By Jennifer Kennedy
Before joining IEA, Jennifer was a kid who understood little of her own giftedness. Now she works as IEA’s Marketing & Communications Coordinator to help other highly able kids and their families understand what it means to be gifted while providing the information they need to find the programs and people to support them.
My mom has been there for me from the moment I came into this world, and I have always appreciated everything she has done for me. Lately, though, I’ve begun to see how different my life might have been had my upbringing lacked certain values my mom implemented – things that made her a good mother to a gifted child.
My mom nurtured my gifts and my passions. She knew I was smart, so she challenged me intellectually. She knew I was driven, so she supported me without heaping more pressure on top of the pressure I placed on myself. Before either of us had encountered the term “whole child,” my mom encouraged me to grow in all aspects of self.
She challenged me intellectually. Knowing I loved reading and was a strong reader, she encouraged me to read above-grade-level books. When I was learning about something in school, she would take me to museums to see the subject first-hand, demonstrating that there is knowledge to be gained beyond the textbook. When it came time to choose my own classes in school, she encouraged me to take the advanced classes, and she accepted my less-than-perfect grades when I challenged myself and faced the demands of a difficult course. She taught me that, no matter how smart I was or how well I did in school, there was always so much more to learn.
She challenged me physically, encouraging me to try a variety of sports and physical activities outside of school until I found my niche. And, when I found what I really liked—dance—she encouraged me to work hard and challenge myself, both physically and creatively.
She supported me socially and emotionally, as well. I always knew I was different, and although I participated in a GATE pull-out program once a week, no one in my life understood that the intrinsic intelligence of a gifted child is usually coupled with other characteristics such as overexcitabilities. It took a lot of patience, understanding, love, and acceptance to deal with my emotional outbursts over ostensibly benign incidents. It also took an insightful mother to realize that dance had become vital to my social life as it allowed me to build relationships with older kids who understood me intellectually and younger kids whom I could take under my wing.
After years of guidance, when the time came for me to lead, my mother followed. She embraced my decision to dance—despite not liking dance herself—even when it meant giving up other things she thought were important. She let me lead my college search, which took me much farther from home than she would have liked. She watched me trek through Europe for a semester without her. She supported my decision to choose a more creative field—communications—over a more practical one (both my parents are accountants).
Without all of this support from my mother, I don’t know what would have happened. Every day, I hear stories of gifted kids who fall through the cracks because they are bored, unchallenged, and misunderstood, and it breaks my heart. If my mother hadn’t instinctually understood that my “whole self” needed support, I might have become one of those unfortunate children.
Thank you to all of the moms who do everything they can to support their gifted children while protecting them from slipping through the cracks. You make a huge difference in your child’s life each and every day. Happy Mother’s Day.