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.