Light @ the End of the Tunnel: A Gifted Social Life

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.