It’s a long, hard road to see that something’s different with your child. The giftedness I could see. I understood that. I accepted that. The other exceptionalities? I didn’t want to see it. I wanted it to be a phase. I wanted it to be intense emotions that, with help, would learn to be regulated. I wanted it to simply be an intensified version of typical development. It wasn't.
Six days after the school shooting in Florida it came. The question I’ve been waiting to be asked. The question I can’t fully answer myself. I knew one of my children would ask it. I knew I’d have to find a way to explain the unexplainable. And, here it came. Driving through town, my daughter spotted the lowered “sad flags” and asked: “Why would somebody do that, mom? Why would somebody go into a school and kill so many people?”
Isn’t this the question we’ve all been trying to answer for decades? Regardless of where you fall on all the hot topics and debates, when we boil it down, we’re all just wondering why someone would do it.
I make absolutely no claims to know the reasons or to understand the inner complexities of making such a choice. I make no claims to understand all the societal complexities that enable such horrifying choices to be made.
What I do know, is that how I answered my KBear’s question sets the foundation for her worldview, for her understanding of other people, for how she will find comfort and security, for how she will treat people, and how she will understand why horrible things happen.
I also know that our kids don’t want to just be placated or for us to shy away from the complexities innate in these traumas. They want truth, and they want to feel reassured that they will most likely be safe and okay.
I also know that mental illness rarely equates to violence. I know that owning a gun doesn’t equate to murder. I know that most people who play violent video games or watch violent movies or listen to violent lyrics do not plot a terrorist murder spree.
And I know that happy, contented, and well people do not commit violent acts. I know that people who feel connected and in community do not murder.
I know that all too often, children are seen through the filters of their behaviors. I know that underneath troublesome behavior is some type of pain or fear or isolation or shame or trauma. I know that suspending and expelling children does not effectively alter their behavior. I know that children who need the most loving usually act in the most unlovable of ways. I know that writing a child off as evil, a monster, or a bad kid does not heal or transform or prevent future misbehaviors.
I know we need more compassion. I know that love trumps hate. I know that darkness cannot drive out darkness, and I know that we need to be the change.
I believe that with early intervention and seeing the vulnerable child beneath the defiant preschooler, or the traumatized child beneath the meltdowns, or the lonely isolated child beneath the middle school defiance and opposition, we can transform pain and violence into healing and peace.
So, how did I answer my child’s question?
“I don’t really know, sweetie. But, I know he must have been very lonely and sad or angry and instead of getting help, he made an awful and really hurtful choice.”
I know we need compassion. Always compassion. Especially compassion when it’s the most difficult.
It has happened fairly regularly over the past several years. My I’m-not-doing-enough-and-failing-my-kids-and-what-the-heck-was-I-thinking-when-I-decided-to-homeschool freakout. Or my Other-kids-his-age-are-writing-their-name-and-I-haven’t-even-started-teaching-that-I’m-a-horrible-mom/teacher-and-my-kids-will-be-ruined-for-life freakout. Or my I’m-not-doing-enough-to-nurture-his-gifts freakout. The list could go on, but I think you get the point.
I know I’m not the only homeschooling parent to experience these freakouts. It is so easy to compare the learning that we’re doing or the knowledge that my kids do or do not know to those kids in the public school system. Which, yes, is silly because we intentionally chose to educate our kids differently for many reasons, one being the direction the American schools are going with pushing formal education earlier and earlier on our kids. But, it’s the standard of the majority. It’s the education system I grew up in. It’s what I’ve known. And so, when I’m spending my mornings reading Harry Potter aloud as my kids are playing with lego and magic cards, I sometimes feel I’m failing them and we’re not doing enough “academics.”
Thankfully, I’m starting to see the fruition of our pedagogy. Our oldest is 12 and with the exception of 1 year at a private one-room schoolhouse, he’s been homeschooled. We’ve been doing this homeschooling thing a few years. Lots of time for lots of doubts and freakouts. Lots of failed attempts at various types of learning. And now . . . we’re finding our groove and I’m reassured with who my son currently is and who he is becoming.
Here’s the light at the end of the homeschooling tunnel:
The light is a 12 year old that is mostly comfortable in his own skin.
The light is a pre-teen who can stand his ground over things he cares about.
The light is a child who can read, compute, write, speak elementary Japanese, explain some aspects of physics, have deep philosophical conversations about literature and history and politics and social justice.
The light is a child who chooses what he wants to study and what activities he wants to be in because it’s what he wants, not because his classmates tell him he should want it.
The light is an 11 year old boy choosing to play the flute and now the 12 year old begging to learn to play the lute.
The light is the comments from the adults around him who are amazed at the person he’s becoming and the person he is.
The light is the father-in-law humbly stating, “You know I haven’t been a homeschool fan and really thought you were making the wrong decision. I was wrong. Based on how he’s turning out, homeschooling was absolutely the right decision.”
I know I’ve still got lots of years ahead of me. I know that I still have the same self-doubt as I facilitate the learning of my littlest. But, I see the light.
All you homeschooling parents: It does work out. It will work out. And it is SO rewarding when you see it. So on your freakout days, trust those men and women who’ve gone before us and those of us who are just a few steps further down the road, there will be light.
Still difficult to see the light? Check out more sources for inspiration in this month's GHF Bloghop!
(2016) It’s the morning of the Valentine’s day party. My 7-year-old 2e daughter is getting ready for school. She wakes up “flappy” and crabby and starts right in with yelling at me and vocalizing and screeching. She needs constant directives and still fights every step of the way. She refuses to go to school. She flails and fights and scratches. I somehow manage to get her to school, but we’re both crying and then have a day apart filled with regret and anger and disconnection.
(2018) It’s the morning of the Valentine’s day party. My 9-year-old 2e daughter is getting ready for school. She’s beginning to feel a little “flappy” and I’m beginning to brace myself for a rocky morning. Suddenly, I hear a “wah!”, feel a little head crash into my chest, and hear my daughter say, “Mom, I hate holidays. Everything at school is different and I feel so icky on these days.” We hug and regulate and plan and carry on.
(2015) It’s a summer day. My 7-year-old 2e daughter plays in the sprinklers. After 10 minutes she is overstimulated and starts attacking her younger brother. Her arms are around his neck and she’s not letting go and his skin is turning a shade of red then purple that is terrifying. I manage to get him free and spend the next many hours trying to maintain safety.
(2017) It’s a summer day. My 9-year-old 2e daughter plays in the sprinklers. After 10 minutes she starts to get bossier and yells more at her younger brother. With a suggestion, she puts in earplugs and sits on my lap for just a few minutes while I give her pressure and shoulder rubs. She goes back to play.
(2015) It’s my 2e daughter’s 7 year old birthday party. She is excited and then angry and then happy and then raging and then bored and then out of control. We threaten to cancel the party numerous times. She screeches and screams. She pulls it together for the party. She meltsdown after an hour and a half and all family slowly make a quiet and uncomfortable exit and we’re left to try to pick up the pieces.
(2017) It’s my 2e daughter’s 9 year old birthday party. She is excited. She says she’s excited. She decides to watch something alone in her room to have some quiet and be fully charged so she can tolerate all the activity of her party. She is pleasant and hospitable to her guests for the whole party. 15 minutes after her last guest leaves, she has a mini-melt-down, is escorted to her room and calms after 15 minutes.
(2016) It’s a Sunday. We’ve been to church and my 2e 7 year old daughter leaves the church service by bolting out into the street, pulling at us and yanking us and refusing to listen to us. We drive home with her screeching and unbuckling and hitting the entire 15 minute drive. We get home and attempt to help her regulate, but we have 4 hours of non-stop meltdown and holds and being called horrible names and tears and I find myself collapsed on my knees in another room screaming out to any God or anyone who will listen that I just can’t do this anymore.
(2018) It’s a Sunday. We’ve been to church and my 2e 9 year old daughter leaves with her ear defenders and weighted vest securely on her body. She is flappy and overstimulated. We get home and she immediately rests alone in her room. We eat. She melts down. We get her to her room. She spends 15 minutes screaming and throwing things in her room and then it is quiet. A few minutes later a piece of paper is slid under her doorway to me. It is an apology and a love letter written in my child’s scribbly handwriting. In it she asks for snuggles. I go in and we snuggle and hug it out. Actually hug it out and actually snuggle.
I don’t know what your 2e journey, or the rest of ours, will look like, but I know there’s hope. It doesn’t feel like it in the midst of the overwhelm somedays, but there’s hope. It took therapy and learning about our daughter’s wiring and us parents getting on the same page and grieving and bandaids and explaining to our sons and explaining to our daughter and tears and blood and sweat and arguments and love and compassion and new parenting styles, but there’s hope.
Need more hope & light? Check out the other inspiring posts in this month's GHF bloghop.
My son was awkward. Correction . . . my son can still be awkward. Particularly around people. He has never really known how to “act his age.” I blame the wonderful world of gifted asynchrony.
As a young child, he’d use words, language, idioms that other kids his age just didn’t understand. Or he’d be interested in things that other kids just weren’t. So, he’d try to act more similarly to these other kids and would err on the side of silly goofiness that just turned kids off.
He did always manage to play with other kids, but he never really found those close friendships with kids who truly “got” him. And so, like any emotionally intense gifted mother, I worried.
I worried that he wouldn’t find his group. I worried that he’d be lonely and isolated. I worried that he’d spend so much time blending in with other kids that he’d lose his unique identity.
For many years he sought peers in sports. He is talented in many a-thing, but athletics is not his gifting. Nor is it really his interest. He likes a good backyard kick-around of the ‘ole football, but given a choice, he’s always preferred creative play. Even so, he repeatedly chose to be on the soccer team. As he advanced, he chose to be on the soccer team over being involved in theater and other activities that we could tell he was more suited for. He was friendly with his teammates and they were friendly with him, but they didn’t really connect because they weren’t really interested in the same things. His teammates would beg to stay on the field longer to kick the ball around more. Cub would saunter over to the van and be ready to head home.
We followed his lead, but behind closed doors, were concerned that he was trying to be someone he isn’t, that he was seeking friendships with nice guys, but not cut-from-the-same-cloth kinds of guys.
And then. It happened. A gaming store opened up in our small town and he started going. We’re talking dungeons & dragons, magic the gathering, pokemon playing complete and utter nerd-dom. He’d found his people. It didn’t happen overnight. Even after finding his people he chose one more season of soccer over being in a community theater production. But, midway through the season, he was frustrated that he was having to miss time at the gaming store to go to soccer practice. He would come up with reasons why he didn’t want to go to soccer. And one night, he came and talked to us and said he felt really stuck, because he committed to the soccer team, and we’d paid for the season and the uniforms and the tournaments, but he really felt more himself playing magic and he hated having to miss it.
Admittedly, my husband and I went round and round about this until I realized my husband was right. Sure he’d made a commitment, but at the end of the day, my son’s identity and social connections were more important. He quit the team. Started spending 2-3 nights at the gaming store, is taking leadership in starting a new D&D event, spent time at an acting camp, is regularly involved in theater productions and classes, participates in destination imagination and proudly claims his nerdy side.
I know he’s only 12 and we have a long way to go. But, for those of you with younger kiddos, know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Give them the proper encouragement, support, and freedom and they will find their way to embrace their identity. They will find their fellow geeks. It might not look the way you envisioned, but they will get there.
Still hard to see the light? Find more inspiration and hope in this month's GHF bloghop!
You know those parents who gently lift their sleeping child from the car, drape their ragdoll deep-sleeping child over their arms and quietly transfer them, still asleep, into warm and cozy beds? Yeah, I kinda hate them a little. OK. Maybe that’s too strong. I am just extremely jealous. Never, ever has that been my experience in 12 years and 3 children of parenting. And it wasn’t just that my kids would wake up if I lifted them out of the car, they would often not sleep in the first place!
Sleep has always been an issue in my home. A few of my personal facebook posts from my children’s baby days prove this . . .
“With the exception of a couple 5 minute snoozes, my 6-week-old has now been awake for 12 ½ hours and counting. He’s happy as can be, I’m old and it’s past my bedtime!”
“Argh . . . I have created a stubborn, crib-hating, sleep-defying monster.”
Like so many other things for gifted people, sleep patterns tend to be atypical. Many gifted kids and adults just don’t need as much sleep as others may. My youngest stopped taking naps at the ripe old age of 1. Sigh.
And add some other different wiring to the mix, as is the case with my twice-exceptional girl, and sleep can become even more elusive. For literally 9 years of my adult life, I rarely experienced the bliss of uninterrupted sleep. Of course, there were the infant years, and then there was my 2e daughter awake and unable to regulate or self soothe back to sleep, and my youngest waking me up in the middle of the night because he wanted to play or snuggle or talk. All with a smile on his face.
But, this mama needs sleep. We’d tried everything. Melatonin. Warm baths. Essential oils. Weighted blankets. White noise. Music. Sleep stories. Massage. Lotion. Special stuffed animals. Living breathing real animals. Short of prescribed sleep meds, we’ve tried it all. And some things have made sleep a little easier, but there has been 1 approach that has made the biggest difference for us.
While my daughter was in the hospital for an overnight eeg to assess for epilepsy, a sleep doctor met with us. She did many of the basics in terms of problem solving and gave us charts to track for potential sleep patterns. And those were minimally helpful, but then . . . THEN . . . she gave me the best gift ever.
She spent about 5 minutes talking with my daughter about the need for adults to have sleep. They talked about the activities that mom and dad do throughout the day and explored how safe and well those activities get done when mom and dad are tired. She explained the dangers of mom or dad driving sleep deprived and asked my daughter to think about how many times we drive her around during a day. The doctor encouraged my daughter that we’d help her find ways to sleep better, but in the meantime, she needs to let mom and dad sleep. We made a list of all the things she could quietly do in her room if she wakes up in the middle of the night. We made a list of the circumstances that would warrant waking parents.
Prior to that conversation, my daughter was coming into my room at least twice a night, at the age of 7. In the 2 ½ years since that conversation, my daughter has woken me up maybe 10 times, and usually because she was actually sick or scared.
Aside from helping with the overall sleep issues, that doctor gave me a ginormous gift. In the midst of my sleep-deprived hazy thinking, she reminded me that my sleep is just as important as my child’s sleep. She alleviated the mom-guilt which kept telling me that I should be able to “fix” my daughter’s sleep issues, or at the very least bring her comfort day or night. That doctor helped me prioritize my own self-care and helped my daughter understand the importance of mom’s self-care, too.
We’ve recently had the same conversation with my youngest, who repeatedly sought our attention in the middle of the night, simply because he was happily awake. We considered why mom and dad need sleep and we problem solved together. We listed the quiet activities he could do in his room, and we created a “nest” on the floor in our room. He knows he can come down to his nest any night, but that he needs to move into it quietly and only wake my husband or I if necessary.
I can’t say that my kids are sleeping any better. But, my husband and I are. And when we’re more well rested, we’re better parents and more patient during the day.
So, I give you the gift that sleep doctor gave me . . . it’s ok. Give them tools, set the boundaries, and know that it’s ok to sleep through your child’s sleeplessness.
This post is part of the Hoagies' monthly blog hop. Check out other great sleep ideas across the ages!