I grew up gifted. One day I was a snotty nosed 4th grader with double plaits, a champion Chinese jax competitor and neighborhood double dutch Jedi. The next I was given a test, put on a yellow bus and shipped off to a school for ‘special’ kids. To say it pissed me off would be an misnomer of ginormous proportions. I spent 2 years of my imprisonment in the gifted program trying to get out. I cursed at teachers, slammed boys’ faces into lockers and packed a knife. I even attempted to enroll myself at another middle school. Seriously, I took all my documentation (transcript, birth certificate) walked into the office and asked for the transfer slip, telling them my mother was too ill to come in.
But for all my insubordinate asshole-in-training foolishness, they wouldn’t put me out. I had office visits and one time the principal told my mother ‘she just needs a time out’ and they literally sent me to the teachers lounge (alone) for ‘quiet’ time.
Yeah, I grew up gifted. I was a yellow-bus-riding-to-special-programs kind of girl. I could outline the hell out of Dante’s Inferno by 6th grade, completed a Conflict Simulation Program by 7th that put me on the ‘diplomatic’ track, and wrote a thesis on Homer’s Odyssey in 8th that made my grandmother weep. I knew Pythagorean Theorem so well you’d have thought Pythagorus was my father.
I graduated with honors from honors programs. Yep, I am a smart woman. And I cannot light a barbecue to adequately cook hot dogs for a six year old. It took multiple tries for me to finally unleash the secrets of budget balancing and laundry tablets. I still don’t own a dishwasher which is attached to a very funny story from my first apartment college days and a ‘slight’ kitchen explosion. My mother says for all my brains I lack a ‘reboot’ button. Meaning I have trouble rebounding from the normal trials and tribulations of life. My brother says when God was passing out ‘sense’ I forgot to get in the common line.
My point, however, is gifted programs don’t teach gifted kids practical life skills. In gifted programs you don’t get Personal Finance. And you damn sure wouldn’t see Home Economics. You get Advanced Physics instead. Which is awesome because Physics births roller coasters but even physicists need to pay their bills. I mean can you imagine Tesla without electricity?
Whenever I talk to a parent of a kid who’s test results have come back in the gifted category, I tell them, ‘I grew up gifted. Now I’m a social worker.’ To which they gawk and politely dismiss themselves from the conversation. Fortunately for me my social awkwardness inoculates me from embarrassment or whatever feeling they are attempting to invoke by walking away or changing the subject.
Now my other gifted-inflicted friends have gone on to some pretty powerful and financially rewarding positions in life; although a couple became politicians. And I probably could have chosen a more lucrative career. But gifted programs don’t laud the value of money. In fact it’s discouraged. Gifted kids grow up with this idea that ‘they’ll be fine.’ Like there’s some magic gifted person’s fairy who pays our bills and feeds our turtles so we can peruse life’s loftier ideals. Well there is no magical gifted person’s fairy, dammit. I know I’ve looked for that bitch for the last 30 years and either she’s really good at hiding or doesn’t exist.
What I really want to say here is that the disparity between an ability to dissect vase quantities of information in seconds and a complete breakdown over how to arrange a seating chart, often make the gifted feel that we dance a dance along the spectrum of mental wellness and insanity with tap shoes dipped in methyl nitrate.
Some of us go boom.
I’ve never gone boom but I’ve come damn close.
Regardless of what the numbers say all kids need to learn practical life skills. Parents should not devalue work and they shouldn’t allow their children’s educators to fill their heads with nonsense about how ‘everything will just work out.’ So as a former gifted kid, here are my pointers for rearing a bone fide smarty pants:
1. Always kiss them goodnight. They may get up at 2am to write a blog and unravel a complex equation or you know plot to take over the world but their kids and wanna know you love and they have a soft place to land.
2. Encourage them to socialize with a diverse group of friends. And by diverse I mean people of various classes, ethnicities, religions and intelligences.
3. Make them laugh. Gifted kids rarely smile or laugh out loud. Teach them to tell jokes with punch lines and the difference between wit, humor and sarcasm.
4. Teach them to wash dishes, cook, do laundry, ride the city bus, take a cab, and keep up with their crap. Seriously.
5. Make sure they invest in a plan b just in case winning a Nobel Peace prize by 19 doesn’t work out. Gifted kids have to learn how to fail. Because failure does happen even to the smartest among us and they should all have a ‘reboot’ button for when it does.
As for me
I help create environments where children are seen, heard, nurtured, cherished and safe to explore both their internal and external worlds. I am dedicated to helping adults repair and strengthen their primary relationships in such a way that they bring up competent, healthy, successful families where positive self esteem and self concept are the norm.
Because in addition to writing the code that rewrote the code, redefining urban spaces, creating sonnets, and international peace agreements, gifted kids can grow up to be kick ass social workers too.