My Child is 2E: Now What?

I’m crying.

I’m not even sure why I’m crying.

Nothing has changed with the diagnosis that Isabella is 2E (twice-exceptional). We, as parents, are dealing with the same things that we have always been dealing with. She hasn’t changed. We just have answers. We haven’t changed. Our parenting just has to shift.

So why am I crying?

I feel at once relieved and overwhelmed. Grateful for answers but longing for easy solutions. I love my daughter. I am proud of her abilities and unique look on the world. But when I am tired, I long for a typical kid. One that is a straight line to parent, in a way. A+B=C, kind of kid. Good behaviour+reward= happy child, kind of kid.

Instead, I spend time cradling my daughter as she lay sobbing about the state of the universe and how it is affecting her school life (I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, it was such a complicated and far-fetched concept that even I had trouble grasping it). Eventually getting her calm enough to go back to bed, I knew I had to look for more specific answers.

My kids will never be spur-of-the-moment type people. They try to go with the flow- but abruptly deciding a new plan is like turning the tap on a bathtub, not turning the tap off but expecting the bathtub not to overflow. Eventually it will overflow and you have a big mess to contain and clean up. My kids need plans. They need to be informed of a change of plan and asked if it’s alright to do that instead. I know it is unrealistic to expect that is how all people will do things for them, forever, so I am trying to find a balance.

My daughter and I can’t go buy her a big bag of candy like I used to do. I remember eating a bunch of candy and running off the sugar rush in a park playground. It was one of my fave summer activities. My daughter gets physically sick and mentally shaken if I do that to her. And moody and hard to parent. I used to say, “What is wrong with you?” but now I know what it is.

My daughter will never truly enjoy big birthday parties with a raucous group of children. Her diet will always have to be the foods that help her brain flourish and don’t get converted into sugar. Puberty is going to be next level for her. Her ideas in class projects will often be too complex for other kids to “get” and they will reject them, making her feel lonely in a way that’s hard to understand.

Summer vacation is hard for her because of the lack of routine. I can never see her enjoying the summers I used to love- waking up in a warm room, the whole day ahead of me to read or watch cartoons or dig for treasure in the backyard. I used to read a book in the grass for 8 hours straight.

My daughter does that, too, but not for 8 hours; And you can see her fidget or stand up to walk with the book. She is antsy afterward, wondering where the time went, wondering if she “wasted” it or if that time could have been better spent. She wonders things like, “In 40 years, will the time spent reading that story have kept me from reading a science book and discovering a new technique to cure climate change? Should I have been studying, instead?”

Summers drive her crazy. If I don’t make a routine for her, she does. An hour of reading, an hour of studying an animal and writing an essay, followed by a half hour of activity and an hour of free time; for example.

My childhood fancies such as treasuring hours colouring or sorting crayons into rainbows doesn’t interest her. The things I loved- suddenly deciding to go for ice cream as a rapid change of plan, are not the things she will love. I cannot make haphazard decisions and changes. Her brain needs at least a half hour to switch gears. Even at school, changing from one class to another is hard for her. The teacher has started to announce that they will be changing to another subject in 20, 10, 5 minutes….

I guess I am partly mourning that she has never been the carefree child I once was. I knew the first time I held her that she wouldn’t be- just had a sense. I remember thinking, at the first feeding in the hospital, “This child is going to be a lot. This girl is going to need another level of love, parenting and attention.” I remember sighing after that thought, but I had forgotten about it until we recently got the 2E diagnosis. When it came rushing back to me, I thought, “Now that memory makes sense!”

My daughter is smart enough to know she is unique. She is intuitive enough to know what people want or expect from her and changes her natural responses to suit them. This constant tamping down of her natural inclinations concerns me.

Now, we have a diagnosis.

All this time, Josh and I have read parenting books, talked to other parents, and tried to see what our daughter wanted with her actions. Even though we kept trying to adjust our parenting, we still felt we were swimming against the tide. What we were doing didn’t fit. The result was an anxious child who still had tantrums and whose concerns were so big we felt worried for her.

Now we know how she ticks, but in a small way.

Now we know she is 2E (twice-exceptional): both gifted and ADHD.

I don’t see these as problems or concerns, but opportunity.

Still, I cry: Out of relief for a diagnosis, out of frustration that it’s such a niche community and hard to find information that suits our unique child, out of overwhelm of what this means for our parenting and organization, out of gratefulness for our psychologists that worked tirelessly to find answers for us.

I have so many tabs open on my computer- articles to read and videos to watch. It feels like I’m researching a thesis for a master’s degree! But when our daughter is reacting to something, I want the right response for her. My knee-jerk reactions aren’t right for her. So I will research, which suits the nerd in me, and work really hard to see Isabella. See her for who she is, what works best for her. I believe kids are born with their personality set, as fully formed humans- and we are here to guide them the best that we can so that they can thrive.

And so I cry at the daunting task ahead of me, not even sure of what questions I have, or what direction I want to go. It is overwhelming but Josh is a great partner, Isabella is an amazing person and Hunter is a supportive brother. We will find our way.

But for now, I cry as a release. It has been a long road.




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