Friday, December 29, 2006

The G-Word

Last week when we went on our excursion to the city, we were sitting on the ferry when Jake struck up conversation with the adults sitting next to us.

"What are you asking Santa for Christmas?" The couple was probably in their late 40s, traveling with their adult daughter.

"I really want a chemistry set with a Bunsen burner," Kevin replied. "Do you know what happens when you mix Oxygen and Sodium?" Kevin isn't trying to be a smart ass here, he genuinely feels that it's his job to 'teach' everyone he comes into contact with about chemistry. He also is so excited about these ideas it's like his friends talking about their hockey scores.

Insert huge scientific explanation that I hardly understood, let alone can repeat.

We all nodded dumbly. Only this time, Kevin met his match.

Daughter of Friendly couple: "Actually you forgot that the particular combination you are talking about is NcO4, (or something) so it's actually this name."

Kevin: "Oh. Hey, that's right. Thanks, I forgot about that."

Friendly couple: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Kevin: "A scientist. The kit that I want is for high school level science."

Friendly couple: "Well then you better do really well in school before you get it, and work really hard."

Kevin bristled. School is his biggest frustration, because while some subjects are really difficult because of his learning disability, science is where he excels. He didn't know it at the time but we bought the kit as an enrichment tool to keep him a little more challenged.

Kevin: tosses his head, looks them in the eye, and says, " Well, I'm gifted, so....."

All conversations stops. John and I look at him in disbelief. Did he just say that? The couple chuckle nervously and look at us for confirmation.

Friendly couple: "Well we have a daughter who is a doctor. SHE is gifted too."

I sat there wishing the floor would swallow me up. Yes, he's gifted...but that pronouncement sounded so snobbish, that I didn't know what to say. On the way home John and I made one thing very clear to our son.

Never tell anyone you are gifted.

Sure, if he was gifted in sports or music, it would be different. I know a little girl who, at 9 years old, is a gifted athlete and has her sights set on the Olympics. People have no problem dealing with that at ALL. They think it's so cool because if she succeeds, then maybe they had some hand in the process. Nobody thinks that her ability to skate is any poor reflection on their own child's ability, or accuse her parents of working with her constantly to get her ahead. Nobody doubts her abilities.

However, it's completely different for intellectually gifted kids. Instead you keep it a secret, hoping that other people won't ask you why your child can tell them the entire periodic table or the elements and have intellectual discussions with doctors. You are constantly conducting damage control with the adults that are scared to death by this little kid that talks completely over their heads. If the adults aren't bad enough, the other kids brand him as just plain weird. They can't relate to him and therefore, often make fun of him. He's isolated enough already.

You don't want to say the 'G-word' because it elicits a reaction that says, "You must be working with him everyday" or "Ya, SURE", or people give you the look that you just sprouted another head. Some assume that there is something 'wrong' with your kid and immediately brand him as ADHD or a behavior issue. You can't share how your child soaks up so much information that all you can do is provide the means for them to learn, and then hang on for the ride, and honestly you can't even discuss certain topics with your child because you really just don't understand the concepts anymore.

Your child discovers that sharing what he got for Christmas with his buddies even has it's problems when the kids who got Ipods and video game systems really can't understand why he would think chemistry and herbal medicine is fun.

I admit, sometimes I'm jealous of the kids who are gifted athletes and musicians, but not because of their abilities.

I'm jealous because they can be who they are without having to hide.

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