This is For Every Mom Who Writes

Today I decided to write before I did anything else. This is out of my comfort zone.

Some days – no, every day – things get in the way. Distractions or fear of failure? I can do many things very well. Is writing one of them? There is dust on the television, fingerprints on the stainless steel, a dead fly on the mantle and I am trying not to care. So I can write.

It’s easy to make excuses for not writing. I tell myself these are all real. They are legitimate. I never sit idle. I never waste a moment. Even at stoplights I have to check my phone. Every. Single. Time. My brain wants resolve. It wants to work. It never wants to rest. But when it comes to writing, my brain nags me.

What? You have things to do. You have responsibilities. There is dust on the television. Fingerprints on the stainless steel. A dead fly on the mantle.

Every day I take care my children down to the tiny details. I live in their worlds more than I live in mine. The world of a 7-year-old boy: play and fantasy and boundless energy. The world of an 11-year-old girl: self-absorbed and self-aware. The 14-year-old man to be: leave me alone, pretend you’re not watching. But watch.

I haven’t showered. The laundry is on the hallway floor. The beds aren’t made. It’s a thousand splinters under my fingernails.

I make a list every day of my failure to write and my excuses when I don’t. I’m trying to hold onto hope. I’m trying to get out of the ditch, gain a foothold and believe in myself. I follow the authors I admire as they make their way to success.

Here’s why I’m still clawing my way out of the ditch. I don’t know what my strength is, but I do know what it isn’t.

I don’t have Carrie’s confidence.
I don’t have Charlene’s powerful presence.
I don’t have Jeannie’s sense of humor.
I don’t have Jennifer’s faith and patience.
I don’t have Tamera’s quiet resolve.
I don’t have Liz’s grace and wisdom.
I don’t have Ruth’s empathy and kindness.

That’s not to say any of them had a smooth path of no resistance. They’ve all fought through obstacles and made it to the other side. Every single one of them got traction on the slippery walls and found a handhold to pull themselves out. I’m waving goodbye and I’ll never see them again. Loving every minute of their happiness. Wishing I could earn my place in that horizon.

A dear friend recently said to me that she has always admired my courage. Is courage what I have? I’m not sure anymore what that means. Courage is not giving up, facing what frightens you, isn’t it? If that’s what I have no wonder my brain will not rest. Sleep, quiet, peace: They are gifts my brains shuts out. You can’t stop now. You have children. You have a husband. You haven’t showered. The laundry is on the hallway floor. The beds aren’t made. You have to earn this. You’re never going to earn it enough.

I want out from under the weight of my own brain. I want to love the things I love. I want to see courage as a tool and not stupidity. I want to send up a flare to say, please don’t forget about me. I’m bad at keeping in touch. I never ask for help when I need it (is that stupid courage, again?)

But I haven’t given up, not entirely.

Today I decided to write. Before I did anything else.

What’s That Twice-Exceptional Thing All About?

Why do you call your kid twice-exceptional? Isn’t being gifted once enough for you?

I’d love to answer this question for you.

It’s all about the words. The exclusionary, non-descriptive and scorn-inducing words that we use to describe kids who are “gifted” and who are gifted with “learning disabilities.” Underlying these are the other words we don’t want to speak: ADHD, OCD, ASD, anxiety, depression, Tourette’s, dyslexia – that’s a partial list of the disorders that can accompany giftedness.

The list is heartbreakingly vast.

We have no choice but use word like gifted, special needs and so on, for one reason: without a diagnosis that indicates one or more of these conditions, parents can’t get medication, treatment and appropriate services for their children. No gifted or advanced education. No OT services for spectrum disorders. No accommodations or special assistance for kids with dyslexia, ADHD, mental illness.

After all the agony parents have gone through to get a proper diagnosis, we’re stuck describing “what’s wrong” to the rest of the world using words that invite judgement and misunderstanding.

The word “gifted” is hard enough to explain. From family members to strangers, explaining how your kids are “2E” can be an awkward conversation. Twice-exceptionality is not widely known outside the clinicians, educators and parents who learned it from another parent.

In many cases gifted kids who have a learning disorder are never diagnosed and suffer a downward spiral of failure. Twice-exceptionality is difficult to detect. We never see it coming when they are little. We see clues we can’t interpret. We read articles and books that don’t fit. We watch our children draw away from other children. We observe them in behaviors that are not consistent with their ages.

Maybe a teacher or well-meaning relative hints there is something off about our kids. They are behavior problems. They’re demanding. Won’t sit still. Won’t participate. Bored. Disinterested. Lazy. Rude.

We know our kids aren’t any of these things.  The words we use don’t tell the whole story. That is the reason for little understanding or tolerance.

“Twice-exceptional” may not be perfect, but it’s the closest thing we have to say, “My kid is extraordinary because he is thriving and learning despite the challenges he faces.”

I don’t know who coined the term twice-exceptional, but, thank you. It is much kinder than the alternatives. It’s a step toward a new vernacular that will allow us to tell our stories the way we live them.