Wednesday, March 19, 2014
All Children are Gifts; Not All Children are Gifted
Tuesday, I read an article entitled Every Child is Gifted & Talented. Every Single One. The article proposes that every child is gifted, and we should nurture those gifts. While I agree that children may have individual gifts and talents, stating all children are gifted is a mistake, and a harmful one. I waited, thinking and musing over the piece, and then today, Wednesday, I read a response to that article by Madison Kimrey.
Madison is, in fact, gifted. She tests in the "Profoundly Gifted" range, meaning she can think me under the table. I'm pretty sure I could beat her at RISK, but only by distracting her with pie. Madison is twelve years old, a petite political powerhouse, with a disarming grin, hair most of of would sell our souls for, a wicked sense of humor, and a brain that does things most others' brains do not. She also has a support system made up of friends, family members and mentors, all of whom understand how unique Madison is.
In her rebuttal to "Every Child is Gifted," Madison writes about her own struggles with her mind. Anxiety, mood swings, and social skills that are a little wonky are part of her daily life. Madison is home schooled, which, for many truly gifted kids, seems to be the best option. Madison is so bright, I sometimes forget she's still a kid, to be honest. Reading her article reminded me, and it made me adore her all the more.
See, I was gifted as a child. I was reading fluently by age 3, always at least a grade ahead in reading and math, and I was lucky to attend a Catholic school that seemed to draw many other gifted children. I had at least 6 friends who probably qualified as gifted. Did we get fabulous grades? Nope; in fact, almost all of us failed deportment every report card. The teachers would sigh, and say things like "Erin's so bright, but she just won't stop talking during class." I was bored out of my tree in school, so I stopped paying attention.
The 6 friends and I got along pretty well, but we didn't get along with other kids. Sometimes, we would fight among ourselves, and that got really ugly. None of us had the social skills to say "I'm sorry," or "I was wrong," we would just stew and plot, until Chrissy would yank one of us (me) by the hair, and we'd make up. A few weeks would go by, and we would start it all over again. I distinctly remember one of the Jacot twins throwing a rock at my head. This was in grade school, mind you; high school was worse.
Depression, crippling self doubt, never feeling good enough are all part of many kids' experience with being gifted. I had theater and ballet to keep me "sane," but my life was complicated by a mother who was battling (and losing that battle) with mental illness, a father who had no idea what to do, and my own seeds of borderline personality disorder. Yes, I read "The Shining" when I was 13 and understood it, yes, I excelled in English and Religion and Reading Comprehension and Math, yes, my standardized test scores were through the roof. But I didn't have the one thing I needed to really do anything with my giftedness: a support system.
Instead of college, I joined the Army. Instead of furthering my education, I taught myself how to write, how to be a lighting designer. Instead of a 4-year degree, I have a degree from a culinary school. Everything I know, I gleaned on my own.
My son is smart as heck, he's funny, he's empathetic, he's just a joy. But he's not gifted, and in a way, that makes me happy. Please do not misunderstand-I know so many gifted people, and I loudly support them, and cheer their accomplishments. I also know what they went through as children. Not all of them were lucky enough to have Mary Kimrey as their mom, not all of them were loved and cherished and protected the way Madison is. One of the only true geniuses I know (as an adult) is Craig Kanarick. He co-founded Razorfish, and now he runs Mouth, a high-end gourmet food company. I remember him as a kid: he didn't have it easy, either.
Every child is a gift. Every child deserves a safe place where they are loved, where they can thrive and grow. Every child is not gifted. And that might be a good thing.