The Cost of Anti-Intellectualism: Being Doubted

Our 4-year-old, Chimp, the one that can’t stop moving, bounces and crashes into everything, has to be reminded 500 times a day to find his listening ears and calm his body, is one of the most sensitive, empathetic, little souls I’ve had the pleasure to meet. 

At just over 2 years old he informed me that he no longer wanted to watch the Lion King because it is too sad when Simba’s dad dies.  “Why would his brother be so mean, mama?”

We were reading “Apple Pie ABC” and Chimp couldn’t get over the fact that the girl didn’t share the pie with the dog and that the dog didn’t share the pie with the girl.  “That’s so mean and sad.  They should be better sharers.”  A month later he’s still bringing up the poor etiquette of the fictional, greedy apple pie eaters.

At 2, he asked me to stop singing one of our usual bedtime songs.  One of the lines says, “Though I know, sometime you’ll go, to find your way alone, ever more I will love you, you are ever my own.”  He explained that it made him sad to think about when he was big and would move away from me.

So, it really wasn’t all that shocking to me when, for Mother’s Day, he gave me 2 stuffed animals:  a bear and a chimp, with the explanation that he wanted me to have something to cuddle at night and when he gets big and moves away, I get to keep the chimp and he’ll keep the bear and then we’ll always have something with us to remember each other.  I know, right?  Tears.

As I’ve shared this story, the people who know Chimp and understand him, are touched.  The people who only sorta know Chimp and do not understand giftedness, assume ulterior motives.  Chimp told the story at the pediatrician’s office, to which his doctor said, “Sounds like he just likes the bear and wants it.”  Chimp heard this comment, and his face fell a little bit.  Yes, he’s 4.  Yes, I’ve been the receiver of many “gifts” that are really more for the child than for me.  But, not from Chimp.  He’s been socially aware and empathetic from a very early age.

Which brings me to the whole point of these tales.  The motivation and character of our gifted kids is often doubted and questioned.  The motivation and character of us as parents of gifted kids is often doubted and questioned. 

Yes, most 2-year-olds aren’t considering life after adulthood.  Mine was.  Yes, most 5-year-olds aren’t fascinated by all things medical to the point that they watch actual surgeries on youtube as entertainment.  Mine was.  Yes, most 3-year-olds aren’t reading independently, some of yours were and are.  Spontaneously. 

We, as parents were not pushing them into these things, but how many times are gifted children doubted and assumed that parents are just pushy, achievement-focused, insecure, living-through-their-children elitists?

I worked with an adolescent who could do calculus in his head.  His teachers repeatedly accused him of cheating because he didn’t show his work.  I’ve worked with children who were so concerned about saving for retirement that they couldn’t sleep at night.  The adults in their lives assumed that they’d just seen this on tv and the worry wasn’t genuine.

Gifted kids and parents of gifted kids are frequently doubted.  This frequently triggers self-doubt and insecurity and isolation.

And why are gifted kids and parents doubted?  Because anti-intellectualism keeps us from talking about the multiple factors of giftedness.  It keeps people from sharing amazing stories of their amazing kids for fear of ridicule.  It creates a culture which presumes someone is bragging when they are simply sharing their reality.  And it keeps us from openly discussing and learning more about the intensities and how those impact lives throughout the world.

Were professionals taught about typical traits of giftedness, they would be able to understand and treat their patients more effectively.  They would take their clients’ word for it and trust their experiences rather than looking for the ulterior motives.  They would build on strengths instead of searching for pathology.  And they would understand that while it isn’t typical, it is possible, that a 4-year-old could give his mama 2 stuffed animals with the intent that they’d be filled with loving memories, and then be carried with both of them as reminders that no matter where he goes, he’ll ever be mine and I’ll ever be his.

This post is part of an anti-intellectualism series on The Fringy Bit.  Check out the other articles in the series here.