Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Parents of gifted children are a diverse lot. We come in a rainbow of skin tones and religions, and from a wide variety of lifestyles and socio-economic situations. We find each other through chance encounters, gifted conferences, groups for gifted children, and online communities. It's a great relief to speak to fellow parents who can share our joys and our concerns, without the specter of disbelief or envy. "Did your son's math team win the competition? Great!" or "..You're worried that your daughter has too many college credits to enter as a freshman? I feel for you..." This sort of honest communication and connection is very validating. Many parents of gifted kids are gifted themselves, and there is a certain feeling of kinship with people who can understand us and laugh with us at the ironies inherent in raising a child far from the norm. Being in the top 1-2 percent intellectually has some rewards, but it also has very real challenges. I fully expect to continue my friendships with certain other “gifted parents” long after our children have gone off to live independently. We've been through so much together!
There are some gifted parents who appear as mere lurkers in real life as well as online. They reveal little about themselves or their children, and seem content to listen and observe. Some lurkers are simply extreme introverts, who will open up beautifully if you get them alone. As a borderline introvert/extrovert myself, I can be quiet for long periods, and sometimes will remove myself from casual chatter for a necessary rest.
Then there are the gifted parents who make a bad name for all of us. The braggart who needs to highlight every little achievement of her child, in nauseating detail. Braggarts don't simply convey information, they share in a manner calculated to achieve a specific reaction. The funny thing is, those parents with the most to brag about are usually the last to say anything! Parents who brag are generally insecure attention seekers. These gifted parents rarely offer information to support and help others. But they are often quick to communicate when they need assistance, whether it's selecting a preschool, locating a math tutor, or getting advice on college applications. They take, but they don't give. Don't get involved in the sport of competitive parenting with a person like this. It's a no-win situation, and would make you look just as ridiculous.
What kind of parent are you? Do you cheer for the other parent's child who won the spelling bee, or gnash your teeth in frustration because it wasn't your child? Do you offer suggestions and support to parents with younger children who are just starting to discover the ups and downs of giftedness? Do you celebrate every child who works hard and makes good progress? If you do some soul searching and realize that you could improve your relationship with other parents, take heart. It's never to late to be the kind of person you wish to be!