educators at our Charter School. The keynote speaker challenged us to “prepare our kids for the path, not the path for our kids.”

For too long I have been shaping the path.  I make it easier.  I help correct problems before they make the mistake.  I give in to their food wishes more often than I care to admit and I allow them to talk to me in ways that are disrespectful.

I can no longer do this.

The world will not have patience for this and I am doing them a disservice.  I love them too much not to hold strong boundaries.

Things are going better.

I just need to daily remind myself of the goal: amazingly successful adults for a lifetime, not happy kids for a moment.