The Social Silence of Exceptionalism

The Social Silence of Exceptionalism

I stopped talking about my child with my friends. This was not a conscious decision- until it was. Lunches, dinners, holiday parties, baby showers- all the gatherings people typically use to catch up with one another, to listen to familial stories, to indulge on the intricacies of our small lives and the grandness of our children’s advancing years. We use this time to investigate each other and probe about our children growing and changing. Anyway, I thought we did.

Slowly, after the initial recognition that our child was on a different trajectory, the probing and polite questions came to a trickle, until the conversations ceased to be just that- conversations. They had become one-sided inquiries by me about the state of another person’s child. The unconscious lack of interest was then made a reality and my conscious decision to lock the vault was set.

How many of us can seriously talk about our children? How many of us can have a conversation with another parent, caregiver, teacher, or adult about the complexities of raising and nurturing our child? I’m guessing that we can only do this within the confines of the group of parents who share our experience.

I often ask myself if this social phenomenon would hold true if we were not dealing with intellect, but if instead we were dealing with an exceptional athlete. My immediate assessment, having come from an elite sport, is that the sentiment from others would be one of support and interest rather than one of distrust and jealously.

The error with this discrepancy needs no illumination. I merely highlight it in order to make myself feel more normal in a slew of abnormality and hopefully to aid you in feeling that you are not alone in experiencing the silence that falls around you and your exceptional child.



Justifying the Cheetah

My cheetah, my gifted child, my experience as the parent of an outlier, that is what I am willing to lay on the table, dissect, and explore here. After many years raising an intellectual cheetah (see Tolan’s article “Is It a Cheetah?”) I’ve decided to write of our experiences, in the hopes that others can garner what they need to from the path we have chartered.

In truth the cheetah needs no justification to exist, but it does need to be recognized for what it is- a marvelous, complicated, unique creature that requires special attention to its particular needs.