The pediatrician looked up, startled into giving me his full attention instead of the computer claiming it. “Really?” he asked. “Yes, really” I replied, trying not to sigh. It’s a common question I’m used to hearing for one reason or another about my kids. Yes, he’s starting to read at age 4. Not full chapter books, but sight words and random things on signs.
His reaction was rather silly, honestly. According to the public school schedule, kiddo should be starting to read at his 4.5 years of age. When he’s 5, he “should” be reading short sentences in kindergarten. We’re not pushing him to read, of course, but the pediatrician seemed to think so. We’re going at his pace, and his pace is ready to start sight words and phonics.
I didn’t make them do it
We parents of gifted are used to this reaction. Incredulousness, denial, even anger at times that our kids are doing things before they’re supposed to. We’re not pushing them to do this stuff – they’re dragging us along with them. Most people are either envious, upset at us, or angry that we’re bragging. No one – literally no one – thinks that we have nothing to do with it.
I didn’t set out to teach my 4-year-old to read early. We haven’t even been trying. Kiddo sits in on his big brother’s Nessy lessons because he thinks the videos are hilarious, and he plays Teach Your Monster To Read on his tablet. That’s entirely his own choice: picking a reading game over something more fun. It’s entirely his choice and his pace, and I have nothing to do with it beyond giving him access.
They look like average kids most of the time
To be completely honest, my kids are advanced in less shocking and visible ways than some kids I’ve met. They don’t wow people with their amazing gifts, and are far more likely to irritate people with their endless questions and constant noise. They are “just kids,” and they often look like unruly kids at that. No one on the street is going to understand my eldest’s philosophical musings or his technical prowess. Most people chalk my daughter’s strong imagination up to being a girly thing. The average person sees that my youngest is still in pull-ups, and judges him as less intelligent by his inability to clearly communicate.
They don’t look gifted. Most of the time, the incredulous reactions I get are from people who hear me claim that they’re gifted. After all, they’re homeschooled, so I look like a proud doting mama, making her own judgement because they’re my kids and they’re so special!
Why do we compare so much?
I don’t understand the animosity towards gifted. When did smart become a threat? When did it become an insult? When did we start comparing our kids so much and subjecting them to the intense pressure of competing to be the best?
All I know is that people rarely believe me when I’m being honest about my kids’ abilities. This same pediatrician didn’t believe me when I told him my oldest was starting algebra. He tried to test him with a complex problem, and “proved” me wrong when the Engineer stared at him blankly.
The next time, I brought in a sample of his work. To prove to the pediatrician that kiddo was thriving in homeschooling, because he also expressed the opinion that the Engineer needed to be around other kids his age to handle his social weaknesses. Homeschool prejudice is just as bad as gifted prejudice.
I wish …
I wish my kids could live in a world where we celebrate everyone’s accomplishments without feeling like we have to tear down the tall poppies. To accept that people are different, rather than strive to make them all the same. It’s a tough world, and we parents aren’t making it better by comparing. Each of our kids are unique and special, no matter their abilities or differences.
I teach my kids that. I know a lot of people teach their kids that too. So where are we going wrong?