Here is what I discovered this week: there are A LOT of parents out there who, while accepting their challenges may be different, honestly believe that raising their gifted child is as difficult as raising a disabled child.
A LOT of parents.
Oh, and they don’t like to be told to shut up. I learned that too.
Here is the opening of the post I wrote on BabyCenter called ‘Shut up about what a burden your gifted child is‘:
Last week, the New York Times published ‘How do you raise a prodigy?‘ The article quickly dissolved into another “woe is me” piece about the burden of raising gifted children. The stunning realization that their child is “different”. The impossibility of filling their days with meaningful activities. The age old question: Should my child focus on classical piano or physics?
You know: the hard questions that keep us all awake at night.
These kind of stories appeal to parents who feel their child has talent (every parent, surely), and offend every parent, like me, raising a child of lesser abilities or – even worse – normal ability. It is far more offensive to those families since these articles are always peppered with the deep anxieties of parents whose greatest fear is that their little prodigy will be forced to attend school with normal children. God forbid that an intellectually superior child ever learn patience or tolerance or the social skills to work with us normal folk.
After referencing his ten years of research, Andrew Solomon, the author of the article writes, “Prodigiousness, conversely, looks from a distance like silver, but it comes with banks of clouds; genius can be as bewildering and hazardous as a disability.”
No, Andrew Solomon, genius is not a disability. It is not as hazardous as a disability, nor as bewildering. There is no equal to discovering your child won’t ever see a bird fly, or hear its chirp. There is no equal to wondering how exactly to teach your brain damaged child to feed themselves. Genius will not stop them from walking or speaking or raising their own family… (click through to read the rest)
Here are some of the disturbing comments I received back. If you’ve read the article in full, you will know that many people wrote specific insults in about me, but I’ve left out those because they didn’t disturb me nearly as much as the idea that people actually believe their “gifted” child poses as much of a challenge as our disabled one:
I’m surprised you wouldn’t have more empathy about those on the other end of the spectrum: incredibly smart, maybe, but just as ‘different’, hard to place, hard to know the right course of action for, hard to predict the future, etc. etc.
I don’t think intelligence is a disability, most of the time… the real genuises and not just people who can memorize easily or something, are disabled by intelligence.
I am a parent of a gifted child, and indeed do find aspects of it remarkably difficult, most particularly in that my gifted child is very aware of being different than other kids and struggles with that difference. I have no idea how the challenges we face would compare to the challenges that you face, and whose would be “worse.”
Um… I do know whose would be worse. There is no comparison.
This isn’t some kind of “mommy judgement” where I don’t understand the complexities of a gifted child’s life and the anxieties that come with that. This is the literally back-breaking reality of carrying my daughter up the stairs for the rest of her life. I’ve spent the last month trying to figure out how I can save enough money to support her for the rest of her days because she will never hold down a job. And, my worries extend beyond her schooling, to things like how May will never be able to describe her pain, or tell us who hurt her.
Or, how about that fact that when her nose itches, she struggles to scratch it.
Having said that, I’ll quote one reader, who said it far more succinctly: “I feel quite sure that Stacie would rather May struggled to find a stimulating age-appropriate book than know that her child may never be able to feed herself. Please let’s get a little perspective.”