My son Jack is a 3rd grader and has excelled at spelling bees since 1st grade. Being part of this type of academic competition was a completely new experience for me and it made me wonder if this will be a future path for Jack. He also excels at sports, so perhaps competition is at the heart of his interests. Either way, I felt a little out of my element watching some parents who at least appeared to be "old pros" at the world of academic sport. I never was involved in any type of debate team, math club; walking into these spelling bees felt a little like going into a club you aren't a member of.
Jack has a brain that works in a much different way than mine did at his age and well, like mine works now. There are many times that I don't realize he is trying to be funny, or his brain is working out unique word combinations. Being a parent takes patience and then even more when you realize you don't understand what your son is saying. Steve sometimes steps in to translate for me, he also acts as mediator when he realizes that I might be getting upset (most likely for the wrong reason) at something Jack said.
Every parent thinks and should think their child is gifted. A gift is defined as "a natural ability or talent" and each and every one of us has a gift. Some of us just find it a little sooner or maybe have that special person who calls it to our attention. But, the gift is there. It might not be the shape and size you thought it would be, but it's there.
For Jack, he showed hints of needing something different academically in first grade. Steve and I didn't really understand how the system worked because he is our oldest child and we had no experience with it, so we just let the testing play out as the teachers recommended which was to wait until 2nd grade. Maybe other parents would have demanded testing earlier, but we just didn't feel it was necessary to push it at 1st grade, especially since it was a new school fo him. Jack proceeded through the battery of tests for Gifted & Talented (GT) and began attending the program in 2nd grade. If you are wondering whether your child has some of the markers educational administrators look for, I found this chart helpful because it opened my eyes as to how Jack sees and processes things differently.
As parents, we watch our children grow and navigate their learning with such joy, hope, and admiration; I think those feelings often turn into anxiety and fear that our children will miss out on opportunities; they won't get into the right school, they won't get the right job, on and on and on. It's really easy to get ahead of yourself. I know I have simply out of fear that I have no idea what I'm doing.
Remember to breathe, don't fall down the rabbit hole of the Internet, and attend the Fred Parent Kid's Expo!