Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Great Leaps Forward - thinking things through

One of the most interesting experiences in parenting gifted children is the "great leaps forward". Most people are familiar with amazing leaps children do as babies - the first time they roll over, crawl, walk or say "mommy". Children also complete intellectual leaps, and for gifted children those leaps can happen pretty often and be quite amazing.
Our twins just turned four years old, and the leaps they have bounded in the past couple of months have been quite amazing. For my son, his leaps have been in his amazing reasoning ability. When he isn't busy coming up with new games, running around the house, and overall being - well, a four year old - he likes to sit and talk. While the "quiet" one in our bunch (and quiet simply means not talking 23 1/3 hours a day), his soft observations of the world are quite profound. The kids had a hankering for pets, my eldest first thought he wanted a turtle, my daughter a butterfly, and her twin a bird. As we were driving to the pet store (to look only!) my bird lover started to tell me about the experiences he would have with his bird. "I will need to take him to the potty. I will have to hold him up will he poops so that he doesn't fall in". I know, potty talk from an almost four year old isn't "profound". But think about what he said. He was already thinking in details about the ways in which he would need to care for his pet. Now, we have a very active bird feeder in our yard and have identified almost ten different species that frequent the feeder almost daily - so he has seen birds quite a bit and know they don't come inside to use the potty. He realized that a pet bird would need to be taken care of differently than wild bird. He realized cleanliness would be important for a pet and he would need to be responsible for that. He understood his role would be that of protector and although he is small, he would be the one responsible for his pet. He was, in his young mid, thinking through the details of what would be needed to take good care of his pet. He was still a month shy of being four at this experience, still a baby himself in many ways, but he was able to mentally contemplate what would be needed for him to be in the role of caregiver - a sign not just of the ability to role play - but signs of empathy and compassion. This is a leap seen almost five years earlier than we would normally expect to see it. While we didn't leave the pet store with a bird, I left with a better understanding of the inner thoughts of my little thinker, my contemplater, my little guy who takes what to him are big problems and solves them quietly in his head. He will never ask for help while he is thinking and (like his father) will only speak when he feels like he has come up with a good and workable solution he can implement. Also like his father, those solutions often deal with self sacrifice so that others can helped, or happy, or a little more whole. Its funny, when people see my little guy they often say "oh, that one will keep your hands full". On the outside they see a little boy who is a ball of energy and a bit head strong. They will never hear his thoughts for taking care of his pet bird. He never shares his plans, goals, or ideas. He cherishes his thoughts and plans, he some how knows ideas have value and shouldn't be simply tossed around to those who won't appreciate that work that went in to forming them. He seems to have a built in protection system around his inner thoughts and his soul.
I wait in  anticipation at what his young mind will bring forth. I often cut through the noise of the world to try to hear him every time quietly calls me name, finally ready to share with me a thought he has been wrestling with. Sometimes its about ways to tornado proof buildings, sometimes new games he has invented, sometimes he shares solutions to problems presented in stories we read, and sometimes its other gentle and loving ways to care for his future pet bird.
My son represents a segment of the gifted population many people never see until they do something great as adults. My son is brilliant, but he only performs "on paper" when he wants to . It will take a very skilled professional to accurately test his IQ - he simply has no mind to entertain questions he thinks are silly, stupid, or have more than one valid answer - so choosing just one answer makes no sense at all. I often tell my husband I think he is the most gifted of the bunch, not because of what he knows or retains, but because of the relationship he has with his own thoughts, his own mind. He is confident in his ability to think, to figure it out, to find a way - eventually. He trusts himself enough to wrestle with an issue, to turn it over in his head, to think about it and come up with a solution. And when he is ready to defend it, he is ready to speak it out.
His brother laughed when he talked of taking his bird to the potty. Unnerved him simply replied - my bird will be able to do it, I will train him, he will want to be clean and not have bird poop in his cage. You don't poop in your room, why should my bird poop in his. You know, I am fully convinced that given the time and the chance, there will be a toilet pooping bird in our home some day!

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