I don't know if it is a special needs-parent thing or a gifted-child parent thing; the combination of the two makes for a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. It feels like there is so much room for failure as a parent with these two.
My wife gives everything she has to our children. My eight year old son, diagnosed with high functioning autism, and my daughter, who at six is still going through evaluations for anxiety and ADHD- they aren't easy kids - or should I say they aren't normal kids - better yet, they are unique kids. Both kids have extreme sensory issues. Both kids score off the chart in nearly every standardized test they take. My friends (who tend to be very caring people) see the best in my children, telling me how smart and funny they are and how much personality. My best friend's fiancee likes to ask the kids trivia questions about science and geography to see what he knows that my friend does not. And at the same time, there are other adults who have trouble with my children. We let the kids express themselves and be comfortable, which makes some very uncomfortable.
There's been too many times where we've left a cub scout meeting or returned from an adventure on vacation... or just gotten a phone call from school, where we've felt like absolute failures as parents. Perhaps these two just can't deal with everything we expose them to. I didn't have the means as a child to live the life these kids have lived. There were no clubs after school, no annual vacations or travel; most of my childhood was spent playing by myself in the woods or looking for pickup basketball games regardless of the temperature outside. Maybe they needed a childhood more like that, simpler.
But would I be doing them just as much of a disservice by not exposing them to everything I have?
Because, there are times when these children thrive. It's not just when we get back standardized tests and get told how "brilliant" they are; it's practical situations. Watching my daughter interact, even with older kids, where she automatically becomes the leader, times when I hear the other kids at school tell me that my son is "the smartest kid ever at school" - this happens too. My son carved 1/4 of the periodic table of elements into the wood work in his closet when he was four and to the best of my knowledge he wasn't using a book as a guide. How is a parent supposed to react to this? My daughter excels at pretty much any activity she's ever done, as long as she can keep her head in it. Soccer was great, until the loud pumped in music; then I couldn't keep her on the field. Once the music was off and she felt like she was in control, she was the best player on the field again. Back at home in a quiet place, they write musicals together, can spend 5 or 6 hours at a time on a weekend reenacting school or a vacation or any other scenario that suits them.
Both of the children like performing and storytelling, my son the story teller and my daughter the actress. Coupled with their love of technology and science, we began making science, history and humor videos on youtube. The kids watch more youtube than television. My son would be hard pressed to name one show on television or one pro-athlete, but he can tell you his favorite YouTubers and can imitate their styles. My daughter almost runs to get in front of a camera as my son crafts his stories.
The two became fans of the PBS Digital Studios channel "Gross Science" and sent comments back and forth with channel creator Anna Rothschild, even sending her a thank you video. I got the chance to meet Anna and other YouTube creators at an event in New York City.
Anna's genuine enthusiasm for her interaction with my kids and her appreciation of their videos was moving. For all the challenges as a parent for these two, this was a reminder of just how wonderfully unique my children are. There's so much potential there. Another YouTube creator, Joe Hanson of "It's OK to Be Smart" shared another one of their videos that got over 1000 views in 2 days. Despite being only 6 and 8, I think they actually "get" the science of the videos and they really understand the importance of story telling - and not just in words, but in actions.
I wouldn't want to go through life raising normal kids who would just have life live them rather than them live life. I want to make them the best they can be - but this includes happiness and confidence and a feeling that they can do what they want, that they will succeed when they try. We are learning what situations work and what don't. We sacrifice. It's hard and there are some damn awful days. But we move on. We are trending up.