Having my doubts

I chuckle with sarcastic humor when I say that twice-exceptional means exceptionally gifted and an exceptional pain in the butt. It is not fun for anyone, least of all the person who has to work around it every day. Tom wrote about that the other day, and I printed off his incredible post to share with my own 2e son. It was something I felt he needed to see, that maybe he could then start to believe in himself a little more.

It is far too easy to only concentrate on the challenges the second E presents; they’re a lot louder and tend to show up more clearly in everyday life. While a lot of issues have been resolved since bringing A home to homeschool (including overwhelming anxiety to the point of illness), there are many still there. Executive function skills need to be goosed. Short-term memory needs an upgrade. ADHD behavior could improve. All need to be addressed, if not for his educational advancement, then for self-preservation; I’m going to wring his neck if I have to keep repeating instructions. I kid! Mostly…

In the midst of all this, I have doubts. Big, ugly, sneering doubts that maybe he isn’t gifted after all. Maybe he just has a whole bunch of learning disabilities and a stubborn streak with a heavy dose of laziness. I don’t see the sparks of intelligence and curiosity and thirst for learning I did a few years ago, before school prodded most of that out of him. I just don’t know anymore.

And then he rattles off 14 digits of Pi to a stranger. He memorizes two digits a day, but slogs through division with remainders with grimaces and groans and whines. Oh, I know all about “sometimes the hard is easy and the easy is hard with these kids.” Doesn’t make it any easier to teach and parent him.

While I know that gifted = wiring, it’s hard to remember that when you’re living with The Most Complex Kid on the Planet©. I’m trying to see past the challenges to the gifted and am failing miserably. Gifted or not, he’s still my son and I’ll do anything for him.

I just wish my doubts would shut up so I could figure out how to best help him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jen writes at Laughing at Chaos, where sometimes she does actually remember to laugh at it all.

36 thoughts on “Having my doubts

  1. Claire

    I could have written this. The only difference is that mine is still in local schools. You work so hard believing in them, especially when they don’t believe I themselves. You work so hard to find any solution that’ll help them even an inch closer to that place where they’ll be happy and successful when they become an adult. When it’s been a tough week like this one, that place seems a mirage in the distance. I love this blog because it helps me feel less alone in the fight. I’m just grateful right now that we’re about to hit spring break. A break from the insanity.

  2. Pingback: Doubting Jen

  3. linda

    Did you ever have him tested for gifted? That’s really the only way to know. My older two we tested & they’re in the program thru public school. My youngest has the sensory issues, no diagnosis yet, and we’ve been putting it off. I think sometimes the other issues mask the giftedness, and I think as parents we’re more focused on helping with the other issues than nurturing the gifted side.

    1. We did,twice, at the Gifted Development Center in Denver. He came out as WOW, THAT’S REALLY 2E. So while we technically have numbers and charts and reports and suggestions, he is so atypical that you can’t help but doubt. Didn’t help that our new school this year refused to let him into the GT program.

  4. Mona

    Honey, I wonder every.single.day – really??? THIS is gifted? What if I’m just freaking-fooling myself to try to explain to myself and everyone around me why he is so WEIRD. It’s better since we’ve started homeschooling – because I see the glimmers of brilliance every so often (the geometry theorems it took me all semester to memorize and about 30 seconds to forget? Yeah, he read them over once and could tell you what they are and how to use them). I’d bet Albert Einstein’s mother went crazy, too.

    1. What’s funny (in a not so funny way) is that I see your gifted and think, “damn, my kid ain’t gifted.” Even though I know better, that thought creeps into my head.
      Oh, and as for Albert’s mom? I bet she was a lot like us. Same with Steve Jobs’ mom, Robin William’s mom, and any other mom of any other kid who is an outlier.🙂 We deserve medals. Now.

  5. Two Cents for laughing (because it’s better than crying) Jen.😉 What if he isn’t gifted? So what? Your diagnostics indicate he most certainly is, but what if he isn’t. Would you approach any differently? What I believe with my whole heart is that what I’ve learned from my gifted monsters is that the way they “require” I parent them, is the way all children deserve to be parented, with love, acceptance, patience, support, and a stubborn belief in the best of who they are. So, when that ugly gremlin rears it’s head say, “So what?” 😉

    1. Because then it means I’m wrong, that I have viewed his education through the wrong lens, that I’m probably homeschooling for the wrong reasons. In the long run it doesn’t matter…or does it? And that’s what kills me. What I know is that right now school is the wrong educational setting for him. But the outside programs that he could use to thrive? They wouldn’t take him for the same reasons the school wouldn’t put him in the GT program and that smarts.

  6. It’s the executive function that kills me with my 2E. Everything else I can deal with, but it’s the constant struggle to keep his s@&^* together that is causing me to lose mine.

    I’m telling you, gifted is the worst word ever to “label” these kids. Who’s want that? Can I send it back?

    You are doing a fabulous job with Andy. And that spark will come back because you are there to fan the flame.🙂

  7. Good point, Mariam. Many of us have reached that place where we have no choice but to parent on doubts and all. After all, these labels and diagnosis can be so divergent that in the end all you have is your gut instinct and a kid showing all the signs of a square peg in a round hole. We’ve tried just about everything and will continue to do so even if in the end there is no perfect fit. We’ll at least be able to say, we searched and searched because we love you so much. We had doubts, we hit bumps, it was tough, but we never gave up…that is why we aged so quickly. 🙂

    Jen, I hear you loud and clear. I’m there with you. Let’s keep going….

  8. Kate Arms-Roberts

    I remember talking to the Special Education Resource Teacher at my eldest’s final school before I pulled him out to start homeschooling. I was telling her about yet another difficulty that he has which appears more frequently in the gifted population than the non-gifted problem, and we both found ourselves agreeing that if he only had the negative impact of a few less of those things, it would be much easier to help him. And, then I read Lost in School, which has a checklist of executive functions that need to work for a student to function in school and he had deficits in all of them.

    And then, I found you and another mother on an online parenting forum with similarly challenging children, and I realized that there are some other kids out there who are similarly challenging, and some of my doubts about my own skills as a parent lessened.
    Even so, I find myself doubting the level of his intellect because when we had his IQ tested, he couldn’t focus on half of the subtests and didn’t qualify for the gifted program at school (though any child who could totally tune out half of the test and still come within one point of qualifying is most likely extremely gifted with extreme challenges).
    I find myself underestimating the cognitive complexity that he needs because he has so many issues that emerge when he tries to demonstrate what he knows (anxiety, perfectionism, poor working memory, bad word recall, gestalt processing, dysgraphia, etc). Every now and then I do see glimpses of the love of learning he used to have, but for months after I pulled himn out of school, I saw nothing but “learning is boring” and “Do I have to?” The longer he is out of school and the more I am able to separate the concept of learning from the concept of school, the more I see his strengths.
    Your son was in school for a long time and has a lot to work out of his system. It may take a while for him to recover enthusiasm for learning.

    1. Well said Kate.🙂 I think I found the book Summerhill School by A.S. Neill to be a fantastic realization about the school vs. education paradigm shift, but I know it took me a long time. School can beat the desire to learn right out of you for a while.

      Jen, I am sure A will learn to enjoy learning more and more as you play the education game with him. As much as I hated school, I did eventually learn to enjoy learning and education. I don’t wish such a bumpy road to you, but as testified by the other comments, I think it comes with the 2E terrain. Your doubts are justified, and even I wondered how I could be so smart and so dumb at times. The frustration and confusion may be in both of you at times, but as a person who has come through the knothole, I wish I had kept my confidence and had people who supported me every step of the way. Keep fighting for A; when he may waiver (even when he doesn’t show it), you are the support he needs.

      1. Peggy

        Tom, Thank you for your encouraging comment. I’m up this morning at a brick wall thinking “Just HOW do I help my 6th grade 2e son acquire a love for learning?” We’ve been homeschooling one year this week and even though things are light-years better for him emotionally, he still has no self-motivation for school. He lives to play “Minecraft” on the computer and he’s worrying me crazy. Any specific tips or resources you can offer??

      2. Hi Peggy,

        Minecraft/Warcfraft/Rift etc… can get pretty intense certainly. I found for me it was the need to get into Flow (Csíkszentmihályi). In my youth I played Dungeons & Dragons and would spend long hours at a time developing adventures for players to take part in later, but once I found computer games it was easy to sucked in and fall into Flow quickly. The earlier computer games I could spend a 24~ish hour stretch (or less) playing and be done with, but the newer games (including Minecraft) are much more complex and keep creating new challenges as you advance and on top of that, the gifted/creative mind can really go all out playing the games and doing very amazing things.

        My hope would be that your son would want to start sharing his creations or start making guides for others possibly. I personally play Warcraft and have participated in a few blogs/guides as I master different portions of the game. It pushed me beyond doing things just for myself in the “play” realm, but also challenged me to create something beyond the game. It involved a lot of planning, writing, developing image layout and more. It started from within the game, but can really develop into a lot more. In a way, it’s letting your son have the locus of control (Rotter) which he may not have had, especially in school, to guide his own learning. I hope that helps, but if not, shoot me a note anytime to discuss any specifics.

        P.S. if you want to have a somewhat structured start to writing helpful parts about Minecraft, he could contribute to the wiki that’s already going pretty strong: (http://www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Minecraft_Wiki).

      3. Peggy

        Thank you, Tom. What I hear you saying is that his love of “working” on the computer (not just playing) can be a positive part of his developing creativity and confidence, especially as he contributes to the site, such as with information for the Wiki. I don’t know much about it and it worries me about the amount of time online, but I see that it can actually be useful for him. I also bought him a self-teaching book on learning to program; I think its Python. I say I want to tailor his homeschooling to his strengths and maybe Minecraft and others like that are a way of doing that. Thanks again.

      4. I love that there are adults out there who made to “the other side” almost entirely intact and who can act as trail guides for us leading the kids that direction. I’m not 2e (though my brother would be considered such), so I have little on which to rely other than what others tell me. I do the best I can, but because I don’t know this path, I often feel it’s not enough.

    2. Right after I read your comment, Kate, I ran to the library to get that book. My son isn’t even IN public school anymore, and I felt the need to hunt that down. He does have a lot to work out of his system and I forget that. Daily. Hourly. And it’s MY problem to solve for ME, not him.

      1. Kate Arms-Roberts

        I am so very, very, good at being a “good student” (much better than I am at getting through the messy stuff of daily living) that I really struggle with getting out of the “school” mindset with my kids..
        My latest tweak to the family day is that I have a sign up in the kitchen that says “What have you learned today?” and I ask that question of every person at the table, including myself, at dinner. I used to ask “what did you do at school?” but especially with some kids homeschooling and some kids in school, this seems to be a much better question. Plus, it gives me a chance to model the fact that learning is a life-time thing whereas school is not.

  9. GinevraCat

    I also have days (months! last year) when I wonder if I’m fooling myself about my daughter. But since we took her out of school we are realising that she was pretty much in shutdown mode all the time. She’s doing amazing stuff with my mom at home now – still I have no idea if she’d ever be able to hold down a job! Your boy sounds a lot more complex than my girl, so your doubts are going to be more complex. Reread your blog, girl! Your kids are exceptional, not just hard. Plus, you’re a gifted parent. Emotional OE, anyone? Anyway, hugs. {{}}

  10. As someone who has been through the process I can tell you don’t ignore your own needs. Some things you can help but some things you can’t and you yourself have to learn to live everyday in spite of it. Some of the annoying traits will persist when they will grow into adults. I think a large part of giftedness is that to some extent, the boundary between childhood and adulthood is very thin, really barely perceptible. One of the universal traits of giftedness I have run into is that every kid wants to know how your mind works in detail. And at some point that will progress into developing the skill to work you like a puppet. I really didn’t realize this aspect until two things happened: my daughter reached adulthood and told me what she had done and I wrote the novel for gifted kids and in their feedback they absolutely demanded that I give the characters a complete psych profile so they could decode what was going on the the character’s head. So basically sometimes you just have to chill at 30,000 feet and no worry so much. Sometimes you have to be the parent outside looking in, chuckling, saying, “Gee look at what that poor parent has to deal with.” Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, it will all work out as best it can. Just relax.

    1. Sooo…look at myself from the outside looking in? I’d buy that poor woman a drink. LOL! But you make a good point. When you take a step back you gain a LOT of perspective.

  11. Peggy

    I’m literally in tears as I type this because it is what I’m dealing with at this very moment. I came to my computer as a small break from facing the day’s issues with my 2e son. I’m so thrilled we’re homeschooling, but I often feel the job is just too big for me. He is your competition for “The Most Complex Kid on the Planet©”. Thank you for your post today.

    1. Peggy, we should talk.😉 I’m not kidding when I call him complex; the kid has kerflummoxed teachers, administrators, doctors, therapists, specialists, and family to the point that we just have to let it go or go off the deep end. We should get these two together, they’d change the world.🙂

  12. Ohhhh me too!!! Like Mona said, I catch myself thinking “Really? THIS is gifted??!!!” This child who can’t remember where his shoes are or to empty the diswasher or who can’t work out how to print a document….How on earth did he score so highly for congitive function in those tests???!!! Maybe the ed psyc wrote down the wrong marks? Lol. Nice to know I am not alone in doubting (and worrying!).

  13. Naw, he’s still gifted (not that it would be terrible if he wasn’t…). I look back on my school career and remember hating certain subjects simply because they were sooooo boring! The textbooks were boring, the teachers presented the information in a manner that was boring to me. It wasn’t until years later, with the History Channel, and the Science Channel, and the Discovery Channel, that I realize how fascinating these subjects could be –and could have been had they been presented with an “ADHD filter”: or so they were interesting to people/students who spend a lot of time watching TV. (I’m not advocating excessive TV watching)

  14. Ann (MoCo)

    Yeah, you’ve taken on a challenge. I don’t think I could have done the same. BUT again, from our experience it does get better. The Tall One was placed in “normal” math in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. Was very slow to get the memorization stuff down, etc. Did progress to Algebra in 8th grade, and it’s been straight up in math in the four years since then. Is now the top student in his AP Calculus class. Seriously my jaw hits the floor when he explains his sister’s homework to her. It’s scary to think our kids may never memorize what they need to in the order they need to (sister is getting A’s in HS Geometry in 8th grade, but still can’t recall most addition and multiplication tables by memory and can’t tell time on an analog clock). Go figure.
    Like yours, our county school district is thinking about doing a wholesale change to the gifted ed and special/magnet programs from 4th grade on. We are lucky, though, in that the schools in our neighborhood did offer lots of advanced, honors, IB and AP classes for our kids to pick from . Despite a standardized and so-called ‘unified’ curriculum throughout the county (tying teachers hands and their creativity), kids in lower performing schools are not so lucky with some elem/middle schools offer no honors or ‘more challenging’ class options.

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