I suppose when he wasn’t even two and knew and all the letters in the alphabet I should have caught on. Especially since we never taught him. Or maybe that he had memorized every book we ever read to him. And I”m not talking, “Goodnight Moon,” but Dr. Seuss, “The Giving Tree,” long. Or that his memory before age two proved to be, how do I say…..CREEPY. For example, Ayden’s Dad was deployed for the first 400 days of his life. During this time, I had the CD I listened to over and over again in our car. It played a mix of Johnny Cash, Brittney Spears (don’t judge, you know you love Brit), some Watermark, and a lot of other random not-so-known- artists. When you’re waiting for a tow truck, it’s the best mix ever. Trust. me. Most of the time in the car he was crying so I never really thought he listened. Until one day after his Dad had gotten home, I put the CD in and he knew every.word. To every song (which is why, sadly, we do not listen to Brittney anymore). I kid you not, after five years of being in storage, I found the CD and played it for fun (skipping Brit of course) and at seven years old he stopped what he was doing and said, “I remember these songs from when Dad was deployed!” How??!! How does he remember that he was three weeks old when Levi deployed, and 15 months when Levi got home and I packed them away before he even was two and a half? How does he remember this??! But no, that didn’t tip me off.
Then there was the time I have him a piece of paper and some water colors at the age of three, and he made the most beautiful robin sitting in a tree I had ever seen. The colors he chose, the shape- and how intentional he never seemed different then any other newly three years old. I mean, what did I know?? He was my first. He set the standard. Kind of like how squarecapitalfunding.com set the standard in business loans for me. See what I did there? They were my first, and so every other company is lame. Anyways, I digress. Then at the age of four, there was the time he grabbed a pencil and piece of paper and drew a picture of our solar system in the correct order, with the first letter of every name under each planet. I had never (and still haven’t) taught him anything about space. Ever. Then, of course, all the nights for bedtime reading he asked us to read him books about black holes and weird equations that I still don’t understand. And of course, that one day he decided he needed to know how to read, so he taught himself. In one day. None of this ever tipped me off. Ever.
Right now he’s seven years old and studying at a high school level in chemistry. He’s obsessed with the Periodic Table of Elements and can tell you what the atomic number is for and the makings of the atom. He see’s the world in shapes- “Mom, look at those branches and see how they make a dodecahedron?!” He can read the Bible like he’s got it memorized, and understands the symbolism and even the humor. His favorite thing to say is, “I see what they did there.” He remembers OT verses and stories and notices when Jesus uses them in his teachings. Like, what? For real kid?? He learned multiplication in a day. Most math he does in his head, and if I try to offer help when he “looks” stumped, he says, “No no no, I’ve got this. Let me do this” as his eyes glaze over and within a minute or two BAM he’s got the answer.
With all of these seemingly obvious signs that my son is gifted, I still didn’t catch on. Clearly, he doesn’t get the gifted mind from his Mom. Rather, what finally led us to the realization that perhaps our son was gifted was the debilitating anxiety he experienced. It started at three years old- he would break into a sweat, turn red as a tomato, and his eyes would roll in the back of his head. Eventually, these symptoms would fade, and he would then settle into a deep sleep for two hours- no matter the time of day. These “episodes,” as I called them, started to become so common that I finally called his doctor. His doctor was full when I called but urged me to take him to the ER for fear that he was experiencing seizures. Our world just stood still. The following month Ayden had an MRI, CT scan, a heart monitor placed on him for a month, and an EEG. All these tests came back perfectly normal, yet the episodes didn’t stop.
We took a break from all the testing and decided to fly out to see Grandma. The day before we flew out Ayden had seven episodes that we still thought were seizures. The day of the flight and the remaining two weeks he had zero. ZERO episodes. On the flight home I couldn’t stop thinking about how odd that seemed to me, and like someone threw a rock on my head, I realized they had to be anxiety attacks. Panic attacks. I called his doctor first thing the next morning, and we looked through his chart together- and all the dots became connected. Ayden was officially diagnosed with severe anxiety attacks.
The following couple of years we tried to figure out how to control his anxiety, and we learned what he triggers were. Small spaces with lots of kids, big crowds, or loud people, in general, caused Ayden to break into tears and have panic attack after panic attack. We couldn’t even attend church without getting paged at least two times during the service, only to find Ayden in the corner crying and plugging his ears.
One time I had a friend watching him for a day. She knew Ayden well and knew that at home he was the sweetest, most mellow kid. She was shocked that, upon taking him to a camp at church, he became aggressive and punched her pregnant belly. For no reason. It became clear to her too that he had some anxiety.
Though it was helpful to have other people see it, I was still never satisfied with the diagnosis. Though he clearly had severe anxiety- we never got to the bottom of what was causing it. Either way, I tried not obsessing over it, and life went on. We decided to homeschool our kids for many reasons, and Ayden was doing great. We also decided that at some point Ayden would need to learn to live with this anxiety, so we started becoming involved in small Bible study groups at our church and did our best to help him manage his feelings during these times. However, as he got older, he got better at hiding his panic attacks and so many times we would never even know he was having an issue until the next day. After every bible study, where there were lots of children in a small space, he would need three days to recoup. Those three days were near impossible- everything made him cry, school was out, and he became angry and even physically ill. Eventually, we cut out our small group meetings.
Cutting out our small group meetings made such a huge impact on Ayden that he began to THRIVE and grow leaps and bounds academically. While I was searching for a curriculum that suite Ayden best I realized, after weeks of looking, that no curriculum would do. All the science curriculum for his age covered things he had, for fun, already mastered. Before I knew it, I found myself looking at high school math and science.
In all honesty, I think I was dealing with flow blown denial. I kept going back to his age groups material, only to be frustrated and always end back up at high school stuff with excitement. I remember telling my friend this struggle and her just looked at me dumfounded, and asked why I wouldn’t just get the high school level stuff because he’s clearly a kid genius. It struck me as odd, and I laughed it off…but as the week progressed her words jut kept nagging me. “Kid genius.” Yeah, he’s smart but not a genius. He just enjoys learning. That’s all. Then I looked at his three-year-old little brother (who I thought was a bit delayed lol) and realized his little brother was not delayed but Ayden was advanced. Then I remembered another friend in NC suggest I join a group for gifted kids and parents -I didn’t understand why she suggested it but I joined anyways. All of the sudden, all these random dots became connected I went to that website for gifted kids and read every.single. Blog or article on gifted kids and realized I was reading experiences exactly like mine- and Ayden.
As you would expect, I researched, asked friends that are professionals, and everything I came to pointed to the idea that he was in fact gifted intellectually. While I haven’t had his IQ tested, and don’t plan on it, I can say pretty confidently that he’s “gifted” and that’s been the reason for all the anxiety, as well as the all the super awesome things the kid knows. And knowing this, and accepting how God has made him, has freed us to love and raise him accordingly.
Now- all of this novel to say to you-my readers (whom I love and adore because honestly, it’s shocking to me that you even read this stuff) that my homeschool side of the blog might change courses a bit. Heck, it might not. BUT, part of me accepting this huge thing is wring about it and saying it “out loud.” It’s still hard to say. Not in a sad way, but in an “I don’t want to brag” way because honesty there’s nothing to brag about (the kid doesn’t have to work hard for anything lol) and also because being gifted comes with a serious dark side. And as a parent with a gifted kid, sometimes I feel wrongly judged or just alone. And even though we have this new information about our son, how we raise him and parent him will not change. We want him to know Jesus, and love Jesus. We want him to serve Jesus and only Jesus. We want him to trust Jesus and only Jesus. While this might sound simple enough, the task before we is a big one. The questions he asks are hard, and sometimes there are no answers. I pray hard for his mind and his heart. That his mind won’t be his worst enemy but a gift the Lord uses.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about gifted minds and all the things I’ve learned and experienced, and I hope you’ll join me. This is new territory for me, and as always it much more fun when we all journey together. If you have experienced something like, please write me and tell me all about it! I”m desperate for a community that understands the struggles. I’m also a sponge, and eager to soak up all your wisdom!