After raising my gifted daughters, I ventured into the professional world devoted to supporting and developing gifted children. This involved digging into the literature, attending conferences, and connecting informally with others in the field. But after a few months, it hit me—the voices of mothers like myself, who had raised gifted children–were not present in the gifted arena.
This realization reminded me of the Indian fable about the blind men and an elephant in which the men touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each feels a different part, but only that one part. When asked to describe what an elephant looks like, the one who felt the leg says the animal is like a pillar, the one who felt the ear described the elephant as being like a fan, and the one who felt the trunk said the elephant is like a rope. It’s a bit of a stretch but, to me, it seemed that many of the most vocal leaders in the gifted field base their recommendations on how best to nurture giftedness on ‘the particular part of the elephant’ that they’ve experienced in their professional life (i.e., as an educator, academic, counselor, therapist, psychologist, or researcher).
In no way minimizing the value of their insights and appreciating the fact that we are all members of the same ‘tribe’—sharing a passion to nurture the needs of gifted–I believe it’s critically important to encourage and empower those with primary responsibility for gifted children to participate in this dialogue as well….and to support each other on our parenting journeys. Unlike professionals, parents, especially mothers, ‘feel the whole elephant’ (literally, many having carried the baby in utero) and care for the whole child day in and day out. And, unlike professionals in the field, they have a deep emotional, physiological/hormonal connection to the child via a relationship that lasts a lifetime. As Stephanie Tolan noted in her blog, From the Deep End:
‘Parents are the ones 24/7 on the front lines of trying to meet the needs of their children—not just educational needs, but social, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical’.
And given the unique needs of many gifted children, this is no small task!
I chose to focus my work on mothers of gifted daughters for a few reasons:
First, as mother of two gifted daughters (and with a gifted sister), having no brothers or sons, the lives of gifted females are what I’m most familiar with. So, adhering to the old adage, ‘write what you know’, I decided to collaborate with mothers (not fathers) of daughters (not sons).
Secondly, I think I felt intuitively drawn to sharing the wisdom I may have gained from my journey parenting daughters with mothers currently on a similar path—to have collaborative interactions with ‘parenting peers’, in which we can ferret out the most helpful approach to nurturing each mom’s unique gifted daughter.
Finally, entering adulthood during the early 70’s, I was part of the second-wave of feminism, and, as a result, issues facing women trying to support self-actualized daughters in a culture which devalues both females and intelligence, has always been my passion.
To this end, the goal of my professional life is to support mothers currently raising gifted girls. This involves coaching mothers of gifted daughters, both individually and in groups. In an effort to learn more about issues related to parenting gifted females, I conduct research related to discovering effective parenting strategies for gifted and keep abreast of the latest findings in this area. Finally, I present workshops to both parents and professionals working in the gifted field on a number of relevant topics.