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Hard Won Truths

by Juliet Thomas

It's really hard to go against everything you've grown up to believe - schools always know what's best for kids, they have their best interests at heart, 7 year olds belong in 1st grade... etc. But with a PGlet (editor's note: fond name for our pg children) child, you've landed at an alternative destination, and the historical assumptions don't work here.

Here's four rules-to-live-by that we've learned the hard way - your mileage may vary, but they might help you, too:

Rule # 1 - Keep quiet. With immediate effect, stop discussing your decisions regarding your son with anyone besides your husband. That includes family, friends, neighbors, clergy, everyone. If you find people who are helpful and supportive (even if they don't always agree), you can selectively add them back in, but do so cautiously. Their reaction to your decisions will rarely be purely based on you and your son, and will much more likely be mired in their own "stuff". People have a huge set of their own biases, their own history and their own motivations. People often seem to feel quite defensive - if you're doing this for your son, maybe they didn't do enough for theirs, etc. Or, maybe they'd hate to admit that cousin Jimmy really IS that much smarter than their kid. Whatever their issues, you have a big enough challenge ahead of you - plowing through other people's "stuff" is extra drag you don't need. When people ask what you're doing - just say you're trying your best to accommodate his "special needs". You can even throw in something about taking his counselor's advice! ;-) Don't give details about the calculus he's doing when he's 8, simply tell them "he's really happy and things are going well - thanks!" Come here to celebrate specific successes - we understand and celebrate well.

Rule # 2 - Trust yourself and your kid. No one knows your son better than you and your husband. There are certainly a few select experts in xg (editor's note: highly, exceptionally or profoundly gifted) kids that can give you advice, there are a few great websites like Hoagies and Uniquely Gifted (www.uniquelygifted.org) to guide you to helpful resources and there are other families who have been through similar things, but no one knows him better than you do. Furthermore, and more importantly, no one cares about him more. When your "mommy radar" is going off - something's wrong - don't let anyone else tell you differently. I truly, truly, truly know how difficult it is to shut out the ever-present noise, telling you to stop worrying, stop "pushing", stop whatever you're doing that makes them uncomfortable. Shut out that noise, but listen to your son. You'll know when you're on the right track by watching and hearing him. Many of us on this list, including me, wish we had listened to our own kids earlier. It is absolutely true that if you don't hear him now, you'll hear him later.

Rule # 3 - You can find a way. Raising an xg kid can be incredibly difficult, but you have what it takes. Sometimes, it seems like the whole world is set up specifically to thwart you. In some ways, it is. It will likely keep you up nights, worrying about everything you've done and will do for him. You'll hit brick walls - you'll think there's no way through. Every solution will be temporary, and sometimes you'll run out of ideas, or money or both. But just remember, there are always options - as long as you're willing to look outside the typical frameworks. You'll probably have to employ a little of Leta Hollingworth's "benign chicanery" along the route. But you will find a way. There are many different solutions - most will be a struggle, and it's impossible to get it 100% right. But, in the end, many things can work, if you respect the underlying assumption of who your son truly is. Never give up.

Rule # 4 - Indeed - let him be a kid - the kid he IS. "Being a kid" doesn't mean you are crammed into someone else's rigid model. It means you are free to learn and grow. It means you're loved, cherished and protected from harm, whether that harm comes from physical dangers or from ignorant, self-interested school administrators, defensive friends or jealous neighbors. It means that your basic needs are met, that your joy is valued, that your individuality is guarded. Your worries are kept small, your responsibilities kept manageable. It means that you have someone who will never give up on you - someone who will guide you, teach you, keep the flame burning in your heart as they lead you towards becoming a healthy, happy adult. Enjoy him as a kid, too. As you let him be a kid, you "be a Mom". Revel in the beauty of the world through his eyes, run through the sprinklers, cuddle him when he's afraid, tuck him into bed and read him a story he loves - even if it's one of Feynman's lectures. People tell you to "just let him be a kid", tell them simply - that's exactly what you're doing, thanks.

As I said, your mileage may vary, but these have been some awfully hard-won truths for us.

Copyright 2002 Juliet Thomas


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