By Tara Westfall
A funny video is going around Facebook. In it, a woman plays two moms sitting across a table during a playdate. One is the “typical” mom, while the other one is the “THAT mom,” who seems to brag about her child on every point. I believe this video resonates with just about every mom who watches it. I know it did with me. You see, I have two kids and I have been on both sides of that table.
Here is what is important to know: THAT mom is not necessarily trying to one-up anyone. She may just have a gifted kid and this is her reality. Yes, some moms may desire to make you feel bad about your child in comparison to theirs. If this is your experience, then other issues are at work, which have little to do with being a mom of a gifted child.
When my firstborn arrived, I was in a weekly mommy group with four other women. We met for nearly nine months. Things began to change for me around seven months when I could no longer commiserate with the other moms about not getting a full night’s sleep or having a picky eater. My son was giving me plenty of hours to sleep and ate whatever was given to him. As the months progressed, it became apparent that my baby was different. When he was ten months old, I brought him to the library for the very first time. He LOVED it. He walked around pulling books off of the shelves, bringing them to me to read. He would sit on my lap and pant in excitement. We spent hours with books throughout the week. He was my first, so I didn’t realize how different it was for others until I would share in the mommy group. I would get the smiles and “wow” reaction, but I was slowly edged out of the mommy group. The other moms may have felt like I was one-upping, being THAT mom when all I needed was to join in the sharing of milestones just like they did.
My community quietly edged me out. I got the message. I wasn’t wanted. When sharing my joys, I made other moms feel badly. So, here’s the thing: moms of gifted kids need community just like moms of neurotypical kids. We need to share our experiences, get advice, empathy, and understanding just like everyone else. But how to advertise the need for a new community without sounding like a tiger mom? Put an ad on Craigslist or in the local paper: Looking for a few moms with babies who are advancing quicker than average? I had nowhere to turn. It was the first of many lonely, isolating times.
My son is now a teenager, but he does not fit the average teenager persona. He has experienced lonesome times as well, since his interests and capabilities are different than his peers. Sure, I can regale you with his transcript, volunteer hours, and plan for achieving Eagle Scout next spring, but if I do it is out of pride and a desire to share what is going on in his life—just like other moms get to do without any judgment. Will you judge me as THAT mom because I shared? Should I not take the opportunity just because it may make you feel inadequate? What about the feeling of isolation that comes with having a child that doesn’t fit the “norm”?
Community is vital to survival in this world. Isolation only creates pain, misery, and a sense of not belonging. I urge moms who are currently experiencing THAT mom to listen to her. She is figuring out that her normal is different than yours, not attacking your parenting style. Children enter our world with different gifts and talents, and sometimes it is more difficult to parent the exceptional child, especially if your community leaves you behind. Encourage THAT mom to find a group that will resonate with her. One that can answer the questions you cannot. But regardless of whether you can answer her questions, you can always be kind and give her a place to participate. A community.
Tara Westfall is a mom, wife, friend, and lover of the Lord in the Bay Area, California. Self-described as “The Reluctant Homeschool Mom,” she has since embraced the challenge due greatly to the fact that her nest will be empty sooner than she realizes. She desires all parents to find a tribe and create community that will uplift, encourage, and support truth, beauty, and wisdom.
Learn more about giftedness.