The curse of giftedness

I have an IQ of 149. Yet, I grew up thinking I am dumb..
What came normal to most people, I could never master..simple things like mapping..I still don’t know where Kottayam is on a map of Kerala, but I can  tell you the complete history of Kerala without looking at any book.
I wrote the entrance exam for admission in to English medium school in grade 5..I scored the lowest mark. Yet, I have read more books in English than most and am multilingual

I love calculus and algorithms..but I hate working out “which train reaches the station at what time”

I didn’t understand what was wrong with me..but the label..”dumb” was stuck on me till I wrote SSLC..My mother prayed that I would pass the exam..She had even talked to the owner of Paikadas college..for me to enrol to rewrite the SSLC because she was worried that I won’t pass the exam.. I scored 529/600.

The way the school system works is..everyone is expected to follow the set path..if you struggled in one part of the path, you were labelled dumb..and the teachers refused to see the strengths in other aspects..
The one thing I remember clearly from my childhood is..I never listened to the teacher..not one word.. It was boring. The monotonous voice of the teacher was irritating. and.annoying and it felt like a drill was constantly going on in my head, .I practiced “tuning out” and I was always in my own world where I created imaginary patterns..or worked out complicated equations..( this habit also helped in branding me dumb, cause every time the teacher asked me a question, I had no idea what she was talking about for I was in some other world!!)

The problem was no one, not my mother, not my teachers and certainly not my classmates understood what I was going through.. I needed help to cope..yet all everyone tried to do was to make me follow the path..No one asked me if that is what I wanted..but I was expected to follow.. I wrote a million impositions..I was humiliated over and over for not paying attention.
My malayalam teacher took great pleasure in tormenting me in front of my classmates because I couldn’t pronounce the alphabet zha..I still say payam..for Pazham..I was the only student..that too in Malayalam medium who couldn’t pronounce such a simple word correctly.. My teacher couldn’t accept the fact that I couldn’t pronounce it right.. She used to make me stand in front of everyone and make me say payam over and over..and the joy my classmates see me suffering..

I felt I was misunderstood. I was bored, being held back, and was plagued by self-doubt and was struggling with loneliness because no one wanted to be my friend.

I was identified gifted in the second year of medicine.. I understood I wasn’t like everyone else.. It was such a relief..I felt liberated.. There was an explanation for my failures and achievements..

One thing I wanted to do even before I had my children was “to be there for them” because no one was there for me.

Yaya started speaking at the age of 7 months, she spoke in sentences when she was one. She didn’t go to school till she was 6. She went to Kindergarten at the age of 6 for few months and went to grade 1. When she started grade 1, she couldn’t read..and few weeks after joining grade 1, she came back from school, took a book to the washroom ( Chinese fairy tales) and sat there and read the whole book. Yaya didn’t follow any of the normal developmental milestones.
She is 13, speaks fluent Japanese, French and Spanish apart from English. She like me hates normal maths and like me said “who the hell cares which train arrives what time”. She wants to learn Latin next year and has already enrolled for the Latin language extension when she goes to Spain next term. She will not be studying Physics and Biology in grade 11..she hates them both and has made up her mind… ( and  both are my favourite subjects)

I have never taught my children to read or write.
All I did was to read to them..
I am not an artsy mother..I bought them colour pencils and crayons..and Yaya drew every where..even the fridge was not spared..My mother felt I should punish my children for writing and drawing on the walls..I felt she was upset because when someone visits me, they see the dirty walls and think of me poorly !! I have never been the one who cared for what other people think of me. and didn’t think that my children should be restrained from drawing on the walls in my own home because it upset other people..My mother then told me that my children will damage other people’s walls because no one taught them that it is not right to draw on the walls and dirty them.
I painted the walls with washable paint..explained to my children that, the walls in our home is painted with special paint and we can clean it..but it wasn’t so in other people’s house and I would like them to draw only on our walls. They have never drawn on anyone else’s walls.

I was not trying to raise them without discipline by allowing them to draw on the wall.. I was giving them a safe place to push the boundary..I rather they push the boundary in my own home..

My mother used to hide chocolates/cakes etc gifted to us by our cousins when we were little..and I had to steal them..I used to go  through so much of ‘push and pull’ emotional battles each time I stole the chocolates..One hand is the knowledge that it was wrong to steal..but then  I think, it was given to us by who ever visited us and amma chose to hide it..
There is chocolate in my fridge..all the time..I don’t hide food from my children. They don’t have to steal in my home.

I wanted to raise my children well, but not break their spirits. Most of the gifted children don’t do well in their later life..”failed gifted” is the term they now use..I know why.. after years of butting my head at all the injustice dished out to me.. I dream of living in a small hut some where far away..away from everyone..with my books and spend the rest of my life in total isolation!! I was beaten and broken because I was gifted..I will not let my children go through that.

I am not a pushy mother..My children are not an extension of my ego..But I will support my children, hell comes in my way..

if my son is given a choice, he prefers to stay home and read. he finds school extremely boring and told me more times than I can count that he doesn’t want to go to school. He wants to be in Princeton today if there is any chance that they would let him join. He found the MIT open course and registered for it because he just wants to learn more..
I want my son to have some sort of normal way I can achieve that is by sending him to school. He is not a disruptive child..He does his work..( he has completed the home work for the whole term in the first week of the term) He reads story books during maths and english lessons..both he finds boring..He listens to the science lessons because he likes doing experiments..
His gifted tag helps him in a lot of ways..before he was paired with the weakest student in his class for any projects..because the teacher felt, he would be helping the weakest one saw how much my son hated that..he is competitive and intense..and when he is paired with the “weakest” child, he ends up doing both of their work, because he will not submit a work that is not 100 % good in his eyes. His teachers are more aware of his needs..

I find giftedness is a curse..and if you think your child is gifted, the least you can do is to get them you can help them..Knowing you are gifted doesn’t make your child arrogant or give them an helps them to understand why they do things the way they liberates them hope..and helps them cope!

I was thinking about writing something that always bothered me..and I think I will write anyway..

One thing that always bothered me are the parents who wanted to create this “super” child..They enroll their children to early education programs..nah, actually the journey starts in utero.Eating certain food, listening to certain music..even putting a headphone across the belly to help the unborn child to listen to music..all for creating a ‘super’ kid…they put undue pressure on their children to produce ‘superior results” There is this constant need to herd children towards the ultimate goal..medicine whatever that makes the parents proud ..

Yaya is gifted in language and arts.. she will never become a doctor or engineer..(Right now she makes pocket money by painting grafitti on skateboards for boys in her school !!)
My son..has no linguistic abilities..he has been studying Japanese for two years and still doesn’t know a word of Japanese..He wants to be a mathematician..
My baby is not gifted..She loves animals..she spends most of her time reading about belugas and whales.. she wants to be a beluga trainer.
My children are not alike, what worked for Yaya doesn’t work for my son and baby.

The youngest child I had the misfortune to write a death certificate was 9. He killed himself because he felt he would rather die than suffer the beatings his parents surely were going to give when they see his report..he only got second rank and not the first rank his parents wanted/expected him to get.
Your children are unique..they are blessed with talents..not always in academic field..We need engineers and artists..mathematicians and beluga trainers..

Wouldn’t it be nice, if children are given a chance to grow..rather than be cut and pruned to be what the parents want them to be?

9 thoughts on “The curse of giftedness

  1. Your kid(s) will not end up as “failed gifted”. They will all turn out fine. Being gifted is not a curse, it is a wonderful thing. You just need to make sure that the system does not try to dumb them down,which in turn will build up frustration. Seems like you are taking care of it on that end too.
    Best to let them choose their interest and be happy walking on that path. What could be better than getting paid for doing what you love!
    So just relax and enjoy this time..the perfect present!!

    Mine wants to be a vet, a singer and a magician..she is 12! 🙂 I do not go about quashing her dreams, though it sounds a bit juvenile to me..She wants to volunteer at the Humane Society or the ASPCA or a local animal shelter this summer!

  2. Wondering how kids who are brought up in the same house with the same parents/environment/genes turn out to be so different from each other!

    The best we parents can do is let the children find out who they want to be and guide them to get where they want to go.

  3. Geeth: often when I can't sleep at night and when I can see the light in my son's room.. I wish..we were normal..

    Ms: time will tell ma..

    Pacharakutti: kandillallo kurey naal..
    My dad is exceptionally are my sisters.. I am (seriously) the dumbest of all my sisters.My sister younger to me is the smartest, followed by Chechy and then the last..

    Tinkerbells: WISC ( wechsler Intelligence scale)

    Nilu: True..Yaya begs my son not to let the Japanese teacher know that he is her is that embarassing for have a brother who doesn't know a word of Japanese even after two years, when she won the most outstanding student award for Japanese after 1 year and 3 months of study..BTW..miss your blog

    Anitha: I too miss..

  4. Sarah, this post is really an eye-opener for me. My sever year old son is famous for tuning out in class, and I struggle to get him to focus. But, I do know that he has certain very key strengths. Thanks for helping reinforce this!

  5. minu: Some voices are soothing..some are annoying, like Pranoy Roy..teachers often use a similar tone like pranoy when they teach and I hated it..and I tuned out so I didn't have to endure the torture.
    Ask your son what does he do when the teacher is talking..

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