The first time she had a sensory meltdown was in the summer of 2009. We were traveling and had been in the car since 7 that morning. It was dinner time. She was tired, hungry, and bored.
By this point, we’d picked up on her selective eating, but we hadn’t learned to best to proceed. Food battles were huge, and of course, road food’s not accommodating. I promised a brownie at the restaurant if she would eat her grilled cheese.
She took one bite of the sandwich.
The restaurant didn’t have brownies.
We left in a flurry of wailing and gnashing of teeth.
That first meltdown lasted a full hour and gave us a taste of the world that was to come. Three years later my preschooler’s grown up and in kindergarten. I have another child – a toddler girl, now, too. Weekly phone calls home from the principal had our stress levels on overdrive. It was impacting everyone in the home, especially the two-year-old. I had a highly sensitive empath on my hands and didn’t even realize it.
She soaked up all that angst like a sponge.
At least until she burst one morning at Walmart. I had popped in after kindergarten drop off. What began as a simple disagreement over a pinky doggy purse with sequins became a 45-minute tirade, complete with the added bonus of being accused of child abuse on my way around the store.
And now we have a third child – our youngest little boy. He doesn’t sleep and is beginning to show selective eating patterns. But he’s reading and can do simple math.
My children are Twice-Exceptional, and for the most part, they’re as quirky as can be.
A Twice Exceptional Primer for Catholic Moms of Quirky Kids
From the outside, I know our family looks unconventional. Our children are spaced roughly four years apart. They are prone to public meltdowns, even when they’ve grown up. They have obsessive interests and trouble with socializing. They are bothered by things that wouldn’t phase other kids.
My children are intellectually gifted. Their brains are wired differently. They aren’t better than or more than or superior to other kids – they are just the way God made them, with brains that process information at a high rate of speed.
With that wiring comes a propensity for struggles, and some are common themes in gifted kids. There’s sensitivities, overexcitabilities, and asynchronous development; there’s a tendency toward depression and anxiety and perfectionism, too. My children don’t just deal with that aspect of wiring, though. They also have comorbid conditions which occur in an estimated 20% of the gifted population. Diagnoses like Autism Spectrum Disorders, Anxiety, ADHD, OCD, and dyslexia can and do occur in gifted children.
This is what professionals refer to as Twice-Exceptional or 2E.
At the beginning of my journey as a Twice-Exceptional mother, I felt extraordinarily alone. I wasn’t sure what God was asking of me – was I supposed to discipline the issue out of my children? Advocate for them? All of the above?
There wasn’t much information in the Catholic school community, and most of my mom friends had kids who were doing fine. Mine weren’t, and I felt like an outsider. How could my children be so smart, but struggle with a simple thing like school?
Fortunately, we found excellent therapists, and I discovered a vibrant community online. I learned a wealth of information that has made me a better mother and a stronger advocate.
And for the first time in a long while, I don’t feel so terribly alone.
So If You’re a Catholic Mama of Quirky Kids, Here are 4 Things You Need to Know
1. You are the mother your children need.
God doesn’t make mistakes, and he certainly didn’t flounder when he made you. The all-knowing, all-loving, eternal creator of the universe looked at the stars and the moon and the sea and every other person on this planet, and do you know what he decided? He decided the world needed you, too. Sister, you were uniquely created for the job you are doing right now, in this place. Not only are you refining and sanctifying the children under your care – you’re being made holy in the fire, too.
2. Normal is what you make of it
My children don’t fit the standard of what the world considers normal. They are different, and that is both socially and educationally clear. But if I spent my days longing for the parenting situations and experiences my friends have, I’d miss out on the beauty and the joy God has put in front of me. That is what’s normal, and I can’t let the fear of “what they might think” tear my peace apart.
3. The struggles you face will ease
At the beginning of our Twice-Exceptional journey, it was easy to look at my oldest and wonder if we would move beyond the sensitivities, the meltdowns, and the aversions. They followed us everywhere, from parties and picnics to rec center classes and school. I grew weary of explaining and defending and feeling like our lives were a never-ending battle. Most of all, my heart broke for my daughter. She was struggling so much. It felt viciously unfair.
But as with most things, age, therapy, and a whole lot of love have made a big difference. She’s learned coping mechanisms, and frankly, so have I. What I once saw as insurmountable obstacles now look like giant stepping stones.
4. You are neither alone nor crazy
There are other women who have children like yours. Find a support group of like-minded Catholic mamas who can share your joys and struggles. The burden is much easier when you aren’t the only one carrying it.
Whether you’re on your first sensory meltdown, or you’ve got a few dozen under your belt, please understand what I’m telling you now:
Your kids may be quirky. They may be difficult and exhausting to love. But they are the perfect little people for you in this moment of divine chaos.
Just make sure you hold on tight for the ride.
Ginny Kochis is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mother to three Twice-Exceptional kids. She writes about faith, homeschooling, and gifted/2E parenting at Not So Formulaic and is a regular contributor to CatholicMom.com. You can find Ginny on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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