Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Being gifted - a blessing not a curse

My friend Lilian says I give her fodder for blogging. I must say it’s mutual. Especially on the topic of GEP and gifted kids, which she has so convincingly argued her case. I know it's controversial, so here, let me add fuel to the fire *evil laughter*

First, let us all agree that we want our kids to be happy and well-adjusted. No quarrels there, all parents want that for their kids. What gets Lilian’s goat (and mine) is the common assumption that just because a child is gifted, he must be anti-social, eccentric and miserable (often accompanied by a domineering mother figure). It irks me to hear kneejerk responses like "It's better to have friends than be gifted" or "I'd rather my child be socially intelligent than gifted", as though those traits are mutually exclusive. Giftedness doesn't cause social ineptness, nor does it cause you not to have friends. It’s just like people who say, “I’d rather be happy than rich.” Yes, that’s true, but does giving up one guarantee the other? And who’s to say you can’t be both? The grapes smell suspiciously sour, no?

It is true that there are gifted children without friends or with low EQ, but in the same way that there are “regular” kids without friends or low EQ. Being an arrogant jerk is not limited to the bright. Lesley-Anne came back upset one day because someone on her school bus told her to her face, “All GEP kids are geeks and nerds who wear spectacles and braces.” (So much for EQ, huh?)

I’m not saying this to get sympathy, kids will always find new ways to make fun of each other. My point is that the stereotypes of gifted kids (and parents of gifted kids) start very early and these are often perpetuated by adults. As a parent of a gifted child, I sometimes find myself caught in this form of reverse discrimination. I usually don’t volunteer the fact that my daughter is in the GEP because I’m afraid of coming across as “hau lian”. But when the subject inadvertently comes up, I say it as matter-of-factly as I can and I stick to the factual aspects of the programme. Sometimes, I even find myself subconsciously downplaying Lesley-Anne’s abilities, just to make her sound more like a “regular” kid, which is totally not being fair to her. When I met up with her teacher this year, he said, "Don't take the giftedness away from her", which I thought was profound on so many levels.

I think the notion that “all kids are gifted” is just a load of BS concocted by the western world that is obsessed with political correctness (at the expense of common sense). I love the line in the cartoon “The Incredibles” – “When everyone is special, no one will be.” I much prefer the Asian belief that not everyone has the same talents but with hard work and tenacity, we can all make something of ourselves.

What is more important is what we do with this God-given gift. Boasting about your gift is wrong, but so is denying it. When Lesley-Anne was in p1, her teacher asked her to help another classmate who was having difficulty in English. I took the opportunity to tell her about the Parable of the Talents, ie to whom more is given, more is expected (Matthew 25:14-30). To my horror, the next day she came home from school and described to me how she had told her classmate, “God gave me 10 talents and gave you 5 talents, so I should help you.” She wasn’t boasting, she thought she was just sharing a fact. I had to explain to her that her classmate might not be too thrilled to hear that she had only 5 talents! Faux pas aside, Lesley-Anne really does believe that she should use her abilities to help others, which I'm pleased about.

In a way, I’m thankful that not both my kids are gifted because it gives me a more objective perspective, seeing it from both sides of the equation. It also gives me more clarity on how to bring up kids with different abilities. As Lilian said, it all boils down to accepting our kids for who they are, embracing both their weaknesses AND their strengths.

I'm tired of feeling apologetic for my child's giftedness. I still can't bring myself to say "my daughter is gifted" but I do want to be able to openly say I’m proud of her, just like any other mother would.


Lilian said...

I got goosebumps reading this...seriously. I'm gonna re-read it over the next few days I'm sure, thanks!

I cringe too when I hear people go I'd rather be healthy/happy than be rich. My mum annoys me when she does this pious act. Who doesn't know that being healthy and happy is better than being rich but invalid and miserable? As if there aren't poor people who are sick and miserable as hell. I want to be healthy AND happy AND RICH...and anyone who doesn't need their riches is welcome to make POSB bank transfer to me.

Yes, I love that bit in The Incredibles, and I always remember Mr Incredible, asked to attend Dash's graduation, going, "He's only going from 4th to 5th grade!..." and "They keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity while someone who is truly incredible is asked to go away and hide." Powerful stuff.

monlim said...

I forgot about that part in the Incredibles, you're right! Actually, that whole show can be a metaphor for being gifted - to use your gift to help others instead of hiding it away and pretending it isn't there.

It's comforting to know I'm not the only mother out there who feels this way.

Lilian said...

Gonna watch Incredibles after dinner. When is Part 2 ever coming to our screens?

*just making conversation ;)

monlim said...

hmmm... deadly silence... yoohoo, where's everyone? i promise a light, fluffy topic tomorrow!

bACk in GERMANY said...

Monica, I geddit... so it's also like people who say "wow your daughter so pretty" and then in one breath, "never mind lah, my daughter has no looks but she's happy!"
Haha... am try to relate here...

There will always be people who like to pick on people who are special. Maybe these people wanna be special themselves and cannot make the cut... so what can do with their normal lives other than producing more sour grape talks?
This is GEP... any special programmes that MOE comes up with, be it AEP, LEP, MEP, there's most definitely some form of nitpicking.

Hiyah.. have been in and out of the house the whole day... and Alan's not around to help me at drop-off and pick-up... plus a lot potential tenants want to view our place... so that left me with little time to "digest" your extremely heavy topic!

Can we like move on to a dessert now please???

monlim said...

Thank you! Actually, I know there are a lot of lurkers, the no. of visits jumped with that post but maybe nervous to comment...

Anyway, dessert coming right up!

Chandrasekaran Hema said...

HI Monica Lim,

I just stumbled over on your blog while searching for gifted. Thankful to see some gifted mother online in singapore.

I would like to consult/chat regarding the GEP with you/your daughter. My daughter is in GEP P4 at St.Hildas' Appreciate if you can contact me. my Gmail id HP:96446326 My name: L.R.Chandrasekaran.

You are doing good. I like the blog. Cheers and keep it up.


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