Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Deep, Dark, and Scary World of Gifted Children Part 1

Oh how I have toiled and prayed about this blog posting. However, it is time.This is the topic that makes parents of gifted children want to spit when we here "but ALL children are gifted". Really? All families deal with this? What is "this"? This is the area of raising a gifted child that sends parents to their first visit with a psychologist. In the profoundly gifted population - the visit happens rather early. For us, it happened when my eldest was just three years old.
I was encouraged to start this blog to help other parents of gifted children and hopefully build an online community of where parents can say "yes, there is someone going through what I am going through". Now is the time to tackle the issue that probably sent you searching in the first place. You see, parents of gifted children don't stay up at night unable to sleep because their child started talking in complete sentences at 15 months old, or because they found them reading Harry Potter at the age of four. Its the "other" side of gifted, the side no one ever really sees or experiences unless they also have a gifted child. Its the first time your child collapses into a heap on the floor and cries for hours because they made a mistake. Its when your child thinks they are "stupid" because they got an answer wrong while independently doing work created for children twice their age - or more. Its when your child looks at you with tears in their eyes and says "I'm bad, I need to be punished" when they make even the most common mistake. And when that child is just three years old its hurts even more. You know that look, you can see it in their eyes; the self loathing and self hate because they are not the perfect person you never even asked them to be.
"This" comes in many different categories, attached to many different labels. Sometimes it is simple perfectionism - wanting themselves to be flawless for every task, no matter how great or challenging. They can see quite clearly how the wiggled just a little when drawing their first letter "A". You try to console them "honey, its great, it was your first try, your only two - many kids don't draw their first letter A until they are five". It doesn't help, the meltdown has started and there is no stopping this flood. They have seen themselves as less than what they thought everyone else expected them to be and they feel they must be punished. While people on the "outside" are in awe at all the things your kids can do; inside you cringe every time you see a mental leap coming on. Every time you hear those words "mommy, I think I would like to learn". Doesn't matter what they are learning - advanced quantitative physics or tying their shoe - you know in your heart this is going to rip them apart, because learning takes time. And even though they do it three to four times faster than most people, that isn't fast enough for them.
Another category is emotional intensity. Oh my word most people can't understand just how high a high can be or just how low a low can be. The first time I saw emotional intensity my eldest was nine months old. He wanted to nurse while he slept, I wanted to sleep. So, while rocking him in a rocking chair I slipped his pacifier into his mouth. He sat up, took his pacifier in his little baby hand - and threw it was such force across the room when it hit the wall my husband ran into the room thinking someone had fallen. We have calmed him significantly from those baby days - with gentle parenting (no hitting, no yelling). However, those victories are only surface, because while he doesn't have violent outbursts - he has turned that rage and frustration on himself. When he does something wrong, no matter how slight - he will send himself to his room. When he fails to be a perfect little boy he will shout at himself with anger "you are so bad, I am so mad at you!" My sweet, gentle, honest, kind, loving little boy looks at himself with disgust because he sometimes forgets to put a toy away. I am left with nothing more to do but hold him and hug him and cry to myself as I try to emotionally pull out all that "stuff" - he is too little, too young, to vulnerable for feelings like this.
Yet another category is negative thinking. Gifted kids are so acutely aware of the world around them that they can find the negative in a rainbow. "But mommy, isn't the color black sad that it never has an opportunity to be a part of the colors of the rainbow". We went through a tornado and had two trees fall on our home - only to flee to my inlaws home just 30 minutes before an F5 swept through their neighborhood. It was such a scary experience - to everyone. But to my kids, this has become their life. One of my three year old twins continued to ask "how did those houses fall down". 1/3 of the homes in the neighborhood were lost and my son was confused because these were big strong brick houses. Being a fan of the "3 Little Pigs" he continued to demand to know how do brick houses get blown down like we - we had told him for years that brick houses were strong. Well, I never knew to make the exception while reading the story "except in the case of a rare F5 tornado". He had nightmares, his behavior changed, he started to frequently wet the bed. His little three year old mind is still, three months later, trying to come to terms with the fact that mommy and daddy kept this possibility from him. Now every wind brings him close to tears - could this be another tornado? Could our brick house fall down? What else did mommy and daddy keep from me - is there an F6 tornado? How do we know there isn't an F6? Why did God allow an F5 tornado? What happened to the people that were in that house the completely collapsed? What happens if we are outside and a tornado comes? What is daddy is a work during a tornado - can he get home? What happens when you "get dead"? My little three year old son should be thinking about fun things, having a good time, being a kid. Instead, he is wondering the tornado rating of every building he enters - who built it, how strong, how do we know it is strong enough, what if it isn't strong enough?
Do you see your kids in any of these stories? Do any of these experiences speak to you? If so, please read Part 2 which will be posted shortly. In part 2 I will talk about what compelled me to bear my soul and open up the box that is often shut tight and left inside of most homes with gifted children. And I will talk about the ways we deal with this dark and scary side of gifted in our home.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This hit close to home. I've only recently become familiar w/ the pg label, but it so fits my kids, esp. my 10yo. How sad for him that it's taken me this long to figure it out.