Many gifted individuals find themselves muddled in the undergrowth of their potential, struggling to uncover who they are and seeking a clearer path to who they are meant to be—never knowing that there is balance and even order to be found once they accept the full complexity of their lives.
Enter Paula Prober’s “Rain forest”—an apt metaphor for the gifted experience and the inspiration behind Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth.
According to Paula, “While all ecosystems are beautiful and make valuable contributions to the whole, rain forests are particularly complex: multilayered, highly sensitive, colorful, intense, creative, fragile, overwhelming, and misunderstood, while thick with possibility and pulsing with life, death, and transformation. You could say that a rain forest has far more activity than, say, a meadow or a wheat field. The rain forest is not a better ecosystem, just more complicated. It also makes an essential contribution to the planet when allowed to be itself, rather than when cut down and turned into something that it is not. The term ‘rainforest mind’ covers more than just thinking, cognition, or brain. It includes heart, soul, body, and spirit.”
In her new book, Paula leads us along the pathways that make up the labyrinthine thought processes of rainforest-minded individuals. By sharing stories from her case files, accumulated over her 25 years as a psychotherapist, she presents narratives to which we can relate and through which we may gain insight into ourselves. These cases eloquently illustrate the breadth of giftedness, beyond what we typically consider as gifted traits—intelligence, achievement, etc.—and into the emotional aspects. Topics covered include intensity, empathy, perfectionism, procrastination, creativity, loneliness, and spirituality, among others. And Paula presents strategies to respond to these issues within the context of her clients’ therapies. The back matter includes 108 endnotes and a wide array of recommended, and truly useful, resources (both books and online options) broken down by chapter for ease of reference.
I found Your Rainforest Mind to be both riveting and relevant, with the examples Paula chose to share useful and relatable to other rainforest-minded individuals who would be inclined to pick up this book. Though, of course, Your Rainforest Mind will also appeal to those who live with, work with, counsel, educate, or are curious about the gifted. By the way, if you’re asking yourself, “Do I have a rainforest mind?”, Paula provides a revealing 23-question highly unscientific quiz at the beginning of her book that might help you figure that out!
The degree to which rainforest-minded people have difficulty coming to terms or living with their unique minds varies. Some are able to navigate their journeys on their own; others require a bit more guidance from time to time. At those points, seeking the help of a trained psychotherapist—particularly one familiar with giftedness—should be an option that’s always on the table. With open minds, understanding, and appropriate support, we can all become our most authentic selves. And Your Rainforest Mind is one more tool to help us do just that.
For posts related to Paula’s work and advocacy efforts, visit her blog here: https://rainforestmind.wordpress.com/
Academic acceleration in its varied forms works for many gifted children—and there is evidence to support that. However, acceleration shouldn’t be entered into without careful deliberation. Often it’s obvious at the outset that this approach is the answer to the myriad challenges presented a particular gifted student—the need for a more demanding curriculum, the longing for like-minded peers, the chance to bypass the slow lane. Other times, it’s not as clear.
At the center of any decision to accelerate is a child—a whole human being whose complete complement of characteristics needs to be considered. Thankfully, there exists an objective tool that helps do that. Acceleration should never be viewed as one size fits all or as a final destination from which there is no return. And, at each deliberative stop, the children involved should be consulted—and their voices heard. After all, if a child is resistant to acceleration, then the acceleration is less likely to be a success.
None of us has a GPS into which we can program the guaranteed best route for the long-term success of our gifted children. All we can do is collect the pertinent information at any particular moment and make the most informed decision possible, keeping our plans open to the reality that sometimes we may need to veer off course or reassess the route.
And realize, too, that after traveling the road of advanced work—subject acceleration, grade skipping, early college—a gifted kid may want a break.
Imagine being sixteen years old—associate degree in one hand, high school diploma in the other. An honors graduate on both counts. And unsure which direction to go. It happens, and it’s okay. A gap year or two can be advantageous. While there will be students who want to go on to universities, pursuing higher level degrees at a nontraditional age, there will also be those who don’t. Acceleration isn’t simply about gifted kids getting somewhere faster; it’s about those kids getting the most out of the journey on the way to their destinations—whenever and wherever they arrive.
Some may find that the academic choices they made when they began their college work (sometimes as early as age 13) no longer hold and that they simply aren’t sure what they want to study or where.
Some may feel that they’ve waited long enough to pursue their passions and that attending a university right away won’t help them achieve their goals as much as, say, a mentor, a job, or time to fully focus on personal projects.
Still others may long to pay it forward and take on a role within a service initiative, volunteering at local charities or traveling to distant lands for the greater good.
Whatever their motivations, the goals and interests of these gifted young people should be seriously considered and support afforded them as they build their own futures, seeking to become the people they desire to be.
In the end, acceleration is a personal choice. While being a viable alternative for many gifted children, it isn’t necessarily the best option for each of them. Care and planning involving the children and the concerned adults in their lives will lead to the best results. And remembering that the brake is right next to the accelerator will help these young people keep pace on their journeys.This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Blog Hop, “Acceleration: Education at the Speed of Us.” To read other contributions, please click on the graphic below or copy and paste the following URL into your search bar: http://www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_acceleration_2.htm
Thanks to Pamela S. Ryan for the great graphic!
It is my pleasure to share this guest post from Missy Brinkmeyer. She was a delight to correspond with, witty and refreshing in her candor. Thanks for sharing your story, Missy!
I think it’s invaluable to have people in your life through whose eyes you like to be seen. We can spend years being seen through people’s eyes who see parts of us, projections of society, and too our hearts, but often miss our creativity, sensitivities, and vulnerabilities, and misunderstand our nonconforming behaviors and needs. What a relief it is to be recognized.
I met Steve when I was in my mid-twenties. Coffee Roasters in Marina Del Rey seemed to be the breakfast social stop of the very non 9–5 Los Angeles entertainment, out of the box, out of work, CEOs, policemen set. I used to leave work, in the early days, drive back to the Marina and hang.
One Saturday late, I squeezed in for the super multigrain pancakes. The place was thinning out. But the crowd would have been throbbing there all day. I’d seen Steve before. With his graying dark, wild hair and beard, Harley/beach casual attire, he looked like a well-transplanted New Yorker with an obvious intellect and a huge edge. You wouldn’t cross him. Respect was voluntarily impelled or those big guys were afraid just a little bit.
That Saturday Steve sat beside me. He, we struck up a conversation over the end of my pancakes. Within minutes, tears began rolling down my face. I hadn’t cried since I was twelve years old. And I’d had traumatic reasons to cry. But here, in the late afternoon, with this fabulous, scary, intelligent biker looking man, I let go.
He saw me. He understood me. He knew me. He recognized me. Steve was the same age as my mother, married to a lovely younger woman, with children near my age, from a former marriage, living in New York. But he made room. He came to feel I was the daughter he never had. And he became a father figure (a much wilder one than my own loved father had been, bless)/best friend.
I could breathe again. Steve was a producer and director of photography, well respected in his field. But he was losing his eyesight. He wanted to create with me, introduce me to people, facilitate the thriving of all the creative brilliance he felt he saw in me. We spent hours together nearly daily. The conversation never broke. We were both fighting things. But we kept each other stimulated and living for some time.
As his eyesight diminished, I cheered him up with a drive. He got behind the wheel (on a slow safe road!), and I coached him on turns and speed. We laughed until we cried.
He used to walk around the Roasters (in California you got fined for not picking up the dog poo), taking his dog for a break, with a shirt that said, “I don’t see Shit!”
In NY, Steve, years before, rolled up in the old “Arthur” car from the movie, with the phone, etc. and a big black cape with a cross around his neck. Okay, it may have been Halloween, but doors opened and crowds parted! We lived in each other’s past and potentials. And we knew what that meant. There were no explanations or confusions. Steve told me he would always love me. There was nothing I would ever do that would change that. I wasn’t capable. He knew my character. He knew me.
Steve came alive. He dreamed. And, when he had a harder time doing it for himself, he did it for me. “Contact________” (I keep confusing directors’ names). He made Sea of Love. “When you mix up the names, look at Sea of Love.” I still do it. Harold? I’ll look it up! “Contact him and tell him you’re my friend.” They used to have a production company together.
He’d slip me a few dollars like a dad, proudly take me to dinner, and be as protective as a bear.
Steve did as much as he could, in the time he remained on this plane, to show me my worth, who I was, that I was brilliant, and to make me feel loved. The believing took time. But the seeing (and being seen) never left.
I saw him. Steve was brilliant, beautiful, wildly hilarious, a profound human being. And he thought that and more of me. I knew he was all of those things, and he saw me.
How could I describe what is recognizable? I am not sure until recently that I ever noticed it in such a conscious, nearly slow motion discovering way. But, as I look back into my relationships, I can reflect upon those moments of being seen or feeling comfortable to be in any condition I was in or knowing I was accepted and understood, without excuse, explanation, or judgment.
In a car, on a road trip, where the conversation was one sided and took abstract to an exciting and entertaining place, as we followed our path by where the next ice cream stops were located, I was silent, nearly mute. But she knew I was in there. She knew even if I couldn’t come out or was temporarily frozen, I was in there. So she kept talking to me like it would all go in. And whether I could or would process it then, I would keep it. I would integrate it when I was back or maybe I did in my silence in an altered state, like the way our subconscious does when we are sleeping. It was years later I found out what it was like to be with me in those times and what she thought. But never did a piece go missing in a stall or much later conversation. She knew. And I thank God.
In a more recent years friend, I noted his tolerance to my overloads. In his office music was playing that he thought I would like. Rapidly, he was speaking and referencing various works, nearly hard for a brain to follow let alone a pen. Typically, I enjoyed and played in his room, like we were dancing. But not today I didn’t. Lack of sleep and a huge anxiety overtaking left me hypersensitive. The office was too hot. The sun was in my eye. Open the window. Shut the blinds. The music was too loud. Stop talking. Stop. I spoke, interrupting and pausing and aggressively. I couldn’t handle any of the calamity or game. But he knew. He still saw me. This man once yelled via email that I wasn’t finishing any sentences and that I was extremely hard to follow (probably a little harsher). I yelled back that I had an anxiety disorder and I didn’t always know I was doing it and things were moving fast in my head. He learned to intuit my endings and converse in fragments if necessary (or at least he gleaned their meanings instead of judging their quality), fast and ever since. He saw me.
And maybe that person I have most recently connected with will see it too, in himself and in me, what is deeply there. And I want him to know how extraordinary he is.
Steve was one of my lifelines. I am thankful to this day for another, since childhood. She knows she is family. When we connect with these people, when these rare souls see us, it relieves the confusion, promotes self-acceptance, stops the self-loathing or punishment, makes us understand not fitting in is a beautiful thing, and allows us the confidence to be divergent.
One of the biggest and most painful mysteries of the gifted brain can be not knowing you have one.
He saw me. So did she. And he did. And he might too.
*There are more. There are people who see parts and love those parts of your whole more than it nearly seems like you could love a person. There are those who don’t understand fully and love you anyway, in enormous ways. And there are more than who I mentioned. I struggled with referencing anyone, even lightly.x
This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Blog Hop, “Mysteries: The Weird Stuff.” To read other contributions, please click on the graphic below or copy and paste the following URL into your search bar: www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_mysteries_of_the_brain.htm
Thanks to Pamela S. Ryan for the great graphic!
Sunlight streamed through the panes on the left as she walked down the corridor. On the right was a row of classrooms. Those with windows facing the hallway were reserved for the youngest students, the glass allowing parents whose curiosity bettered them to sneak a peek at their blossoming scholars in action.
Though she couldn’t distinguish the source, nausea permeated her stomach and her chest tightened. She had no particular cause for concern, yet she felt apprehension around what might be said. Siena was a quiet child who kept to herself in group situations, sometimes to the point of withdrawal. The kid was really smart, though, and able to read people and situations with the keen observance of a much older, wiser girl. She finally reached Siena’s teacher, they shook hands, and she braced herself for whatever might come next.
They sat. And on the table in front of them was a portfolio of Siena’s work, an encapsulated view of the four-year-old’s educational accomplishments.
The cover was flipped and landed lightly on the table. “You know,” the teacher began, “Siena is an unusual child.” There was a five-second pause that seemed much longer. And the teacher continued, “I believe Siena is gifted—profoundly gifted.” There were several more tense moments before the teacher broke the silence again, “That’s a good thing—really—a very good thing.”
It was strange sitting in front of her computer typing the words “gifted child.” How had she gotten here? The last thing she expected, an idea not even close to being on her radar, was now staring her in the eyes. Sure, Siena was advanced, able to do things children several years older were just learning to do. But that was merely her personality; that wasn’t “gifted.” Gifted was Bobby Fischer, Mozart, Van Gogh—tortured souls whose brilliance led them to greatness or drove them to insanity, or both.
Seeking to solve the enigma of Siena led her to the clues that would help her unravel her own mystery—the one that had plagued her for years. She began to research—the characteristics of giftedness (yep, Siena had most of those), the intensities (you bet, Siena had a fistful), battles with perfectionism (um, sure). She was quickly faced with not just Siena but herself. (If a mother shrieks and no one hears it, does that shriek still occur?) Suddenly, the confusion cleared, the school misfit fell into place, and the wrong thinking seemed right.
Now, as she typed quickly and read intently, she found she wasn’t alone. There were others like her, and resources to explain her and these others to themselves. Where before she felt powerless to the whims of the forces within her mind, she was now beginning to understand the whirlwind that arose seemingly from nowhere, wreaking havoc and leaving rubble in the wake of her once steady thought process.
She knew that further investigation would be required to understand both Siena and herself. But, sparked by one teacher’s observations and her own urgent inquisitiveness, she found that, after years of feeling like a cold case, she was reopened with fascinating leads to pursue.
Looking for leads of your own, start here:
This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Blog Hop, “Mysteries: The Weird Stuff.” To read other contributions, please click on the graphic below or copy and paste the following URL into your search bar:
Thanks to Pamela S. Ryan for the great graphic!
In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Day 2016, I present…
Five teachers I appreciate like nobody’s business!
I’ve run across a number of pretty good teachers over the years, but these are the they-don’t-make-enough-ceramic-mugs-to-show-my-appreciation educators I’m talking about here!
Mrs. R: It’s a little blurry, but I think I might have been kind of a mess in sixth grade—probably in a bunch of grades before that, too. Oh, I was a good student. But more a standard teacher pleaser than a standout. And I had a few other things going on—trying to fit it where I didn’t, trying to avoid getting teased while apparently providing ammunition for teasers, and trying to figure out how I could get myself somewhere else. If memory serves, Mrs. R was a first-year teacher and I’m not really sure she always had control of the class. That said, she helped me gain control over myself. And that was enough for me. I can’t remember a lot of what I learned in sixth grade, but I remember how Mrs. R made me feel.
Mr. M, the poet: Can you say mentor, coach, counselor? A soft-spoken man with a class of misfits. What could I possibly learn? A lot. We had it all—the social activist, the feminist, the science fiction nerd, the loner, the comedian, and me. These kids could write—I mean, WRITE. And Mr. M made me feel as if I could, too. I loved that class. For all of our differences, we saw similarities and accepted and supported one another for who we were. Mr. M facilitated that. And he had really cool penmanship to boot!
Mrs. B: Coincidence. Dumb luck. A higher power. Whatever you want to attribute it to, Mrs. B was a one-of-a-kind parent-tot and preschool teacher who just so happened to specialize in the study of brain development and giftedness. She was the first to use the word that would dictate the course of my life for decades to come. She got the kid, she got me, and she got IT. Didn’t need a test, didn’t need bells and whistles, didn’t need head-pounding-against-the-wall advocacy. Wow, were we spoiled!
Ms. H: Did somebody say project-based learning? Student-centered education? Makerspace? Ms. H was the poster child for, “Excuse our mess. We’re learning here.” She once said to me (I may be paraphrasing), “What would I put in a lesson plan? I never know for sure what I’m teaching ‘til the kids come in that day.” Yes, the classroom was student driven, but don’t confuse that with out of control. At one point, her students created a cardboard town, complete with a government, a constitution, and electricity. You try building one of those without expanding your science, math, writing, and social studies skills. And, by the way, it takes a lot of grit to build a city! It was full STEAM ahead in Ms. H’s classroom.
Mr. C: I’m not gonna lie, Mr. C was complicated. No doubt. But he made understanding gifted kids seem so simple. A guy who came, as he put it, “from the other side of the tracks” and proceeded to reset the rails. I hadn’t known him long when, in one conversation, he managed to provide more insight into the minds of gifted learners than I could store in my head. He had a way of reaching kids that had been written off or noticing those that had been overlooked. And, more often than not, he inspired students to look more deeply, to think more broadly, and to enjoy more fully. For Mr. C, education wasn’t merely about learning, it was about life.
So there you have it: Five educators who stand out. There are others, but they’ll have to wait for a future post.
For now, let me say…
To those teachers who gave me attendance cards so I could take roll in my pretend schoolhouse at home, to those who put me on bulletin board detail so I could feel more a part of the classroom (yea, I know you didn’t just want me for my mad construction-paper-cutting and stapling skills), to those who cast me in school plays so I could build my self-confidence (including roles as Grumpy and an ugly stepsister, but I won’t read too much into that), and to those who did all the other little big things you did over the course of my school years, I thank you.
And to those who helped me parent better and help set me on a course that would forever change the direction of my adult life, I thank you.
Note: The world lost two wonderful educators when Mr. M and Mr. C passed away. Perhaps they have met in that great classroom in the sky. I know they are both missed by the many students they left behind. May the lessons they taught live on.
We’re thrilled to watch young artists achieve greatness, do things that we deem beyond their years, perform at levels that exceed our expectations. But, when they begin to act their age—when the restlessness of their teens and twenties hits, some among us peer with judging eyes and find the charm of these artists’ talents lost to the immaturity, or even crassness, of their behavior. Think of the pop stars we’ve witnessed go from America’s darlings to targets for trolls and critics alike.
As a gifted young adult friend recently observed, “You think it’s tough growing up gifted. Just imagine growing up gifted under a magnifying glass.”
Popular gifted performers of all stripes face challenges similar to those that less-well-known gifted young people face.
Like asynchrony, for example.
These talented artists may create as if they’re years advanced but may still be years behind developmentally. Combine that with the fact that they may be controlled by parents, managers, and other adults who don’t really comprehend what giftedness is—the emotional and social facets as well as the intellectual and creative ones—or how it impacts these young people. How, then, can these kids truly understand themselves?
At worst, they spiral into addiction, risky behavior, or depression. At best, they have the support and resolve to not let either the lavish accolades or extreme criticism go to their heads and hearts, moving into adulthood relatively unscathed. Most, like the rest of us, land somewhere in-between.
And what about perfection and failure.
For some of these gifted young artists, perfectionism swirls as constant inner conflict. And, when they fall below their self-imposed thresholds, they do so in front of an audience—forced to learn from their mistakes as the crowd gathers ‘round, sometimes with proverbial rotten tomatoes in hand. And an applause-worthy encore doesn’t always follow.
Asynchrony, perfectionism, and intensities shadow these performers into early adulthood, where they may finally get their first taste of freedom—their golden opportunity to rebel. But, when artists we’ve relied upon to do one thing begin to experiment with others, they may make us uncomfortable. So, if their new paths lead to missteps, we are tempted to soothe ourselves with criticism. Eventually, the same creative drive that insists these artists reinvent themselves may lead them to break down.
The argument can be made that these performers receive great financial compensation and are afforded vast privileges that others can only dream of. True. But does that make them less sensitive, less vulnerable, more deserving of ridicule? Does their wealth and advantage preclude just reviews? Are their lapses of judgment worse than those of other gifted, but not famous, young people? When some among us begin to hold these well-known artists to different standards and treat them as if they’re less human because they’re more famous, is that fair?
In the end, the choice rests with each of us. Do we comment, gossip, and spread rumors? Or do we keep in mind that the behavior of these young gifted artists is often magnified to serve someone else’s purpose and that it is up to us to offer support to these members of the gifted population, just as we do to those who are not part of popular culture?
This post is part of the May Hoagies’ Blog Hop. To read more entries, click on the graphic below or copy and paste this URL into your browser:
Special thanks to Pamela S. Ryan for creating the graphic!
For the past dozen or so years, I’ve been involved in one way or another with parents seeking support for their gifted children—casually on park benches, in spontaneous parking lot meetings, and during more formal gatherings in classrooms or auditoriums.
It was one of those groups of parents, in fact, that prompted my move to social media—and several years and tens of thousands of followers later, there I remain. And this is what I’ve found: Whether it’s 23 people or 23,000, in real life or online, parents want the same things.
Comradery. The business of parenting isn’t always easy, particularly when you’re parenting members of a population to which typical child-rearing books and resources don’t apply. When you’re the parent of a gifted child, you realize early on that, in order to find others who can truly relate to your experiences, you have to do some searching—often while simultaneously dodging accusations of elitism, zealous pride, or even an overactive imagination (yeah right, your kid didn’t really start speaking at 5 months, master preschool puzzles at 12 months, or begin reading and performing calculations at 3 years with no formal teaching). Finding a group of people who get it, or even one other parent who does, can be a substantial boost to your understanding of your child and to your overall sense of sanity.
Empathy and respect. And, with the discovery of like minds, comes compassion. It’s human nature to want to feel as if we’re not alone—that others can relate to what we’re going through. When a group of like-minded people come together, there is the opportunity not only to exchange information but to provide comfort and to form bonds that sustain us as we face the challenges of advocating for our children. We all crave a safe haven where our choices are honored and we don’t feel judged simply for doing what every good parent tries to do—the best for our children.
A voice. We each have a tale to tell, and the proper venue can provide a safe place to do that. Many parents of gifted children have learned that it’s not really alright to share stories of their children’s successes or even their challenges. We are so often met with an audience that has bought into the myths: “gifted children will do fine on their own,” “gifted children are at the top of their class,” “gifted children must be so easy to raise,” “gifted children don’t have to manage a learning disability.” And it becomes tiring trying to explain the realities to less-than-receptive listeners. This is where a strong parent group can do the most good—creating an environment for open dialogue, a place where all voices are heard.
Resources and tools. But gathering with other like-minded parents is only part of what the majority of group participants are after. What most end up needing to do—what many times will cause them to seek sources of support to begin with—is to advocate. And, to do that effectively, they need tools. Collaboration can lead to a collection of materials and experiences on which we can all draw. The leader of a group often is part librarian, part sounding board, and part coach: offering parents techniques to help them garner services for their children; providing information on self-care; and directing them to books, organizations, and Internet resources to help them build the knowledgebase required to become their children’s best advocates—until those children are ready to take the reins themselves.
Confidence to pay it forward. It’s been my experience that those in the learning community—gifted or otherwise—are willing and often eager to help others who find themselves in the same boat. After being involved in a real life or online group, many people are inspired to attempt forming their own. I would encourage those who can’t find a group to consider starting one—repeatedly, if necessary. Your tribe is out there and eventually we all find one another.
That is perhaps the biggest takeaway from my founding Supporting Gifted Learners:One person can make a difference and can initiate a community of learners to come together for a common purpose—to support, empathize, and encourage growth. Parents, educators, and gifted advocates of all varieties play a part. From schoolyards to social media, there are opportunities to get involved, for our voices to reach a broader audience. And I can tell you, from personal experience, that there is immense satisfaction in being part of the process.
This post is part of the April Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop. Click below to read more!
Graphic designed by Pamela S. Ryan
As a high school senior, he was finally nearing the place he’d wanted to be since kindergarten—somewhere else. Institutionalized education was never a good fit, and he was ready to break out. But his fantasized version of the afterlife crashed into dull reality—when his scorned daydreaming became unappreciated vision.
He grew tired of constantly hearing how he should be leading his life—how he wasn’t doing enough, underperforming, on the edge. All he wanted was to live on his own terms, in modest comfort. Pursuing grand outcomes wasn’t for him. And he’d had enough of battling to become who everyone thought he should be at the expense of what he believed was right.
You see the world around you increasingly measuring giftedness in terms of achievement or tangible output. You watch as the emphasis on talent continues to revolve around degrees, professional status, and wealth acquisition. And you think to yourself, those aren’t my goals—that’s not who I am. Perhaps, then, I’m not really gifted; I haven’t accomplished anything at all.
But you know that isn’t true. And, even if it were, you don’t owe the rest of us your brilliance or your creativity. Just as it’s acceptable to aspire to greatness and to proudly share your achievements, it’s also okay to not wear your résumé on your sleeve and to modestly walk your own chosen path or quietly enjoy a service-centered existence.
You may have an intuition for mathematics; that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to be a universally renown physicist. Or you may be a technological whiz kid; that doesn’t commit you to endless days in a computer lab. Or, perhaps, you’re a masterful writer; that doesn’t dictate your future as a cutting-edge journalist or widely published professor.
Being gifted doesn’t mean that you owe a debt to the world. Possessing exceptional abilities doesn’t come with a demand that you share them. Living your best life doesn’t require you to follow a road paved with the skills to which you’re predisposed instead of pursuing one lined with your passions.
As Ellen Fiedler notes in her recently published book Bright Minds: Uniqueness and Belonging across the Lifespan,* in a chapter discussing gifted grown-ups she calls “Invisible Ones,” there are those bright adults who “quietly pursue their individual passions, even though the fruits of their labors may never be seen. This may be because they do not need external validation from others for what they do, or it may be because their creative inventions are not yet recognized by society as relevant or valuable.”
So, when it comes to gifted underachievement, sometimes it’s not about achievement at all.
Sometimes it’s about passion for passion’s sake. Or about making a difference. Or about leaving an imprint that remains long after you’re gone. Because, to you, these options are what represent the clearest reflections of success.
Resources of interest:
Bright Adults: Uniqueness and Belonging across the Lifespan, by Ellen Fiedler, Ph.D.
The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius, by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, Psy.D.
Searching for Meaning: Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope, by James T. Webb, Ph.D. *Full disclosure: I worked as an editor on this publication.
This post is part of the February Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop. Click below to read more!
Discovering your child is gifted can feel more like a knot in the pit of your stomach than a reassuring pat on your back, and you may suddenly find yourself feeling isolated, alone on a parenting journey that you never could have expected (having no resemblance whatsoever to that described in the parenting manuals). And all you’re sure of is that you don’t get it. But you will. In the meantime, you can reach out to those who’ve been there. We may not always be easy to spot because we’ve learned to remain camouflaged, but we’re here.
Your tribe exists. You may feel alone, but you’re not. Even if you’re unable to find support within your family, your current circle of friends, or your community, it does exist. And it is often just a click away, on the Supporting Gifted Learners and Hoagies’ Gifted Education Facebook pages, for example. You can also reach out to your state gifted association, the National Association for Gifted Children, and Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted. Your parenting peers are out there. And, once you find them, you’ll feel as if you’ve come home.
You know your child. There are countless books on raising children and many an expert (often self-proclaimed) willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong—you’re spoiling, you’re pushing, you’re blah, blah, blah. The truth is, like most situations in life, unless you’re living with a gifted child, you don’t know what it means to parent one. You’re sharing your home with a challenging, intense, brilliant, asynchronous young person. It’s absolutely true that you won’t have all the answers, you’ll make mistakes, and you’ll have days of guilt and nights when your own personal parent blooper reel will endlessly repeat. When it comes to raising another human being, no one has all the answers, but you’ll find you have plenty of knowledge about your own kid.
You’re not crazy. Okay, maybe you are sometimes. But, more often, you’re not. Really.
Your partner matters. You’ll be tired, you’ll be frustrated, you won’t always agree, but you’re in this together. So take the time to nurture your relationship. I’m not talking about big things (though those are nice too)—a kind gesture, a touch, a kiss, a query about his or her day, or a reassuring word can go a long way. Remember you’ll be with one another long after your children have left the house. Try to ensure you’ll still know and like each other when you are.
You matter. Again, you’ll be tired, you’ll be frustrated. You’ll need a hand, or a shoulder, or a lifeline. Other times, you’ll need to be alone. That’s okay. Refuel, recharge, reboot. You’re no good to your child, yourself, or those around you if you don’t take the time to tend to your bliss—read a book, write in your journal, go for a walk, meditate, work in the garden, sip a glass of wine, eat a piece of chocolate. It may seem selfish, and maybe it is, but it’s also totally necessary.
You’ll gain an affinity for roller coasters. You’ll have ups and downs—often in rapid succession. But eventually you’ll become accustomed to the nausea, the heart-stopping thrill, and the intermittent screaming. And things will get better. You’ll learn how to support your child, your child will learn how to come into his own, your child will become her own person and her giftedness will become a welcome part of who she is. Actual roller coasters may hold no appeal for you, but when it comes to the gifted parenting ride, you’ll learn to appreciate the highs and lows.
You may find yourself. You’ll learn things about yourself you never knew you didn’t know, and your child’s growth in some ways will parallel your own. You will become a better you for having parented your unique kid.
Your kid is a kid. You’ll hear people say you need to let your kid be a kid. Um, duh. But not everyone does childhood the same. Your offspring may be a pint-sized wise man, and if you try to pretend he’s anything else, he’ll educate you. The more everyone stops comparing their children to those of others and refrains from judging various parenting styles, the more rewarding all of our journeys will be. So carry on, keep learning, and breathe.
You got this.
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This post is part of Hoagies' Gifted 101 Blog Hop.Click here to read other entries!
There are a bunch of reasons I’m looking forward to attending the 2015 SENG Conference later this week. Here are four of the biggies!
1. I’ve never been to one! If I didn’t know it were true, I’m not sure I’d believe it. After all my years living with, advocating on behalf of, and spreading the word about the gifted, I’ve never been to a SENG Conference. Well that changes in a few days!
2. Smart girls, diverse populations, and the search for meaning—just three of the varied and oh-so-interesting presentation topics. Sure, I’ve read the books, met the researchers (virtually, anyway), and internalized my own interpretations of their work, but there’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation or the connection forged during the course of a presentation. I feel so fortunate to be part of a welcoming community of gifted passionistas willing to take part in information exchanges.
3. I’m going to Denver—like coming home to a place I’ve never been before (enough with the song references already). For reasons I won’t get into, I need a change of scenery and Colorado has plenty of that. And the people. I’m so looking forward to meeting the three-dimensional versions of folks that live on my computer screen—the parents, the children, the educators, the bloggers, the advocates, and all those who welcome SGL into their homes and hearts every day!
4. It’s the perfect way to wrap up National Parenting Gifted Children Week!
But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. If you’re headed to the SENG Conference this week, what has you most amped?