I think it’s safe to say that all parents hit a point where they realize they aren’t the cool, hip, fun parents they visualized themselves to be. Maybe it’s the first time we utter the words “because I said so!” or maybe it’s the first time we tell our kid they can’t have candy for breakfast. It’s difficult to pin point, but somewhere along the way we realize this parenting gig isn’t exactly what we thought it would be.
Can I confess something though? I think I do a pretty damn good job of being a cool mom. I have it on good authority that I am #momgoals (although I think saying that revokes all privileges associated with that?). I plan fun outings. I do just the right amount of Pinterest activities (not so much that I stress myself out or ignore my kid to set them up, but enough that we usually have something fun to do on a rainy day). I sew dream Halloween costumes and custom bed tents. I don’t even make my kid wear pants at home!
But here’s the thing: parenting isn’t how I imagined it was going to be. Yeah, yeah, I was filled with unicorn dreams of writing a novel and solving world peace while on my baby vacation (aka what ignorant people call maternity leave). I got my cruel dose of reality, and then some.
Once I realized my son was a little ahead of the game, okay, quite a bit ahead of the game, I suddenly embarked on a new quest. I had to figure out why the parenting advice wasn’t working. I had to pin point whether or not I needed to be worried. Was it Hyperlexia that made my son able to read at a young age? Was it a sensory problem that kept him from sleeping?
Then came his advanced interests. Instead of using my nights to relax, drink wine and you know, sleep; I used them to drink wine and panic about, I mean, research what the hell he was talking about all day. I’m sorry, I didn’t know who Mandeleev or Glen T Seaborg were. I didn’t know what a transactinide was. Yet my son had this knowledge pouring out of him and wanted- no, needed- to share it with someone else.
So I became his teacher. His student. But I could never bring much to the table other than showing him a new video or activity that I had found the night before. I still can’t when it comes to chemistry.
I entered a new phase of parenting, one that I’m certain every parent has to take on at some point, but maybe not to a chorus of eye rolls. I had to become an advocate for a 3 year old. Imagine a mom emailing you asking if her toddler could join a school aged science program? Or asking for help finding her preschooler a mentor? Yeah, I see your point. It sounds crazy! And I think it’s worth noting that I’m an introvert who would rather freeze to death than ask a stranger to turn up the heat. But for my kid, I don’t mind looking crazy.
This is the role I’ve had to take on. Seeking a mentor, activities, testing, and school accommodations all while knowing the people on the receiving end are rolling their eyes. Relax lady, he’s 3. Let him be a kid! But this is the only way I know how to let my kid be a kid. Science is magic to him. Math is play. He doesn’t want to be confined to doing this stuff with boring mom, he wants to do it with other kids. But there just aren’t that many kids his age that want to talk about Avogadro’s number, and no one will let him into a science program so far.
So I spend my free time reading everything I can about giftedness. I am trying to understand educational policy and learn the lingo so that I can speak to educators on his behalf. I’m trying to understand the emotional side to giftedness, including trying to learn how to help a 4 year old cope with anxiety. Anxiety! I shouldn’t have to have anxiety over my baby having anxiety! I read about different educational methodologies and the Ontario Curriculum is one of my bookmarks. I get asked if I’m a teacher! Being a mom is a full time job, and now I’m adding advocate.
And not only that. I am also his personal assistant. From lining up programs, finding curriculum and learning opportunities that are both age appropriate and challenging, to emailing schools, teachers, program coordinators and his mentor I feel like I should have a separate “Kaleb” phone. When people get a little too awestruck by him and his abilities, I have to usher him away and act like a celebrity’s body guard “Sorry, we have a nap at 3 folks, gotta break it up.” (Ha! Nap. Silly.)
Because sometimes, the way people look at him makes me uncomfortable. Like he’s some prize, or some whiz kid who belongs on national television. I get that it comes from a great, kind, excited place; but my 4 year old’s well-being is of the highest regard for me. It’s not healthy for him to get used to people being in awe of him. Especially once he’s older and his abilities aren’t as in-your-face obvious and that attention fades, he’s going to struggle. So I try to shield him from it but at the same time I’m dying to say “ISN’T HE FREAKING AMAZING?!”
The thing I want to stress to people is that I just want him to be a kid. I am not forcing him to do these wonderful, amazing things. Yet he’s prevented from accessing the types of activities that he needs because of his age. And while I understand some points, yes he’s a bit more sensitive than the older kids for one, and a bit more literal; the most common phrase I get is “he needs to learn to be with all different types of people!” I agree, but why does that only include dealing with all different types of people from the same birth year? It’s not like we get jobs and only work with people who graduated the same year we did- that would be ridiculous!
Yes, okay, kids are developing unlike adults. But numerous studies prove that acceleration and access to ability-appropriate programs are benificial to gifted students and yet everyone except for gifted advocates ignore this advice! So basically, I can fight all I want but if people won’t listen to empirical evidence then what’s a mom to do?
But some days, it’s exhausting. I’m trying to figure out the right words, the right metophors to drill my point home so that people truly understand and don’t look at me with crazy in their minds. So that my kid can get what he needs. But I just want to be a mom! I want to play with my kid. I want to see him in his first Christmas pageant at school. I want to see him find his people! But what I want isn’t what matters right now, it’s what he needs.
And I’m okay with that. On days when I feel bitter and disillusioned, something usually happens to remind me of how grateful I should be. My son does something ridiculously sweet and wise beyond his years, or something completely awful but clever. I read something that reminds me there are others out there just like him. Or if I’m really lucky, and because I apparently thrive on external praise, someone reassures me that I’m doing okay. That I’m still that cool mom that I want to be.
This may not be the parenting journey that I expected to be on, but every day I’m thankful it’s the one I’ve been forced on. Take away my so called problems, and you’d take the things that make my son who he is. He’s pretty perfect just the way he is.