Reflections in a Pond: Recognizing Giftedness in Our Children and Ourselves
When people ask me where I grew up, I cringe a little. I hate answering that question, more than almost any other, because I didn’t really grow up anywhere. Not in any one place, that is. So it’s hard to give the expected one-word answer and keep the flow of conversation going, when the true answer requires a story, or at the very least a rather long list.
You see, my dad was in the Army the whole time I was growing up, which meant that we moved every six months to three years. Well, except for the year I was in first grade – that year we moved twice in six months, so I ended up going to three different first grades. Throughout elementary school I was sometimes in school with other military kids, but mostly I went to school with non-military ones, especially once I entered junior high and high school. While all of this moving around required me to learn how to fit in and make friends quickly, I still ended up feeling like an outsider most of the time.
Being the “new kid” is hard, no matter how many times you’ve done it. And, no matter how hard I tried, I could never have the history, the shared stories and memories, of kids who had gone to school together their whole lives. Add to this that I had been identified as gifted, and was taken out of my classes on a regular basis to participate in gifted courses, and you can see that any hope of feeling part of the crowd was basically gone.
Jump forward to adulthood, and I still feel on the outside much of the time, although for different reasons now. I love reading, especially books about psychology, sociology, neuroscience, and philosophy, but finding people who are interested in these same things and share my enjoyment of discussing big ideas, of delving into deeper conversations, is hard to do. Also, I don’t do small talk well – it exhausts me and I start feeling restless after just a few minutes. In short, I’m usually the mom sitting to the side of the group of moms during gymnastics lessons and swimming practices, reading while the other moms chat and knit. We’re friendly – we’re just not on the same wavelength.
It didn’t occur to me that I might be a “gifted adult” until fairly recently, though, when I learned that my son is also gifted. Somehow the “gifted” label seemed like something that only applied in school, something that didn’t really have any relevance once I reached adulthood. As I see myself reflected back to me in my son these days, it’s so very clear how much he’s like me when I was his age, and how much we have in common even now. We both love talking about ideas, developing new theories about the world, immersing ourselves in our interests. But, most of all, we both feel things deeply, and incredibly strongly. When we’re in sync, it’s glorious; when we’re not, well…
On those days it’s like pebbles have been thrown into our respective emotional ponds, and the resulting ripples collide and bounce off of each other. Sometimes, I’m the one responsible (albeit unintentionally) for throwing the pebbles in his pond, and other days, vice versa. In short, our separate emotions can set the other off, or intensify what’s already there. And it’s these times when I try to remember that it’s my job, as the adult, to recognize the dynamic and try to calm the waters before “those little wave a-flowing to a great big wave have grown.” While it’s not easy to manage my own emotions in addition to his, with intention and practice, I’m getting better at it. The key is to find my own reflection in the ripples, and then to seek the calmer water underneath. Recognizing and allowing – that’s the goal for both of us.
Drop A Pebble in The Water
Drop a pebble in the water:
just a splash, and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center,
flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling
where the end is going to be.
Drop a pebble in the water:
in a minute you forget,
But there’s little waves a-flowing,
and there’s ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing
to a great big wave have grown;
You’ve disturbed a mighty river
just by dropping in a stone.
~ James W. Foley ~
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