My husband and I were very ordinary, hard-working people – I was a nurse and my husband worked in IT. When our second son was born I took time off to look after him. As he grew up, I enjoyed every minute of being a mum, doing all the usual things like going to playgroup, playing in the park, visiting zoos and building sandcastles on family holidays. But it was obvious to me and my husband – and to his teachers at infant school – that from a very early age, our son was extremely bright. He was assessed by educational psychologists and we were told that he was a ‘gifted’ child, with special abilities particularly with maths.
We were so proud and encouraged him in every way we could, taking advice from the teachers at his school, who were fantastic and from various experts we met from time to time. He joined a chess club where he regularly beat some of the older kids and adults went on residential trips with other gifted kids – as well as living a pretty normal, hectic family life!
By the time our son was twelve and had started secondary school, it was becoming obvious that our previously happy, clever little boy was beginning to struggle. Not with his school work, although being bright meant that he sometimes felt irritated by his peers who didn’t grasp things as quickly as him or take things as seriously, even though he was in all the top sets and having extra maths and IT lessons.
By the time he reached his teens we really thought he was going off the rails. Perhaps we’d been a bit spoilt by having such an easy time with him up until then, even though he’d been quite demanding of our time and a challenge for us to keep up with intellectually. He’d never been rude or lazy but now he seemed to be turning into a monster who just didn’t care anymore – about his school work, his future, his friends – or us.
We worked out eventually that what we were dealing with was fairly typical teenage behaviour, but because our son was so advanced academically, we’d assumed that he’d be able to deal with growing up in an intellectual, mature way too. How wrong we were!
Gifted kids are no better at dealing with adolescence and all the emotional and physical changes it entails than any other teenager, just because they happen to be a bit brainier! It took us a while and a few chats with some of the specialists we’d met over the years to realise that our son was exactly the same as his mates when it came to his physical and emotional maturity.
We were relieved and glad that he was the same as other kids in this respect. He’d always felt different and slightly apart from his friends all the way through school through being labelled as ‘gifted’.
Our son is 20 now and just about to graduate from university. He came through that sticky time and is a great kid – with lots of mates, a girlfriend and a well-rounded life with interests outside of his exceptional ability with maths.