On being “gifted”

Last night, I read Glennon Melton’s post about calling kids “gifted” and this response to her.  Today, I read Glennon’s response on Facebook.  Because I believe she truly does want to understand, here is my answer.

Dear Glennon,

You will probably never read this, but I’m going to write it anyway because I sense that you honestly do want to know why some of us felt a little (oh, fine, a lot) defensive about your post on giftedness.

I’m going to be honest–I didn’t actually read your blog before unless someone linked to it.  I admit that I always kind of felt a little judged by you.  That might have been because the specific posts I read were often passed along by people who actually were judging me, so please forgive me for that.  That said, I didn’t have an open mind when reading your post on the word “gifted.”

It made me angry at first.  I’m the mom of a gifted child (in the label sense).  My immediate reaction was, “Dang.  How did we become a culture of people getting all tied up in knots over a word?  Let go of your need to have your child be a special snowflake, people!”

So I did what comes naturally–I grouched about it on Facebook.  In the comments, a friend suggested I watch your TED Talk.  I rolled my eyes and replied that I would.  (Yeah, I’m not very nice sometimes; I’m not proud of that.)  And then I watched it.

Oh, my.

I cried.  I cried because I know intimately that feeling of wearing a cape and pretending.  I’ve done it my whole life too.  My cape is being angry and self-righteous.  I’ve mostly shed it, but it sometimes begs to be taken out and worn.  Kind of like how I reacted to your post about gifted children.

So I thought about it, and I decided I want to help you understand.  You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I wonder if you’re seeing the label of “gifted” as being a kind of cape–something to hide a child’s real self.  If that’s so, then I want to tell you that you have it backwards.  My son’s gifted label is not his cape; it’s his freedom.

For us–for my son and for me–being told that he is gifted and has ADHD gave him wings.  Suddenly, he didn’t have to try to be just like every other child.  He could have his needs met, just like the child who has a learning disability or autism or physical limitations.  He could be fully, completely himself.  No pretending.  No cape.

Sometimes, I envy my son.  He loves who he is: highly intelligent, creative, musical, energetic, sassy, cheerful, sensitive, friendly, confident.  Unlike me, he is entirely comfortable in his own skin.  Knowing there’s a name for some of the ways in which his brain works differently is an important part of understanding and feeling good about himself.

I know you believe the word “gifted” is a frustrating term.  Right now, it’s the best one we have.  It isn’t a descriptor of gifts, it’s about the overall way in which children like my son are unique, just like other labels for brain function.  It’s not a reference to specific talents, such as playing the piano or being particularly good at math or art or soccer.  One can be a gifted musician or a talented writer without being given the overall distinction of gifted.  They’re not synonymous.

Maybe someday, we will have a better word that explains the difference between a gift and being gifted.  Until then, children who are gifted should not be ashamed to be given that title, and parents should not be ashamed to use it to describe their children.  Nor should children be ashamed for not being labeled gifted, in the same way no one should be ashamed of not having ADHD.

I hope that helps bring understanding, and I hope I’ve said it in a way that is kind and not shaming or hurtful.  We’re all on this planet together, and we parents have the responsibility to our kids not to make it harder for them by arguing amongst ourselves, particularly over such small things as words.

Much love on this parenting journey,




Today I’m linking up with my fellow bloggers in a synchroblog over at Addie Zierman’s site in honor of her book, When We Were on Fire, being released today.  I confess that I haven’t read anything of the book other than the parts available online, but I’m looking forward to having the chance to read the whole thing.  Be sure to check out the other posts linked on her site today, and keep checking back because more will be added through the week.


I don’t remember the phrase “on fire” being used much in my teen years.  I didn’t grow up evangelical; I was a transplant from a Unitarian Universalist church.  I probably wouldn’t have ended up with the evangelical set if it hadn’t been for the fact that one Sunday in my UU teen class we were asked what other religions we’d been exposed to.  My dad is Jewish and I’d been to my friend’s Presbyterian youth group, so I said, “Judaism and Christianity.”  That was the wrong answer; I was immediately pressured to avoid “organized religion.”  Needless to say, my rebellious teenage self immediately concluded that the “persecution” I’d already heard about must be real and therefore returning to the Presbyterian church must be the right thing to do.  (Never mind that I could easily have decided to become Jewish, but I don’t think my dad’s family had the same sense that persecution = being more right than everyone else.)

There wasn’t much talk about being on fire, really.  There were rules–many of them, on every topic from clothes to books to music to sex.  It wasn’t about being passionate about our faith, it was about avoiding the appearance of evil and being “in the world but not of the world.”  We may not have used those exact words, “on fire,” even if we did sing Pass It On accompanied by our youth leaders on guitar.  But there were two things I knew I had to do: Reject my family and obey the Rules.  If I did that, it would be a sure sign that I was full-on for God.

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:25-27)


We stood in the bathroom on the ground floor of the church, my three closest church friends and I.  We were just freshening up during hang-out time at youth group.  Before we left, I said, “Wait.  I have to tell you something.”  My heart was pounding.

They listened as I explained to them about my sister.  “She’s gay,” I said.  They didn’t seem to know how to respond to that.  Finally, one of them said it must be so hard for me.  She felt sorry for me.  She would pray for me.  My friends told me not to worry; if I prayed earnestly and kept working on her, she would become a Christian and reject the “gay lifestyle.”

I did that for a long time, until I finally gave up the pretense that there was any truth to it at all.


I was forbidden to tell my grandparents that I was a Christian.  It made me feel righteous, this secret, like I was being silenced.  Persecuted.  Just like they said I would be.  I didn’t mind the not telling.  But it did make me fear for their eternal souls.

When my grandfather died, I sobbed–not for missing him (I barely knew him) but because I’d never gotten to tell him about Jesus.


I never truly understood my mother and her journey of faith.  I wish I’d asked her.  I wish I’d known the right questions.  I know she grew up in a precursor to the “on fire” 80s and 90s.  I always believed that she must never have been a real, true Christian or she wouldn’t have left the faith.  Even years after she reconnected with her Christian roots, I wasn’t sure what she actually believed.  I was told I was the most spiritually mature person in my family of origin.  It fueled my distrust of them.


I gave up secular music (I didn’t burn my tapes) and Girl Scout meetings (I wish I’d stayed) and books that weren’t Christian (I read a lot of Frank Peretti).  I wrote in my journal that I was dirty whenever I thought about anything sexual or (God forbid) touched myself.  I rejected the boy who liked me just for me because I was terrified of liking him back and all the intense feelings that brought.  I made sure I stayed away from the wrong influences.  I went to a Christian college to be away from the worldly influences of my family and my high school peers.  I needed to be completely immersed in Godly culture.  I think some of my professors (and probably a few of my classmates) felt sorry for my narrow-mindedness.  I wish I’d been able to explain (to myself and to them) that it was only surface-deep.


Somewhere along the way, the flame of my self-righteousness burned out.  I’d never been any good at evangelism outside the church.  Oh, I could give a gospel message to a group of twelve- and thirteen-year-olds.  I could deliver a two-week lesson unit to a group of young campers.  I could give a public testimony in hopes that someone who didn’t know Jesus might be listening and choose to be born again.  But talking to friends and co-workers about God?  Nope.

I thought that meant I was broken.  I hadn’t been able to reach my own family, and I couldn’t talk about Jesus with my non-Christian acquaintances.  I wasn’t trying hard enough.  I wasn’t on fire enough.

And then I realized I’d never wanted that kind of fire anyway.


I nearly lost my faith entirely.  By the time I left evangelical culture (not evangelical Christianity, really), my heart was in shreds.  I wasn’t sure if I believed in God anymore, or if I ever even had.  I finally saw the damage being done in the name of Jesus.  I was sliced open, raw, bleeding.

Even so, there was something left in the wake of the fire.


I can’t be angry about my experiences without acknowledging the good that came from them.  I can reject the hate and the strange subculture and the list of rules.  I can reject the notion that it’s my responsibility to save the whole world.  But I won’t reject all of it, because then I would have to reject the people, too.  It would erase the youth leader who drove me home week after week and never pressured me about my faith; we just talked about life (and she was the only one–ever, in all those years–who never told me to reject my sister).  It would erase the youth leader who introduced me to great literature and never once told me to stop reading books by non-Christians.  It would erase the two pastors who held us in love when my mother died.  It would erase the young men and women who have tenderly cared for my children in church, at camp, and in our home.  It would erase my ties to my Christian college, including my orchestra and the conductor who gently offers prayer for us when tension fuels our mistakes.

It would erase my own marriage, a relationship which began when I was still at least on the fringes of being on fire.


The problem with fire is that it gives the appearance of being a living thing–it breathes, it grows.  But it isn’t alive, and ultimately, it consumes everything before it burns itself out.  That’s not the kind of faith I want, and it’s not the kind of faith I want my children to have.

Better is a seed.  There’s a reason Jesus doesn’t use fire as a metaphor for faith.  He uses seeds–more than once.  Instead of a pseudo-life, a seed is the infant of a living, growing thing.  Unlike fire, which requires nothing but consumables in order to burn, a seed needs to be nurtured.  Active, not passive.  Something we must do carefully and gently over time.  Not a mad rush to throw more on the fire to keep in burning but a long, slow process of food and water.

I’m still nurturing that seed.  I’m not even sure what kind of tree it is yet.  All I know is that it isn’t burning–it’s growing.


If you want to add your story, click on the picture above and visit Addie Zierman’s site.  You can also read the first few chapters here or order the book here.

Notable News: Week of September 14-20, 2013

What a week!  Some great stuff happening around the blogs I follow, and here are the highlights.

1. About that evangelism thing

I honestly can’t believe how many people messaged me about this one.  I don’t normally get more than one private message about anything at all, and here I sit with several.  Apparently, this is a topic dear to a good many of you.  While most people agreed with me, not all did, and a few let me know that not all evangelicals are cut from the same cloth.  Agreed, and I plan to follow up yesterday’s post with a bit more explanation of what I mean–particularly the difference between churches that evangelize versus evangelical churches.  Anyway, thanks for talking about this with me.

2. While we’re on the subject

Weird wavelength thing–I hadn’t seen this when I wrote my post yesterday, but this was Naked Pastor’s cartoon.

3. In my in-box

One of the coolest things about blogging is having my readers send me stuff they think I’d like or be interested in.  Got an email the other day sharing a link to this great post about misogyny in video games.  I happen to like video games very much, but I’m into racing and sports games.  I often find myself being unusual among gaming women because we don’t tend to like the same things.  So if you’re a woman who enjoys the same types I do, I want to hear from you!  What do you like and why?

4. Defining love

This is a fantastic article reblogged by one of the people I follow.  It explains very well the convoluted thinking in fundamentalist churches.  Dare I say it, this applies outside of religious circles.  One does not need to believe in God to think there is a “best” and that other people need to be bullied, coerced, or shunned into agreeing to whatever this “best” is.

5. Two sides, on coin

These two posts on Registered Runaway’s blog are superb.  What a wonderful and honoring story of friendship and coming out.  It is told first by the woman who received the gift of her friend’s revelation and then by the woman who shared her soul.  Bring tissues when you read them.

6. Fiction Friday

Here’s my latest flash fic.  There’s some sex, so if you don’t like that, don’t read it.  (OMG! Married people over 45 still have sex?)

Have a great weekend everyone, and I’ll see you all on Monday.

Notable News: Week of August 31-September 6, 2013

My links round-up is focused on responses to that lapse-in-judgment post shaming braless teenage girls for making boys think dirty thoughts.  There were lots of other things I liked this week, but due to time constraints and the fact that I had a doctor mining in my vagina this morning*, I won’t be posting them today.  You’ll just have to trust me that the Internet is actually cool enough to contain stuff better than one mom’s slut-shaming post.

FYI – a letter to my sons  This is just so beautiful, and it’s exactly what I’ve said to my kids.

JGR: FYI (if you’re a slut-shaming facebook stalking mother) Another witty, sarcastic reply that hits all the right notes about what’s wrong.

FYI (A Letter to My Daughter Sally) Best line: “And to be perfectly honest, I’m not actually primarily talking about teenage boys you will come in contact with, whom I suspect you will find much less hung up on your clothing choices than some would have you think.”

FYI (If You’re a Teenage Boy) This is probably my favorite response, but I say “probably” because there were so many good ones. This was the one that made me laugh hardest, though.

Our bodies, ourselves I’ve been reading Sarah’s blog for a while, and I especially love her stories about her “shorties.”  From one mom to another, well said!

RE: FYI (If You’re a Teenage Girl) Yet again, witty and hilarious.  The whole last paragraph is great, but especially this: “What I’m trying to say is that I don’t respect nor trust my sons, or men in general. For that matter, I don’t trust females either. I think that men are mindless slaves to their genitals, incapable of compassion, or reasoned decision-making.”

Dear Kim: My Son Is Not an Animal, and My Daughter Is Responsible for No One’s Sexuality But Her Own This one is more serious, but what I liked best is where she says that she will talk to her own children rather than everyone else’s.

We Can Do Better I don’t totally agree with this (there’s a little bit of slut-shaming in it, though Jen acknowledges this in a self-deprecating and humorous way).  But I do agree that it’s bizarre how boys and men have become charity cases when it comes to those tempting boobies.

Sexy Selfies: No Cause for Teen Shaming This is an excellent post on growing up, respect, and whether or not teens will regret their choices.

Dear Random Children of the Internet with Blogging Moms Best line, on promising not to write open letters to her children: “I realize it will just make me look judgy and kind of ridiculous and would in reality have absolutely nothing to do with actually communicating with or parenting you.”

A response to Mrs. Hall: Teaching our boys respect and self-control Like the previous link, this one was shared in the comments on my “FYI” post.  She directs the burden back to exactly where it belongs–on boys to exercise restraint and on parents to teach them how.

FYI: An Open Letter to Teenage Girls Who Don’t Always Wear a Bra This one identifies a key premise of religiously-based slut-shaming: adult fear of adolescent sexuality.  Right on.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!  I’m off to enjoy one last hurrah before the school year really takes off.  I’ll see you all on Monday for another installment of Fifty Shades of Hell.


*Why are we so afraid to be honest about what goes on at the gynecologist?  I mean, it’s not like that old SNL sketch about the Ladies’ Room.  It’s an exam table and a cold piece of metal.  It kinda sucks (unless you like that sort of thing).  And for some weird reason, we whisper about it like that one family “incident” no one ever mentions, as though fully half of us don’t have plumbing that needs to be kept in working order.

Notable News: Week of August 17-23, 2013

Here we are at the close of another week.  It’s been a busy one for me, with my volunteer work at the kids’ last summer camp of the season.  I can’t believe that school is just around the corner for us.  Two weeks from today, my kids will be finishing their first week of classes.  The summer has flown by.  Meanwhile, I’m trying some new things in my life outside of blogging.  I’m looking forward to new challenges and opportunities.

This week, there have been some great posts.  Here are some of my favorites:

1. Religious privilege

This is a great summary of the privileges enjoyed (often unawares) by most Christians (other than those considered too “fringe”).  Because I still identify as Christian (even if I don’t always know how to define that, even for myself), I have definitely experienced many of the things on the list.  Although I’ve done well as an ally to people of other faiths in some ways, there are places where I can improve.

2. Love and Marriage

This story from Lana Hobbs is incredibly moving.  I’m not posting it here in order to “prove” to anyone that courtship works.  I’m posting it because so often lately, I read black-and-white pronouncements without any sense of the varied experiences of real people.  Lana’s story is one of hope in which despite her feelings about the process, she and her husband value and affirm each other.  There is rich beauty in that.

3. Leaps of Faith

I wish erinrebecca a blessed, hopeful journey this weekend in coming out to her parents.  I don’t have any special words of wisdom or deep, meaningful prayers to offer.  All I have to give is support from one writer to another, a thin line of Internet hope, and an affirmation of God’s love and mercy.  Grace and peace be with you as you go.

4. Jesus’ Gag Reflex

One of many fine responses to the gag-reflex-worthy poo fest that was Thabiti Anyabwile’s dreadful Gospel Coalition article.

5. More Gag Reflexes

And, of course, this one.  A friend of mine made a similar comment about his gag reflex for het sex.  Gee, thanks, guys–you’ve cleared things up for me.  Now I know I’m the one sinning because I’ve tripped your gag reflex!

6. Misogyny of the Week

I honestly find purity, modesty, and “courtship” culture kind of trips my gag reflex.  I’m glad my parents didn’t encourage any of this.  I’m also glad I married a man who even thought it was weird to ask my parents for permission to marry me.  After reading this dreadful post, I’m currently glad I will never have reason to allow this man to counsel either of my children.  I’m still laughing about how he calls this post “PG-13.”

7. Virgin Sacrifice

I’m glad I wasn’t drinking hot coffee when I read this.  Also, I misread “virgins” as “vaginas,”  to which my brain helpfully supplied, “That too.”

8. Christian Music

Apparently they meant “Grew Up A Christian Music Fan After 1992,” as I didn’t relate to most of this.  But I was a Christian music fan in the late 80s-early 90s, and I was one of those die-hards who refused to listen to secular music.  Other than the Billy Joel I used to sneak in.  And whatever my sisters happened to be listening to.  And U2 after they weren’t Christian anymore.  And Metallica.  And REM.  And…oh.  Never mind.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  See you on Monday.

Notable News: Week of August 10-16, 2013

It’s been hard staying in a rhythm over the summer, with both kids and my husband home.  I’ve also had twice as many editing/proofreading projects as last summer, so that’s left me little time to keep up on my blog.  Along with that, we’ve had several unexpected things happen, including sending my faithful Nissan Altima to the Great Body Shop in the Sky.  I’m now the proud owner of an SUV.  I never thought I would say that–it really does make me feel like such a suburban mom.  Anyway, I may not have been writing much, but I’ve definitely been reading.  This week’s list is a bit short, due to my own limited time, but here are some of the things I really liked this week.

1. Penal Substitution

Anyone who’s been reading my stuff for a while probably knows (or has at least guessed) that I’m no fan of the penal substitution view of salvation.  This Naked Pastor cartoon nearly made me snort my coffee out my nose.

2. Too many to list separately

Registered Runaway is my go-to blogger when I feel like I’m just done being harsh and frustrated.  I have a pretty forceful personality, and that’s not going to change, but the gentle people in this world are a good balance and keep me from toppling over the edge into cyclical rage.  I couldn’t pick just one of his posts this week, so I’m just linking the blog and you can read them all.

3. Well, all righty then.

Simon Chan wrote this.  It made me wish I’d had time this week to write something scathing and witty in response, but buying a new car broke my sarcasm function.  Fortunately, there are other good writers on the Internet.  Check out these excellent responses: Women Are People, Too: A Conservative Baptist Take On Inclusive Language and Why We Call God Father: a response to Simon Chan.

4. Today’s short story

I just posted this on my fiction blog.  Haven’t put anything up there in a long time, so it feels good to add a new story.

I’m not sure how the next week will go.  I’m volunteering every morning at a summer camp, so it will be sporadic.  I’ll do my best to keep up, though.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Notable News: Week of July 27-August 2, 2013

Better late than never, right?  Blogging’s been hit or miss this summer, as sometimes happens when both kids and my husband are on school vacation.  Today, we kept ourselves busy by sending my car to the shop (possibly for the last time; we’ll see) and hanging out at the children’s museum.  Anyway, here I am to bring you my favorite posts from the week.

1. Being used

If you haven’t seen this piece on being “used by God,” you may not have been on the Internet this week.  It’s been passed around by just about everyone.  I’m sharing it here in case you missed it.

2. Being used (part 2)

Here’s a cartoon by the always-wonderful David Hayward in response.  I particularly like this quote (and also the non-use of gendered pronouns for God):

Pushing that to its logical limits, the glory of God is God, and when we are our truest selves, fully alive, this is God in all God’s glory. There is now no separation. There is perfect oneness. There is perfect unity.

3. Being abused

This is a wonderful post over at Deeper Story by Susannah Paul.  We are failing to listen to those who have been deeply wounded and spiritually abused by churches.  I wish I had just a penny for the number of times someone has said they are reluctant to return to church because of the pain and some well-meaning person has said, “You just need to find the right church.”  A small part of me curls up and dies every single time.  We can do better.

4. Being owned

If you haven’t been following Sarah Moon’s You Are Not Your Own series, you should go do that right now.  I mean it.  Stop reading this post and just go do it.  If you just want to read the most recent one, that’s cool, because it’s an excellent one about unmarried women and “ownership.”  I am thankful my parents never took this approach with me.

5. Being a dancer

A friend sent me the link to this post about boys and dancing.  As the mom of a boy who dances, I always appreciate hearing from other parents who are proud of their kids and don’t limit them based on gender expectations.  What does make me sad is that nearly all of the ones about boys and breaking stereotypes are by women.  If anyone wants to comment here and link to posts by dads of boys who do things society considers “feminine,” that would be welcome.

6. Being an adoptee/adoptive parent

A fresh perspective on the “But people want your unborn baby!” from a mom with two adopted daughters.

7. Being body confident

Like many women, I’ve had a lifelong struggle to love my body exactly as it is.  I’m doing my best not to pass those feelings on to my own daughter.  Body-shaming must end.  (I could write a whole post on this, but I also think health-shaming and exercise-shaming and food-shaming need to end.)  Here are some wise words about how we can break the cycle.

8. Being a douchebag

My online friend and fellow writer Tim Gallen has some great advice for those looking to increase their douchebaggery.  My favorite line involves a sexually frustrated large mammal.  This is a guest post for Kim Ulmanis, who is honest and funny and just plain good; you should check out the rest of her blog while you’re over there.

9. Being a douchebag (part 2)

And speaking of douches, why am I not surprised that Hugo Schwyzer is at it again?  Why is this guy continually given a platform?  I think Dianna Anderson answers that question to an extent in her fantastic take-down of the culture that encourages people like Schwyzer to behave the way they do.

10. Being a writer

There’s so much advice out there on how to be a “proper” writer.  Honestly, it’s easier to explain how to do it wrong than to do it right, as evidenced in this very funny piece by Chuck Wendig.  How many of these are you doing?

11. Being a woman

Several of my friends posted this hilarious ad.  I shared it on Facebook, but it definitely deserves a second round.  If only that kid had been available when I hit puberty.

12. Being a geek

I love this video of Wil Wheaton delivering a message for a convention attendee’s newborn daughter.  I admit to having had a teensy (okay, huge) crush on him when I was in 8th grade.  Although I no longer sigh like a teenage girl when I see him, I do keep finding new reasons to think he’s just plain awesome.

13. Being a geek (part 2)

That video above is particularly important, because far too many girls grow up into women who have to defend our geekiness.  I’m glad I’m raising a boy who thinks that girls who know their video games are the most fun and a girl who knows it’s okay to be completely absorbed in your chosen geekdom.  Watch this video for more totally awesome geeks who just happen to be girls and women.  Also, Wil Wheaton.

14. Being from Rochester

My own city gets some love at HuffPo with an article on our fantastic street art.  I’ve never been more proud of my wonderful city!

That’s it for this week.  I should be around a bit more in the coming weeks (I hope).  If nothing else, check in on Monday for the first post on Fifty Shades Darker.  I would say you don’t want to miss it, but this is Fifty Shades we’re talking about.

Have a great weekend!