Have you ever met anyone who was considered gifted as a child? You would definitely know, because they never fail to mention it parties, usually whispering the word or saying it in a faux fancy/silly voice like the way some people say Tar-zhay instead of Target. This is in spite of the commonly understood notion that gifted children probably shouldn't be told that they are gifted, if for no other reason than that they won't grow up with only one good party anecdote.
I've also noticed that these people who were allegedly gifted children are usually doing pretty normal stuff as adults. Like, they just have regular jobs. They didn't invent anything, and they aren't casually fixing a flat tire with a stick and some chewing gum, either. So I don't know if that means they weren't ever really gifted or just if, like most people from the suburbs, they believe they are starring in their own personal blockbuster film.
Based on these observations, I can say with complete confidence my kid is super gifted. No, she can't identify 20 types of birds like that one kid I read about or express disdain at the theater, but she's going places. The problem is, as someone who overhears a lot of things other parents say, I can tell you that most other people think their kid is gifted, too. Advanced. Special. Whatever.
It's easy to mock these parents. After all, they don't realize real giftedness, even when it's sitting right next to them eating sand. But really, why wouldn't they think their kid hung the moon? Isn't it honestly weirder to think your kid is nothing too fancy? To admit your child isn't remotely special in a unique way is to either be kind of a dick, or to admit you yourself are not remotely special in a unique way, and last I checked, that kind of bold realism has no place in this business. Also, speak for yourself, but I've still got some unused potential up in this piece.
I don't know when average children went extinct, but I am hoping it's something we can blame on Baby Boomers. Either way, nowadays message boards online are riddled with tales of mothers who are just sure their kid is special because he was "caught counting at 18 months" or she "cut her own bangs perfectly at age 2." It never fails to inspire derision, but mostly, I think it's a harmless assumption that leads parents to whip out the flash cards and set high expectations, which studies show is super key to not being a fuck-up (the expectations, that is - the flash cards are negligible).
Also, this thinking is probably biologically helpful, too, because if you took one look at your pod and saw just another regular-counting bad bangs-cutter, then what's the point? To have done all this just to produce another normal? Ugh-salad. Things have to be special in America for us to want to be anywhere near them, or else we make sure to toss it in a landfill next to a major water source.
Sure, facts are facts, and the odds are that neither you nor anyone you know actually has a gifted kid, if only something like 2% to 5% of the populace is legit gifted. But that won't stop most of us from believing. Thankfully, it's much easier to believe when the criteria includes smart kids who are sometimes good at things, and smart kids who sometimes aren't.
It's also supposed to run in families. Although that doesn't happen in that movie with Jodi Foster where she's a single average-type mother (we know this from her accent and her job as a dancer) with a brilliant kid who 1.) has stomach problems and 2.) dreams he is trapped in Van Gogh paintings. My 2-year-old does neither of those things, but she does prefer British cartoons to American, and when I asked her how she was feeling today she said, "I like the city."
But, alas, every day can't be so cosmopolitan. When I find myself needing a little pick me up after another average flash-cards performance day, I just peruse one of the four billion websites that list baby milestones. You know, all the agreed-upon stuff your kid is "supposed" to be doing by a certain age as determined by the Navy in 1941, mothers-in law, Olympic judges or Pampers. These are also just vague enough to be an amazing catchall for basically anyone alive, so it's hard not to sit back and bask in the glory of having a kid who possibly does one or two things faster than average. You know, special.
For instance, a 2-year-old should be using at bare minimum a core group of 25 words, one of which is juice. She doesn't use that word, but only because we don't give our kid juice (superiority points). Another one is "all gone." You see, technically, she doesn't say that either, but she does say empty. Because it's the word I taught her to describe the other parents we meet who've actually told me their kid is gifted. I kid. I taught it to her to describe my boobs when I don't want to nurse her again. And she's obviously gifted, because now she uses it in other scenarios, like after she drinks the last of her bathwater.
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles who never took a gifted class, and it has made all the difference. Console her on Twitter @iusedtobepoor.