Perspective is Everything

I post a lot of information on Facebook about multiple intelligences and gifted children.  Those words–gifted or multiple intelligences–can really be misconstrued as bragging words; however, they aren’t meant to be.

I don’t add people often on Facebook unless it is a connection made through school, running, or an effort to stay in touch with the girls’ friends. Most people on my friends list are people I have known for a long time. They have watched us on our journey from when we knew nothing about what we were facing to finding answers to just now feeling like we have things under control.

For a long time we would take a step forward then two steps back. It was hard. Really hard. I was an emotional wreck. It put a strain on our family. It put pressure on our marriage, so much so that my husband and I had started to discuss the option of divorce. It was a mess.  Everyone knew it.  I was ashamed of what we were facing.  People never think, “oh you have a gifted kid…thats a struggle,” because they think of gifted and talented programs at school.  They think about enrichment opportunities that have been given that term.  However, having a child diagnosed as intellectually gifted is an entirely different ballgame.

You know those people working in gas stations who you start talking to and realize that they are one of the brightest people you have ever met?  Those are probably intellectually gifted people.  They just didn’t realize it.  Their gifts weren’t brought to fruition.  And in our politically correct world of not offending anyone, someone will think, “there is nothing wrong with working at a gas station.”  But guess what?  It sucks.  Because people are born with a lot of potential.  Some have these unique traits that make them more perceptive.  It makes their brains work differently, almost in hyperdrive.  At the same time, their senses work much the same.  Those same people are at high risk for developing depression and anxiety.  They tend to shut down and stop trying when they aren’t challenged.  They are more prone to risky behaviors and loss of self-control.  So, it’s no picnic.  As a parent, it’s work.  You have to understand more than getting awards and giving pats on the back.  You have to understand how they work, how they think, and teach them how to manage themselves so that they can take their gifts and make them work for them instead of sending them on a downward spiral.  Really, those are the only two options because there is no in between for children diagnosed as intellectually gifted.  It has to be carefully navigated.

Instead of letting our struggles of the unknown consume us, we decided to do something else instead.  We picked up books, we tackled as much information as we could on the internet, and we learned.  As a result, we grew.  We gained understanding.  Instead of focusing on doctors, a diagnosis, and the problem, we took a different route.  We chose to begin focusing on the negatives in a positive light.  We began to take the strengths of a diagnosis and use those as ammunition against the weaknesses.  We learned how to look at our child and help her grow as she was instead of forcing her into a mold she would never fit.  We certainly didn’t want to use medications to do so, but hey, it was an option.  It would have been easy.  It probably would have worked, but we had by that point read too much information that helped us understand the negatives of doing so would far outweigh the positives.  Instead we took the natural approach of facing these problems head on instead of numbing them.  At the same time we taught our daughter about her diagnosis, about how she was also on the Autism spectrum (by a point), and how great it was that we had this opportunity to either let this take us down, or use it as vital information to help us understand how to make the world look a little less scary.  We chose the later.

So, we moved schools a bit.  We homeschooled in the middle.  We did a lot of crazy, off-the-wall stuff that no one understood.  Jackson and I decided to cut our relationships down to a bare minimum.  It was just us.  I didn’t talk much to friends.  I began running more to get out and relieve the stress.  We even stepped away from family for a while.  It really took all we had just to focus on our family and what we needed to do for our daughter.  We regained focus on God and our faith–using prayers of peace to help us overcome the obstacles.

Now, about a year or so later, we are in a much different place.  Not only have we grown closer as a family, and not only have my husband and I reconnected and grown through the difficulties, we are more passionate about the way we view education, labels, and children than just about anything else.  Along with our daughter’s diagnosis came the opportunity to learn and grow as parents, and we did that.  We continue to do that.  It is our defense against a world that can easily look at “different” as bad, a world that can shun anything that doesn’t fit the norm.

This was a lot of information to put into a Facebook post, but I needed to get it out there.  I’m a writer.  This is how I communicate best and I feel that there are a few, if not more, people who need to know that story.  That yes, we have our struggles.  Sometimes they are hard, but those hard times are getting fewer and farther between because we are making progress each day.  There are still bad days.  There are times when I just want to curl into a ball and withdraw from the world.  Because really, sometimes it would be nice to not worry about anything at all.  But that isn’t reality.  We have something that we have to face, and for that I am grateful because it gave us the opportunity to take a setback and turn it into something to propel us forward.  And besides, not a day goes by that I don’t think how blessed we are that what we face is “intellectual giftedness”, even if it is a term very few understand.  At least it isn’t cancer, or something else.  This we can handle.  It may mean that we have to sort of custom tailor parenting and education.  It may mean that we are ostracized at times by others who don’t really get it.  But that’s okay.  I would rather be an advocate than a victim.  I would rather come out with the progress we have made than whine about the struggles.  I’m over that.  We have come too far.  There is no turning back.

I perhaps don’t share the bad as much.  I do from time to time, but honestly, I have learned not to focus on the bad much at all, so maybe that is why it comes across that way.  It doesn’t mean we don’t slip and fall; it just means that we have learned how to quickly get back up and keep going.  We have learned to smile.  We have learned to embrace.  We have learned that this is our only option; otherwise, the struggles would consume us.

And guess what?  We will be facing something similar (though only a bite-sized version) this coming summer.  In an effort to figure out why our middle child has been having certain learning struggles, to figure out why she gets bad headaches when reading and doing math, we are going to go ahead and have her tested for dyslexia.  We want to be certain there isn’t another way we need to be approaching things.  That’s a whole new ballgame.  But guess what?  Guess what?  THIS time with this child, it is different.  Know why?  We have been through this sort of thing.  We know to pick up a book, a medical journal, a podcast, and learn…learn…learn.  We have grown to appreciate the different ways in which people are intelligent. This doesn’t mean that I think some children are better than others, or more capable than others.  This just means that I understand that all children are made wonderfully different, and discovering those ways helps us to really know them well and help them the best way we possibly can.

Look, not all kids fit into a box.  If they do, GREAT!  That is awesome.   But there are some who don’t.  And for us, we happen to have two, perhaps three children who are just so.  And we don’t look at them with shame.  We don’t crumble over their struggles.  We let those struggles become steps to better understanding, authentic love, and never-ending support.

We look at things like education differently.  Many people, especially educators, probably think we are nuts.  That’s fine.  Guess what?  We embrace it.  We aren’t educating the world in scholastic achievement, we are educating our children.  Both of our girls want to homeschool next year.  Guess what?  We’re going to let them because we have done the research and we know that it is okay.  My husband and I are going to embrace it together.  We  know what we need to do from now until the end of their high school years.  We’re pretty excited.  The girls are looking forward to it.  We let our children be fully who they were meant to be because we know that it is their only option for survival in a world that will seek to put them into a mold they will have to fight against their whole life.  We want more for them than that and we know how to deliver the information to them in the best way possible because they are ours.  We understand them.  We have done our research.

I don’t post a lot of photos of my kids grabbing awards.  Perhaps here and there, like when my daughter got the game ball for catching a line drive.  Did you know there was a time when we didn’t even think she could play organized sports?  Not too long ago she was a little girl who hunkered down in a ball in the middle of the basketball court because the busyness and the noise frightened her and made her anxious.  She was predisposed to depression and showing signs as early as age 7.  It was hard.  Really, REALLY hard to watch that.  We could have given up.  We didn’t.  We learned and we grew.  And now, she can play third base and catch a ball.  I’m so proud of her.  I’m proud of us.  We have overcome a lot of things in the past few years.

So, when and if I post anything on Facebook about gifted children and multiple intelligences, know that it comes with a story that is deeper than “my kid can do this”, because guess what?  There is a lot more to it than that.  People love sad stories and pitfalls because it makes them feel better.  My intention on posting progress and information isn’t to one up anyone.  I don’t operate that way.  I don’t really care.  This is just what it is and if you followed me about two years ago, my posts would have made a lot of people feel great that they weren’t going through some of the same struggles we were.  Our kid didn’t get on the bus at age 5 and have a great start.  It was awful.  Try dealing with a 2nd or 3rd grader that you have to physically remove from the car while other parents watch.  While they are crying and fussing.  While their stomaches hurt and they protest so badly.  It’s hard.  That wasn’t easy.  We shared that to perhaps find answers and connections with others.  The ones who had been through it helped us in numerous ways.  They recommended doctors and books.  They prayed with us.  We made it.  And now they rejoice in our progress that we love to share.  Now we are helping others starting on this same journey.  I share, I advocate.  I let them know that it will get better.  That they will overcome the obstacles and their kid will soar.

I purposely do not post photos of my children’s report cards and award ceremonies.  I don’t mention when my child makes the honor roll or when they have perfect attendance (they usually don’t).  Those are marks of success.  I am so happy for my friends who share when their children do receive these things.  I love it!  I actually cried watching some of the graduation ceremonies and award ceremonies for outstanding achievement.  Those things mean a lot, but to us, we have learned to focus on other things.  Things that aren’t readily accessible with a piece of paper.  Our awards come in a different form.  It’s in learning how to embrace difference and make it work for us.  I don’t think that makes us better than anyone else.  It just makes us human.  So instead of seeing pictures of awards and report cards, our happiness for our children’s success comes in an original piece of artwork after a week of crying over reading struggles.  And it comes in the form of a photo of a game ball that marks the kind of progress we never thought we would see.

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The God Project

I have always claimed to be a Christian, although at times I have questioned my beliefs. I think this is normal. I wouldn’t be human otherwise. Life is complicated. There are times when I feel put together; there are times when I feel broken apart; and there are times when I feel as though I will never find my way back to wholeness.  Although my life isn’t perfect, it is blessed beyond measure. I have a wonderful husband, three beautiful little girls, and a crazy-awesome dog who is both lovingly loyal and terribly behaved all at the same time. They are my love and my life. I wouldn’t exchange them for anything else in the entire world.

It is natural that at times I would wonder about the “what ifs” of this and that.  What if I had chosen something different? What if I woke every day to a career outside of the home? What if I chose a life that wasn’t completely in servitude to my family? These things I do not know the answer to.  If I give it too much thought the what-ifs begin to bring darkness to the what-is and the joy there begins to wilt; my family begins to suffer and my heart begins to ache.

Eventually, I fall to my knees. I remember that there is but one way to force out the darkness, to begin the restoration of my soul. It is with God. It is Him I lost sight of. To Him I have forgotten to pray. I go back…YES! There it is! I remember exactly where I dropped Him off. It was in that area of doubt and complete self-reliance. It was back at the fork in the road where I could have chosen to slow down and wait patiently for His light to quietly guide my way, but instead I went in the opposite direction. His path was still, but the other one looked more lively; the noise there sparked my curiosity.  So, I followed it.

The noisy path, although slightly obtrusive, was alluring.  It would say, “you’re wasting your time over there on God’s path.  This is the easier, more carefree way.  This is happiness.”  I kept listening, and yes, the noise does seem rather discerning.  After all, I am following a path of servitude to others that sometimes leaves me emotionally and physically drained. It is a path that means I have perhaps given up on myself?  So, I keep questioning myself.  I keep moving toward the noise. I keep listening to the things it is saying.  “Do you really need your husband? Do you really need to devote yourself to family? Maybe you shouldn’t worry much about your children’s education. Perhaps you should leave childrearing to others and wipe your hands clean. Many others do it that way and they seem perfectly content. You can devote all of your time to self-improvement. Yes, that is what you need!  And others were right. You couldn’t do this all along.  They think the quiet path of God is unintelligent and weak, and maybe it is.  Why listen to God when the noise is full of clear directions?  The noise speaks of self-improvement found in facts and figures instead of spirit and faith.  Aren’t facts and figures more reliable?”

The noise–the busyness–is but an empty shell of personal fulfillment in the form of material things.  It has the ability to shift us from a path of meaningful purpose in life. The noise is full of self-doubt disguised as self-assurance. The noise makes your children frown because you have to speak louder above all of the other distractions. It makes your spouse doubt himself because you doubt him. It makes you not see servitude for what it is, serving others the kind of joy that overflows from the cup of life you gift to those you love the most.

Thankfully, as always, I come to my senses.  I drop to my knees. I remember to pray. The noise slowly slips away to a quiet trickle, eventually stoping all together. And there I see God. He is quiet and peaceful.  He had been waiting for me all along to return to Him. He reminds me to move slowly, to listen to Him patiently. He reminds me to be gentle and kind. He reminds me to focus on the needs of others.  He reminds me to love.  He refuels my soul.  He helps me find my way.

For it is within God that I understand what it is I am purposed to do.  With that purpose I find and give joy.  With that purpose that my children come fully alive. With that purpose my husband feels loved. With that purpose that I know I am good enough and strong enough to live outside of the noise on a more quiet and thoughtful path with God.

I have always been a Christian, but it has always been on my terms with God. I am curious about His terms, maybe flexing on my own. I’m starting to think God is all or nothing. He doesn’t seem to fancy me custom fitting His plans to the  ideals and fears I constantly pull from the noisy world around me.  I know to truly and fully follow God, I need to desert those ideals and fears; they are diseases prone to relapse.

I am putting myself on a 30 day challenge of complete surrender to God.  I am curious what will happen.  Of course, I can still hear the noise on the other path.  It’s a blast over there where things move so quickly that I don’t have much time for reflection.  On this path I will have to face and defeat things like fear and self-doubt.  I will have to come to terms with what God has purposed me to do.  Part of me wants to turn and run away, but the rest of me wants to do something a little different this time and perhaps hang out long enough to really give God a chance.  Is God almighty enough to make a remarkable difference in growing my faith?  I have heard many say that He is, but I have yet to see it for myself.  So, I am giving myself completely to God for the next 30 days.  It won’t be easy, but it’s only 30 days.  What could possibly happen?

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