|Yup, that's me.|
I only recently learned about gifted overexcitabilities. I first read about them here and more at SENG here. I was looking for information for my children, and found myself learning about myself as well, It was one of the missing pieces that once in place with my PTSD realization helped free me from a misdiagnosis of Bipolar 2. (More about that on another blog post coming soon.) I think I'm going to need to write a Part 3 for this series, because I keep thinking of more and more things. But for now I'm going to talk about just three: Fairness, Communication, and Protection.
Fairness: fairness and justice is a huge thing for kids, and especially for gifted kids. (And gifted adults, but I'm not writing about that today.) I can think of several events in my childhood where things were unfair; especially in unequal treatment of me and my siblings. I am sure they will remember the times where the unfairness favored me more. I remember the times they were favored over me. Like the times we all got in trouble for fighting, we were all given age determined time outs (which was fair) but then my grandfather would call my brother over and have him sit in his lap and watch tv after just a few minutes (before his timeout sentence had been fulfilled) while my sister and I still had to serve our allotted time. And this was not something that happened once; it was a recurring pattern. I vowed then and there that I would never show favoritism to my children, and that I would always be as fair as possible. Sometimes I fail. The boys have to take turns with who gets to play on the computer first after school is done. Sometimes I forget what day it is and give one the other's turn. When they remember who's turn it is. (One of these days I'm going to get in the habit of asking them first.) Tears usually ensue before we get it all worked out. And at those times I remember how much I hated it when things weren't fair, and no mention or rebuke is ever made of their emotional state.
Communication: I'm going to give both sets of my grandparents the benefit of the doubt here. They were raised in a very different generation, and open and honest communication with a child is not something that I think would ever have occurred to them. But a lack of communication, especially with a sensitive, over-thinking child, is a recipe for disaster and hurt feelings. Both in not listening to the child, and in not giving the child reasons for things. Like money; if the boys ask for something, like going out to their favorite restaurant, I am honest and open about the reason why we don't go out to eat every week. Because of those discussions, they have learned about economics, and how the world works, and aren't just getting the brush off or feeling like their wants are just being ignored or not considered important.
When I was seven years old I was given much wanted piano lessons. But once I could play a song perfectly, I did not practice it again. What was the point? My grandmother told me that I had to practice, and that if I did not then they would take the lessons away. (Which is what ended up happening.) If they had told me the reason why I needed to practice, if they had told me about the body's muscle memory and how it was training my body to play without needing my brain, I would have trained my fingers diligently. But because there was no communication, no reason, I lost something that to this day I still regret losing.
Not all kids do well with full information. But for those that really need it, that need a why to help them process and understand why something is happening or not happening, not communicating can be a very frustrating and hurtful thing.
Protection: I remember as a child standing with my brother and my sister for a picture. (Way back in the old days when non-digital cameras meant picture taking was an event, rather than a common occurrence.) My younger sister inherited beautiful Eurasian eyes from our Georgian (think Russia, not USA) great-grandmother. When she smiled happily, her eyes disappeared into slits. My grandmother (who raised us) would tell my sister not to smile so much, so that her eyes would show. She didn't say that to be mean or critical; but a picture was something that was more rare and cost more money than they do today. She wanted my sister's eyes to show in the picture. But what my childhood self heard was "don't look so happy. Your natural smile is not acceptable." My sister heard a similar message, and even today as an adult she is self conscious about how she smiles. She doesn't smile freely; she hasn't for most of her life. My daughter inherited those beautiful Eurasian eyes, despite the fact that I didn't get them myself. When she is at her happiest, her eyes are difficult to see. And you can bet the farm I am never going to tell her that her radiant, natural happiness isn't good enough for a picture and ask her to smile less for the camera.
The things adults say tend to stick with children. Especially critical things. Some kids are able to just shrug it off. Some kids carry it in their hearts for all their developing years.
Whenever I tried to sit in a relative's lap as a young child, I got pushed off rather quickly (it felt to me) with a "your butt's too bony!" This was several relatives; not just one. Eventually I stopped trying. Stopped looking for human connection that way. By the time my butt was no longer bony, I was much too big to try. And just remembering that makes me cry.
Trying to avoid having my children injured in a similar fashion doesn't just apply to my own behavior and words; it wasn't just my guardians who unknowingly wounded me with their words. I also, when I am there, try to step in when another adult is pushing the potential to negatively affect them. We had a visitor to our home, unfamiliar with our family's parenting style and the way my children communicate, accuse my then 4 year old of lying to me and me doing nothing about the lying. This was not the case; this person misunderstood what Early Bird was saying. But to children, especially gifted children, who are very honest and take any false accusation of something so horrible is an unfair and very emotional thing. I attempted to explain to the visitor, but not much time longer they did the exact same thing to my then 6 year old; they misunderstood the meaning behind Builder Boy's words and this time accused him of lying to his face. I did not let that go unchallenged. And while I later was accused by this person of "jumping on everything they said" and "made" this person feel like they "couldn't say anything right" I do not regret it one bit. Maybe this person didn't think being falsely accused of lying was anything meaningful to my children but they were wrong. And my children saw that I would not let them be falsely accused of something so unfair; something that, if unchallenged, could have hurt and festered in their hearts for a very long time. I know I'm not going to be able to catch all instances like this. But when I'm there, I'm going to be fair and stand up for what it right and protect them; every time.
I'm not saying I'm the perfect parent. And even being as conscientious a parent as I can, I still make mistakes, and the kids still have frustrations at times. I am sure when they are adults they will look back and point out things I should have done differently, and that will influence their own parenting. But at least I can try not to pass on the hurts and frustrations that I dealt with. And that's something.
This blog post was my contribution to the GHF Gifted Parenting Blog Hop. Click here for links to the rest of the hop posts.