The Buddhists say that life is filled with 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, and to those of us raising gifted children, this may seem a bit on the low side. I haven’t exactly kept count, but I’m pretty sure that during some of our more intense weeks we’ve hit at least 10,000 of each (maybe even 12,000 on a few occasions.)
That’s what life is like when you live with a race car, er… gifted child. The boy who wakes up grumpy in the morning suddenly turns happy when you serve his favorite breakfast, but is grossed out when the eggs in that breakfast aren’t cooked exactly like he likes them, and excited again when he remembers that his friend is coming over that afternoon, but immediately stressed when he realizes he needs to clean his (very messy) room first, and then he entirely forgets about all of it when the dog walks into the room and he falls all over it, crooning in a soft, husky voice, “Oh, what a good boy.” (Deep breath, another sip of coffee). Then he suddenly remembers something he heard in a history podcast he’s been listening to, which he must immediately tell you about in full, animated detail, dropping in many of his own thoughts and opinions as well.
Mind you, the child has only been out of bed for five minutes, and this is a pretty typical morning.
As demanding and exhausting as our days can be, though, I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything. It’s a full-octane, tumultuous lifestyle that offers plenty of sweetness and awe-inspiring moments along the way. Our family life is full, overflowing with hugs and “I love you’s”, music (so much and so loud, I finally gave in and dedicated a whole room in our house as a music room), adventures to new places, and lengthy conversations about politics, psychology, and the environment. It’s a rich, often hectic, life, and I’m truly grateful for every moment of it.
But I haven’t always felt that way.
You see, it took me a while to figure out that my son was gifted, and that all of the emotional intensity, intellectual curiosity, and creative energy contained in his small body are typical of kids like him. Before that I was wrung out, confused, and increasingly frustrated as I tried to understand why he was such a picky eater, so easily overwhelmed by noise that he was reluctant to play with other kids, and so worried at night before going to bed. Finally, I decided I needed help and went in search of a book, hoping to find something that could help me better understand and relieve his regular bouts of anxiety. As I was rummaging around Amazon, sorting through all of the titles and descriptions, I stumbled on a paperback called “Living with Intensity” by Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski. It wasn’t what I thought I was looking for, but as I read the summary, I sensed it was exactly what I needed. When it arrived a few days later, I devoured it, with tears of relief and regret in my eyes.
My world suddenly made so much more sense.
Now I was able to appreciate my son from an entirely different, much clearer, perspective. I could plainly see what I had not seen before – that he was a beautiful, complex package of ideas, emotions, and curiosity. Nothing was wrong; nothing needed to be fixed. In fact, everything was so very right, properly balanced, and just as it should be. I felt deeply grateful. And not just for the “good” stuff that comes from living with a bright, loving, energetic child – I felt just as grateful for the big emotions, the sensitivities, the struggles.
Because I realized that to be grateful for some of it, I had to be grateful for all of it.
This is one of the unexpected gifts my gifted child has given me: a deeper understanding of, and capacity for, feeling gratitude about all aspects of life. The good and the bad, the easy and the difficult, the wished for and the unexpected. Recognizing that all of it together makes life so much more interesting, I can say, and mean, what the Zen master Sono said: “Thank you for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever.”
Another gift? The opportunity for a “do over.” As the parent of this highly sensitive child, I’m able to give my son what I needed and didn’t get when I was a highly sensitive child – patience and understanding. Emotions and feelings were not comfortable topics in my house when I was growing up, and certainly weren’t considered valuable aspects of life that deserved to be respected. Rather, they were to be controlled, and preferably well-hidden. Now I have a chance to do better for my son, to bring the light of awareness and love to his emotional experiences and, in the process, to learn how to recognize and honor my own.
Genuine gratitude and self-compassion: what more could I possibly ask for?
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