I recently saw the movie Gifted. Great movie, by the way! I smiled, laughed, cried, got angry, and cried some more. Though the main character wasn’t the exact match of my son, it was still great to see a movie that could raise a little bit of awareness about giftedness and help people understand it a little better. Though I enjoyed the whole movie, there was one line that was spoken by the main character that stood out to me. It has been in the back of my mind for weeks and I’ve wanted to write a blog about it. I’ve started it several times only to delete it all because the words just weren’t coming to me, but now…now I think I’ve got it.
The line that stuck out was when Mary (the main character) was participating in show and tell in school. She was showing the class her cat. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll need to know that her cat only has one eye. She explained to the class that her cat only has one eye, but she didn’t know how it happened and then she said this…
I don’t think that line was supposed to be a big secret, hidden meaning because of the close up of her teacher’s face after she said it, but it definitely hit home in this house. Our son is no stranger to being misunderstood and it’s not an uncommon thing among gifted children.
Asher is only 4 and homeschooled, so the things that he is misunderstood about are a little different than other gifted kids. A lot of misunderstandings happen in the school setting among teachers, peers, administrators, and other parents. Asher’s misunderstandings happen at home, with peers his age, and around town.
A gifted child can sometimes take a person by surprise. Especially when they are young. Our son is tiny in physical size. When people look at him, they see a little toddler. However, wait until he starts talking to you and watch out! I don’t know how many times I’m asked how old he is in a single trip to the grocery store, but it’s a lot. People just can’t understand how a boy that small can make that many words come out of his mouth in that short of a timeframe….and they usually make quite a bit of sense! Asher is also quite proud to tell people that he is in first grade. People find it very hard to believe that a 4-year-old is in first grade so they usually ask me about it, like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
I also get the people that will ask me questions about him when he’s right next to me, like he’s unable to answer questions about himself. I usually will just repeat their question to him for him to answer. “How old are you Asher? Tell them how old you are.”
Recently we were at an event and there was a lady at a booth handing out samples in envelopes and handed me one. Asher immediately grabbed it from my hand and began looking at the words on the front of the envelope to see what it was. The lady looked at him and said, in a very condescending tone, “You can’t read!” Asher just looked up at her with almost a glare. I tried to sound as nice as I could as I gently told her that yes he could read and that he reads at a 3rd grade level. I didn’t stick around to hear her response. I know people don’t mean any harm by comments like these because they actually think that a child of his age would not know how to read, but sometimes it just bothers me. It’s comments like those that make children like Asher ask questions. “Why doesn’t that lady think I can read? Am I not good enough at reading? Am I not supposed to be reading? Why aren’t I like other kids my age? What’s wrong with me?” I know for a fact we have heard Asher tell us that he will only be able to do some things when he reaches a certain age (“I’ll learn to tie my shoes when I’m 5.” “I’ll be able to make my own sandwich for lunch when I’m 7.”) In his mind, he has set limits on when someone is supposed to be able to do things and no earlier and I feel like comments like these are what puts these ideas in his brain…and it’s unfortunate.
One of the biggest things that Asher is misunderstood about is his personality. I’ve heard numerous people tell me, in these exact words, that “he’s just not like other kids.” He’s just different. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. Asher has a hyper maturity about him. If it weren’t for his psychomotor overexcitability I think he would be seen as extremely mature for his age, but he just has so much energy that it’s hard for others to see his maturity. He has never been one to throw a huge tantrum about anything. He isn’t the kind of kid to refuse to eat his dinner because he wanted the orange plate and you gave him the blue one. He enjoys having conversations with adults. His understanding of how life works is unique for his age.
His favorite thing in the world is being able to “work” at various places when he is able. This has recently caused others to misunderstand him as people don’t get why a young child is behind the cash register and they don’t think he should be there. (Yeah, he probably shouldn’t be there, but it’s just what he thrives on. No one is making him do it. He literally cannot wait to get the opportunity. I would describe his happiest moments as the ones where he is helping customers while he is “working”.)
Asher’s other happiest moments are when he is allowed to be a leader in something. Unfortunately this can come across as bossiness to some people who don’t know him and his intentions. He is always pretending something and when he is given the opportunity to lead, he begins to pretend to be the “teacher” or the one in charge and can be known to just completely take over like he’s the boss. To a person who doesn’t understand this, he can be seen as trying to step on toes or take control. Then the mindset becomes, “You are just a little kid. Who do you think you are?” Really, at that moment, he is literally pretending to be the adult.
I really think Asher would rather be an adult. You always hear talk about kids saying they never want to grow up, but I think Asher is the opposite. He cannot wait to grow up. Everything he seems to want to do in life are things that he is not “allowed” to do until he is older. He wants a job, he wants to drive a car, he wants to run a business, he wants to be on the worship team at church, he wants to be in charge, he wants to have grown up conversations, he wants to be allowed to do whatever he wants without having to ask first. When these are the things a 4-year-old wants in life, it’s easy to see how he can be misunderstood. As the parent, it’s heartbreaking and I don’t know how to fix it for him. People would tell me to “let him be a kid,” but sometimes I’m the one begging him to “just be a kid.” However, since he doesn’t want to just do kid things, I am always looking for ways to allow him to be “older” in his little tiny body. After all, the Bible does say “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12).
He may be hard to understand, but it is my job as his parent to build him up to be self-confident and to reach his full potential. It has to be so hard to be a much older person in personality living in a preschooler’s body. I can only imagine the things he could do if he was able to reach his goals sooner than later. He may change the world one day…when he looks to others like he’s old enough.