I used to proudly announce that L, now 7, was really really clever and brilliant and super bright and way ahead of her age. And then I stopped.
I’m not sure why. It’s difficult to think about. I think it’s partially that she wasn’t reading fluently until she was almost six, in spite of reading at least a bit from age three. It’s partially that people can be quite nasty when one says one’s child is bright. Some of it is that she has never been as visible in her achievements as other children – she tends not to write cute angry notes, or do sums I can point at, or tell everyone everything she knows obsessively, like some other children. I’ve never had a nice clean progression of her academic achievements to draw on. When she’s consciously learning something she denies all knowledge of it – even what she used to know before she decided to learn more – until she reaches a level of competence she herself is comfortable with.
And the late reading thing really got to me; I can’t remember being unable to read, and I know for sure I was reading ok at three and very competently at four, though my handwriting was atrocious and got me into a lot of trouble until I was seven or so (after that it was just impossibly tiny).
Then I had E, now 5, and she wasn’t as obviously miles ahead of the curve, and is also temperamentally much easier in a billion ways, though less independent and outgoing and so on. And I got less and less comfortable with the comparison inherent in “gifted” as a description. E is gifted at being easy to get along with, but still hardly reads at all – almost no whole words – even though she writes a lot.
And A is 18 months and she’s more like L, though less extreme, and using words like “gifted” or even “clever” makes me very uncomfortable at the moment, because compared to other children – which is what “gifted” and “clever” do automatically, they are comparisons to the norm – I might be mislabeling them.
And I worry that they’re not gifted enough when I see other people’s children discovering the cure for cancer etc. Mine are discovering what happens when you soak all the cardboard pieces in a board game and send the plastic bits for a ride around the bathroom in the pirates’ dinghy.