Expectations and Reality of Gifted Parenting

Until you are a parent, it's impossible to know exactly what it means to be a parent. That doesn't mean you are unfamiliar with the concept of parenting. After all, we all had at least one parent, even if it was not a biological parent. Someone raised us. And we had friends who had parents. We read books about kids, and those kids had parents. We watched movies and television shows about kids and their families, families that included parents.

You know what parents are supposed to do and if you did any babysitting, then you know what taking care of children means: keeping them safe, feeding them, comforting them when they get hurt or are sad, keeping them clean, getting them to bed, helping them with homework. But even babysitting, whether for siblings or the children of neighbors and other family members, does not prepare us completely for being a parent.

Parenting Expectations and Reality

Our expectations of being a parent are based on our own family experiences and what we've seen in our friends' families, in movies, television, and books. It's really not until we become a parent ourselves that we realize just how difficult a job parenting is. You are a parent 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 on leap year -- no breaks for parents!)  And you are the one responsible for your child every one of those days -- and beyond. You are also responsible for your child's development, his happiness, his future. For everything.

I was one of those who had done some babysitting, so I was pretty sure I knew what being a parent meant. I saw movies, watched television shows, read books, and since I was older when my child was born, quite a few friends of my friends had already raised their kids to the teen years, so I had seen what they did and helped them out at times, too. I was sure I knew exactly what I needed to do. But knowing and doing are two different things. For example, I knew that at some point I'd have to stay up all night with a sick child, but knowing it never made me worried or tired.

I don't mean to say that parenting is a disappointment. Parenting can be even better than we imagined. I simple mean that what we expect is not always what we experience.

Gifted Parenting

When I imagined being a parent, I imagined so many things: reading to my young child as he sat on my lap, helping him learn to read, helping him with his homework, talking to his teachers about his behavior in school....

None of what I imagined is what I experienced - at least not the way I imagined it. My child did not enjoy being read to when he was a toddler. If I put him on my lap to read to him, he'd squirm and fuss until I let him get off my lap.  It was not until he had "broken the code" that he allowed me to read to him and then I had to read one word at a time as he pointed to it in the book. And that was the extent of my helping him learn to read. By the time he started school at five, he was a fluent reader. I didn't have to help him with homework either. The only thing he struggled with was just getting it done. He never had trouble understanding it. I did have to talk to his teachers. Many times. And it usually was about his behavior -- technically speaking. The behavior "problems" involved his not turning in homework and not "socializing" with the other kids. I never expected to have to ask a teacher for more challenging work for my child or to have to explain that my son socialized just fine - with older kids.

Being Prepared to Parent a Gifted Child

Those are just some of the realities I discovered about being the parent of a gifted child. Nothing had prepared me for those experiences and I often felt very lost and quite alone. I'm sure most parents of gifted children have found the reality of gifted parenting to be quite different from what they had imagined about being a parent. No one is fully prepared to be a parent, but at least most parents have some ideas of what to expect. While parenting a gifted child is similar to parenting other children in most ways -- they are human, after all -- there are also many things I wish I would have known about gifted children before I became the parent of one. For one, I wish someone had told me how they have a need to be challenged. I also wish someone had told me about their sensitivities.

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