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The Unexpected Gift

Raising a gifted child is a unique opportunity. Tackle it the way you've worked through 2020's challenges.

The Unexpected Gift

We left our offices in early March with the thought we might be out two weeks. Eight months later, I’m typing this from my home “office” without a return date in sight. Don’t misunderstand, I’m incredibly grateful to work remotely, an option many people aren’t afforded.

But this was not the 2020 I had planned. It’s not the year any of us had planned.

The same is true when it comes to having gifted children: None of us planned to have an exceptional child who doesn’t fit into any of the “normal” boxes. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them or are not grateful for them. It simply means it wasn’t what we planned. As we’ve learned to adapt to the strange, unprecedented events of 2020, I have realized that a similar approach can be applied to raising a gifted child.

You started out like everyone does. Your child was born healthy and well with 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. You were exhausted but in love with your baby, so happy to be home with them and to start your new life as a parent. Much like 2020, you had a few good weeks.

Then you noticed that your baby was a lot of work. They didn’t seem to sleep much and were even a bit intense. Perhaps they were sensitive to fabrics or were hyper-rigid about their feeding schedule. But you held onto hope this will get better. As weeks became months you didn’t get the break you were hoping for and you realized things maybe weren’t going to get easier as your child grew older.

You found joy in the happy moments of smiles and laughter, and you were in awe of how quickly they mastered things. However, they still didn’t sleep much, were rigid in their schedules, and were as demanding as they had been as newborns. Perhaps you started to notice differences between them and their peers.

Illustration: Two people are video chatting, superimposed over call icons and virus illustrations

As you sought out advice, your journey got even more perplexing, with each expert seemingly offering a different theory on what your child needed. Some made sense for your family and some were laughable to imagine trying to implement. As your child grew, you battled on, weary at times, never giving up on learning how to do what’s best for your little one. By this point you’re finding a rhythm with your days. Although you never knew what to expect from your child, you keep doing your best.

At times you may have wondered if you’re the best parent for them, perhaps even if you’re qualified for the job. Trust me, you are. You are exactly what your child needs.

There are no simple answers for handling 2020 or for raising a gifted child, yet there are some consistent things we can take comfort in. You will survive both — neither child nor pandemic will do you in! You have the skill and the abilities to raise this incredible child you’ve been given, just as you have the skills to survive this wild year. You’re not alone. There are many other parents out there who are in the same place you are, trying to raise a gifted human and cope with the pandemic. If you are feeling alone, however, seek out a community and find some support. Resources are available to you; this is too important to ignore them.

While not a comfort, it is important to realize the toolbox you built is essentially worthless now. Much like the baby books you read were not able to describe your gifted child, most, if not all, the tools you have for self-care are not able to help you during a pandemic. You don’t have the option of going for a massage or gathering with friends, or many other things currently considered high risk.

This doesn’t mean all is lost. It means you need to be aware of this and find new, safe ways to care for yourself. Maybe this looks like nightly bike rides or walks around the neighborhood. Perhaps a Zoom dinner party with friends. Or even implementing a “quiet time” each day where everyone goes to their personal spaces and does something quiet for a set time period. This could be taking a nap, reading, playing with toys — whatever works for your household so you can take a break.

Although remote working wasn’t what I had planned for 2020, I’ve learned I’m a more productive employee and I truly enjoy being able to create my own work environment. I hope you have learned, while this adventure of raising these glorious gifted children is going to last a long time but isn’t easy, it is one of the most incredible journeys you will every have in your life.

Jamie Uphold headshot
Jamie Uphold

Jamie, American Mensa’s Gifted Youth Programs Manager, has been a state-licensed teacher for more than 15 years. She received her Gifted Education certification in 2016. She was recognized as the 2008 Teacher of the Year at Bowie Middle School in Amarillo, Texas, and was a finalist for the 2011 Texas Speech Communication Association’s Teacher of the Year.

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