Is parenting gifted kids harder, or just hard?
I’m trying to be kind to myself today because I feel fragile, the big give-away was finding myself fighting back the tears having ordered the wrong thing this morning. Even though it didn’t matter.
It was a minor inconvenience and cost thirty bucks and two minutes to remedy – no big deal.
Nonetheless, I hung up feeling weepy, you know that feeling that you just want to cry because it’s all too much?
You’re so near the edge that you overflow at the slightest nudge?
If you’d ask me, I’d say I’m good. I am good. We’ve had a big year but we’ve moved forward on a bunch of challenges and with huge relief, we’re in a pretty good place. This is just me from time to time; the cup gets close to empty or over-flows, depending on how you look at it.
For the past few years, my daydream has been the idea of spending a month in a silent retreat where someone else does my laundry and cooks. I don’t have to talk to anyone. All I have to do is sleep, meditate, watch tv, and read, maybe with the odd walk or half-arsed yoga.
This confirms my suspicion that like so many parents I’m totally burnt out.
I’ve always given more than I have (I’m learning just how true that is as I’m coming to terms with being autistic and gifted – I did NOT see that coming – but that’s another blog), as a parent that giving became an exponential curve leading directly to burning myself out.
I’ve had to confront recently that parenting high needs, highly complex kids IS actually really hard. I’ve never been particularly good at giving myself a break, so that was a confronting lesson.
I’ve always maintained that parenting is hard – full stop. It doesn’t matter who you are or who your kids are, it’s just hard. And it is.
But recently, talking to Kate, she confirmed that most parents and families have a few years of very intense parenting before things start to level out and become easier… but parenting high-needs kids isn’t like that.
Our kids rely on us for many more years to help them co-regulate, help them manage day-to-day living, help them meet all of their additional needs… so those intense years go on and on and on and on.
I feel the truth of that in my bones. In every tired cell of my body.
- It’s the hours spent supporting them through a meltdown.
- The hours spent as they process their day and try to fall asleep.
- It’s the energy put into creating a dinner that meets their sensory requirements.
- It’s meeting their sensory requirements.
- It’s the hours figuring out what is going on, years on waitlists, assessments, reports, dead ends, answers.
- It’s the hours going to therapy…
- It’s the hours thinking about how to meet their needs, finding professional support, taking them, paying, putting it into practice.
- Finding the right school. Advocating at that school. Supporting their cognitive needs.
Then cooking dinner.
I feel l like I’ve spent half of the past few years driving, the other half thinking and problem solving, and another half supporting (yes that’s three halves – that’s why I’m so freaking tired!).
While I couldn’t imagine any other reality, I’ve been told a typical family doesn’t contend with these challenges, so intensely, especially for sooo long.
Yes, there are many other challenges, this isn’t a competition, parenting is hard, it’s just an acknowledgment that a child with high needs is called high needs because those needs are higher than typical, therefore as parents we have to ensure those needs are met or supported, or fall in a heap trying.
I’ve spent years writing that off; assuming that it’s this hard, for this long, for everyone.
Not daring to think let alone say out loud such controversial parenting words as, it’s harder for us (ssshhhh, whisper it, and prepare for the backlash).
But it’s validating to know our exhaustion is warranted.
I even stumbled upon research recently that confirmed that parenting gifted kids is as stressful as parenting kids with a physical disability (stay tuned for an upcoming podcast where this comes up!).
There are lots of us holding it together, and some days that’s easier than others.
Those days overshadowed by meltdowns, anxiety and conflict take a toll. As parents we need to fill our cup or we won’t have the resilience to last the distance.
Honestly, I’ve been trying to rest most of 2021, trying to refill that cup. It’s a bluddy empty cup so it’s hard to fill it, that silent retreat is not getting any closer, and life goes on. But acknowledging that actually does help. It really helps.
It’s not like I’m doing something wrong, it’s just a super-human effort to last this long and I’m all out of super-human.
So, I’m learning about what needs to happen, what are the actual priorities, what can we cut out in the name of sanity and rest and what needs to stay (unfortunately dinner needs to stay but there are a certain level of laundry standards that are negotiable, in my book anyway).
We’re going to take a term off appointments (except for the strictly essential) to have a rest and to give everyone some time to process. We’ve done it before, and it gave the kids some space to consolidate and actually led to some nice leaps as well as a much-needed reduction of weekly miles.
What can you do to make life easier for you?
What needs to stay vs what is nice to have?
What can you pause for a bit?
What is essential?
What expectations or standards can you lower to give yourself some space?
These are questions I’m asking myself, share your thoughts in our Facebook Group; how are you going??