I grew up with gifted. I work with gifted. People often ask, “So, you must be gifted too.” Yet, I never thought of myself as gifted. I still don’t. When my peers labeled me as “that smart kid’s sister.” It didn’t hurt nearly as much that they were teasing me but rather that all they knew, or cared to know, about my little brother was that he was “smart” — not just smart, but brilliant — profoundly gifted. Moreover, he was different. Yet, so was I. Aren’t we all?
I never thought of my brother as gifted or different until my peers, the teachers, and psychologists started to label him as such. He was my little brother. He was the little brother that made mud pies in the sandbox with me. He was the little brother that repeatedly helped me track all of the sand from said sandbox into the house. He was the little brother who could fix things. He was the little brother who slept curled up on the floor no matter how many times you put him back in bed. He was the little brother who would sleep by my door when we’d fight and I would lock him out. He was the little brother who drank all of the milk in the house. He was the little brother who made a mess out of our shared bathroom. He was the little brother who could stubbornly go days without eating. He was the little brother who I brought to preschool for show-and-tell.
Most importantly, he was MY little brother. I was very proud of that. I still am. I’m not proud of that because he’s brilliant or successful. I’m proud because he was mine. It wasn’t until he was nine years old or so that he realized he didn’t HAVE to listen to me. That was disappointing. Still, he was mine. His “giftedness” was such a small portion of who he was and is. His giftedness consumed our family. It consumed my mom’s time and energy. It consumed him. It consumed me. Yet, it was, and is, such a small portion of him.
He was so much more than gifted, but was I so much more than gifted’s older sister? Was my mom more than gifted’s mom? Yes, yes she was. She is. I am. He is. We all are.
Gifted’s a label — an often discriminatory label that overshadows our most valuable asset — our individuality, our unique qualities — our humanity. I hate the gifted label — the very idea that our children need all of these labels. Gifted is one part of who we are. It’s only one dimension. We are so much more than gifted. Gifted isn’t me. Gifted isn’t my brother. Gifted isn’t you. Gifted is only one dimension.