That moment after school when it’s time to stop running around, playing with friends so we can leave for home.
When his baby sister starts crying loudly.
When he screams, cries and runs away from another child because they splashed him with water while playing.
These are some of the moments that I’ve figured out trigger my son’s intense emotional outbursts. They’re loud, heart-breaking speed bumps in the otherwise, mostly silly and happy emotional rhythm of our day. They’re moments of intense anger, pain, frustration, and sadness that I can see coming… usually. Moments that make me question whether I’m doing the right things for him, or if there’s something (or everything?!?) that I could do differently to help him avoid these speed bumps all together.
And yes, the many names and labels I’ve collected for these speed bumps help me see the bigger picture, the particular biology and environments that happen to be clashing in that moment. Labels like emotional excitability, sensory integration challenges, etc, etc. I get it.
But in these moments, there he stands, at the painful crossroads between the things his body and brain are ready or able to do right now, and the things that the world is asking of him. And there I stand, heartbroken at seeing his pain, worried that someone will say or do something unkind because they don’t understand what’s really happening right now.
And then I remember… this is what it looks like for my gifted, intense child to learn about the way the world works. These moments are gifted growing pains. And gifted growing pains are as important for me as they are for him. Sacred, even.
For me, gifted growing pains are temporarily open windows into my son’s most tender and vulnerable experiences. They’re opportunities to show him, one more time, that he is safe, he is loved, and that shame has no place in our world. I show him these things with my calm, peaceful demeanor, and by waiting for his surge of emotion to subside before I ask anything of him. I show him by asking him (when he’s ready) to go back into the situation and say a peaceful goodbye to his friends. I show him by gently guiding him to a safe, quiet space to avoid the noise. Or by asking him to tell me how he’s feeling and what he thinks might solve the problem, then asking him to repeat those same things to his friend. And as he gets older, I show him these things by establishing clear boundaries around what’s not safe for him to do in these moments and by helping him try and choose other ways to ‘get his big feelings out’ or to protect himself.
I lovingly flail my way through this process several times a week, knowing full well that I may not find-out if it’s truly working until he’s all grown-up. But you know what? I’m totally okay with that.
When I look back at what we did together as a family during every gifted growing pain, I’ll never regret showing my son that he is safe, loved, and that he is perfectly made. These are some of my most important values as a parent of a gifted child, and they’re part of an important cultural legacy I can leave him. A story from our gifted family culture about how we, as gifted people, learn to make our way through the world safely, peacefully, and without shame.
And as our gifted family culture develops and grows, I can’t wait to find new ways to teach him these important values. New ways to make him feel loved and secure, and to teach him that he belongs.
And so I end here with a few important questions for you to ponder:
1. What are your child’s gifted growing pains right now?
2. When that window of tender vulnerability opens, what do you want to show or teach your child?
3. How can you show your child those lessons through your demeanor, your actions, your few but purposeful words?
I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me on email.
PS- I know you may be asking yourself why you can’t respond to my questions in blog post comments or to a Facebook group (we don’t have one). This is something I’m working on right now and I’ll have more to share in the weeks to come. It’s tricky business figuring out how to create a safe, effective space for culture-building conversations, but I’m onto a few good ideas that I’ll turn into actual real things you can join soon.
...but wait! There’s more! You’ll find more wisdom and inspiration on the ages and stages of giftedness in this month’s Hoagie’s Blog Hop. So be sure to click below and continue collecting hard-learned insights from brilliant, gifted people like you!
With much love, always.