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I used to hide that we were a 2e family because I was afraid we’d be misunderstood, judged, and excluded. But three years ago I stopped all that when I came out of the 2e closet where I had been hiding. Now we celebrate my 2e daughter’s gifts; and I hope to encourage, or maybe even persuade, you to do the same.
What does it mean to come out of the 2e closet? I spent the first nine years of my 2e daughter’s life hiding that she was twice exceptional. Was I doing this deliberately? Not really. I was just afraid people would not understand her, possibly make fun of her, judge her unfairly, or worse… damage her self-esteem. So I did what I could to try to fit in, in hopes of saving her.
Because social situations were challenging for my daughter, I pre-empted activities by endlessly practicing with her what to say, how to say it, and when to say it to prepare her for any social situation. We took socializing classes, I read books and blogs, and I spent a lot of time strategizing how to help her have success. I also made sure I was always present in order to offer guidance. I was there for any class, activity, or moment in her life. I became her Girl Scout leader, her club leader, her teacher for various classes (we homeschool); and I was always the playdate host. We were together 24/7.
It was insane. Did it work? Nope.
Eventually, it occurred to me that it didn’t work because we hung out with families that were neuro-typical. They were nice families that I enjoyed, but they didn’t understand my 2e daughter or the needs of our 2e family. In some ways, we all got along; but, over time, the differences between us were growing. Then the relationships went from being fun to my worrying about how these people might be judging us.
They would loudly sigh or teasingly comment when my daughter couldn’t sit still or when she invaded someone’s space. In time, as invitations to their homes grew fewer, I started to wonder why we were spending time with people who thought my daughter was a problem. Then a new thought dawned: where are the people who see how awesome my daughter is?
It was a sobering day when I got my 2e kiddo’s test results that indicated high giftedness with dyslexia, dysgraphia, PDD-NOS, etc. It was also validation. Now I understood why we didn’t fit in, and I realized that these neurotypical relationships were not in our best interest. But if I let them go, I thought, who would we spend time with? Where would we find friends? Mentally I reasoned that we would surely find new friends; but emotionally I was scared and filled with doubt, afraid that we’d be lonely.
It took a year to slowly migrate away from neuro-typical families. It happened as I started to meet other parents at my daughter’s speech and occupational therapy sessions. Slowly, I revealed who I was. The parents in the waiting room were just like me, afraid to talk about what was going on with their children for fear of judgment. But once we introduced ourselves, we found allies and began to swap stories and build supportive friendships.
For the first time, I started to look at my daughter’s 2e differences as gifts instead of something to fix. I began understanding that the unique way my 2e daughter’s brain operates is something to celebrate. Thanks to her unique gifts, she offers the world perspectives that no one else comes up with. She is honest, and she offers friendship completely based on trust, sincerity, humor, and generosity.
Now that I was celebrating my daughter’s gifts, I decided to indulge her in one of her passions: Minecraft, a popular computer game. I started hosting a weekly Minecraft club where she could play, learn, and discuss Minecraft with other kids. It took a few months to get the word out and establish the guidelines. Then one day I looked around my home and counted over 18 kids all playing Minecraft together. The beautiful, amazing, unexpected surprise was that the kids who came to play were so much like her! In hind sight, it makes perfect sense that other kids with her 2e traits would have similar interests. A community was forming for her.
My daughter’s new community adores her. They see her as a leader, a kind friend, and smart. They appreciate her gifts. Plus, these kids are all on the same social level. While they can be a bit blunt with one another, they show acceptance and honesty to each other; and they all have similar levels of energy and creativity. Seeing my daughter surrounded by kids who appreciate one other for who they are has brought joyful tears to my eyes more than once.
The Minecraft group grew from a club into a community. My daughter was Skyping with these kids on a daily basis, collaborating with some on projects, writing together, and animating together. Five of our families even attended an annual Minecraft convention together! My eyes were opened wide to the fact that my 2e daughter did not need help with socializing, rather she needed help finding like-minded friends. Now that she has them, she feels confident to pursue other passions besides Minecraft, like writing songs, singing, and making movies of the original stories she writes. All of these are pastimes she can now share with others who love to do the same things, something that probably would have never happened if we were still trying to fit in with neurotypical families.
So, if you look around and see yourself surrounded by people who don’t understand your 2e family, ask yourself as I did, “What am I doing here?” Consider branching out and trying new groups that might be a better fit. The joy you gain from finding families that love you for who you are and celebrate the gifts of your 2e child will far exceed your expectations. I encourage you to test my theory…and come out of the 2e closet.
Sarah Mitchell happily unschools her 12-year-old 2e daughter and 16-year-old neurotypical daughter, while their fluffy miniature poodle keeps them company. She loves to shop and decorate, as well as grow yummy vegetables while she dreams of someday owning chickens that will eat up all the snails. In her free time, she loves working as a mentor for 2e families over at www.2ecoaching.com