I lost my Parent Manual
Giant giraffes eating grass in the windy fields.
This is what happens when my mind wanders.
Did you ever do this exercise? You just completely refuse to censor yourself and allow whatever gobbledegook that wants to come out, come out. I ain’t no Hemingway, that’s for sure. When my mind wanders I don’t get “Hills Like White Elephants.” I get golf tees and bananas.
So, I wonder what are the signs of an extraordinary mind? How do you tell if you’re truly gifted? Better yet, how do you tell if your kid is?
As a teacher, I have a very clear and thorough answer to that question. I have worked with “Gifted and Talented” students for a large percentage of my educational career. I can spot a truly academically gifted child from a mile away.
But, that’s not really what I am talking about here.
I have known perfectly average kids who have gone on to achieve true greatness in their chosen fields: biomedicine, law, communications, science (actually, I say “science” because I don’t even understand what this one kid does. He works for the government doing something with aerospace engineering. It is way too smart for me to get). I have also known students who were labeled as “Gifted,” but went on to live in their parents’ basements or work in jobs that don’t even require high school diplomas.
So, when you are raising a little one, how do you know how to recognize talents, how do you determine what is the best way to harness those talents and how do you go about encouraging growth without pushing your kid to become a toddler with a tiara or a mini-Tonya-Harding crazed on winning at all costs?
Well, I don’t actually know.
This is not your mamma’s advice column.
I am just like you: someone a little lost, fumbling through life in the most graceful way possible (which often is very clumsy, indeed).
One day, though, I suspect we both would like to look back and believe that we did a really great job of raising some really great kids.
But, when your 4-year old seems to gravitate toward, have a genuine interest in and be weirdly good at golf, video games, reading, baseball, painting, writing, and building things (and he appears to be adept at picking up on foreign languages, exhibits kindness and compassion that is not typical for a child so young, is naturally organized, has a freakishly good long- and short-term memory, and has a spoken vocabulary that puts kids twice his age to shame), what are you supposed to do? Do I try to help him focus and perfect one or a few of those talents? Do I let him decide first where his joy is most commonly found? Do I sit back and let this all play out the way he would like it to? Do I offer enrichment in any of those activities? Which ones? And, do I try to have him work on areas where he doesn’t excel so naturally just to help him become more well-rounded?
Ugh. There is a whole lot to this parenting stuff.
I, again, was not properly prepared. I really do want to know where the Parent Manual is.
I am very interested to hear all of your thoughts. It would be especially nice to hear from more veteran parents regarding how you assess and foster your children’s talents and skills.
Please comment. We could all use the advice, I suspect!
Every parent out there wants to make sure that the job gets done right.
Or, well, you know, right enough.
I think we can all agree that we just don’t want to end up with this: