By Lisa Hartwig
Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.
Every time I write about my kids, I’m afraid you’ll think I’m a whiner* or a braggart* or smug*. And it isn’t just when I write. I feel the same way when I’m talking with people I know. So I try not to write or talk about their accomplishments. Of course, my fear comes from my own insecurities (my husband tells me I care too much about what people think). But it also comes from the experience of seeing other parents of gifted kids get ridiculed for talking about their children. A neighbor’s child was called “the experiment” because his mother got him extra time in the kindergarten classroom. Blog posts like “Shut Up About What a Burden Your Gifted Child Is” and “I Hate Hearing About your Gifted Child” berate parents for complaining about their first-world problems. Most of the time, I try to ignore these comments, put my head down and quietly work on my children’s behalf. My behavior, for the most part, gets my children what they need. The problem is that it robs me of what I need.
I need to feel connected.
I didn’t expect to find a connection when I ran into a 19-year-old boutique clerk with fuchsia hair. I immediately liked this girl after she recognized me 15 years after attending nursery school with my son. While exchanging updates, I told her about his new major: Storytelling. She got very excited and told me about a storyteller/researcher she admired. On the back of my receipt, in big loopy letters, she wrote, “Ted Talk: Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability.” I went home and watched the Ted Talk three times.
According to Brené Brown, connection is what gives meaning to our lives. To be connected, we must be vulnerable. The problem is that vulnerability is also at the core of shame– the belief that there is something about us that makes us unworthy of connection. So, people try to numb vulnerability through drugs, alcohol and food. Less obvious are those who seek to numb this feeling by making what is uncertain, certain; or pretending that what they do doesn’t have an effect on other people. These are the people who are convinced that parents are creating Frankenstein creatures when they get extra time in the classroom for their children. These are the bloggers who are so annoyed by the problems of others that they tell a segment of the population to “shut up.” The beauty of the last two reactions is that they feed right into my insecurities and silence me. I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t always know what to say. My children make me feel vulnerable. Maybe I should just be quiet.
My son is teaching me how to embrace vulnerability. During his ninth grade Identity and Ethnic Studies class, he made a video explaining the feelings he has about his sexual orientation. I was concerned when he posted the video on YouTube, so I checked the entry daily for unkind or cruel comments. Two thousand eight hundred views and two years later, he doesn’t have a single negative comment on his video. He allowed himself to be seen, and people responded with admiration. Fourteen years old and he was already braver than I was at 49.
So this Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks to those people who embrace vulnerability. Thank you to the mothers who share stories of their gifted children’s personal struggles with an audience of people who may not understand or appreciate their pain. Thank you to the parents who face a potential backlash when they confront teachers and administrators to say their gifted child needs more than the school is offering. Thank you to the children who expose the personal details of their lives on the chance that some other child might benefit from their story. Thank you to the whiners, the braggarts and the smug because you make me feel connected.
*borrowed from the comment section of a blog about parents of gifted children.
Where do you find community as the parent of a gifted child? Please share in the comment section below.