It used to be that every mother thought her baby was beautiful and that was it. Now, (nearly) every mother seems to think her preschooler is gifted. I’m not kidding. Have a look at this BabyCenter poll on gifted children. A grand total of 74% of respondents believe their child is gifted.
As a former teacher, I can say that maybe 1% or 2% of a school population may be gifted. Not 74%.
Now, the sample in the BabyCenter poll may be highly skewed. Perhaps those who are very proud of their child’s giftedness are ready to proclaim it to the world and those who think their kid is average simply don’t feel like admitting to it. Or … maybe the parents’ expectations are not rooted in reality.
This is not a case of sour grapes here. In whatever way my daughter turns out, that’s how she’s meant to be. I will give her opportunities, lots of love, and heaps of support but I’m not going to push her. I want her to find happiness and become a decent person. That’s it.
I was a gifted child. My intelligence and creativity showed from a very early age (probably to the eternal annoyance of my younger siblings who were then contrasted with me). I was fantastic at school work, learned music and foreign languages quickly, had excellent results over a range of subjects, and more.
What parents don’t count on are the drawbacks. I was bored witless for a large amount of my school career. I wish that I’d been sent up a grade for the mental stimulation. Oh God, the immense, day-crushing boredom of repetitive, simplistic schoolwork.
And there’s the bullying. Maybe some gifted children are also blessed with resilience, social toughness and more. But I wasn’t. I was persecuted in every grade. It didn’t make me a better or tougher person. I developed depression and wanted to leave school. I haven’t been in touch with any of my fellow pupils for two decades. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a single way in which bullying made me a better person. Damaged would be the correct term.
So I am ambivalent about how giftedness is viewed. I joined Mensa when I was in my 20s but I didn’t stay long. The dues were expensive for someone on a low salary like myself and I wasn’t getting what I had hoped for.
I’d like to say that giftedness leads to marvellous opportunities and a life paved with gold, but it doesn’t. It can lead to envy from others, boredom, tedium, aimlessness, and frustration. Only a very few of the gifted population actually receive the stimulus and support that can help them to achieve the things they want.