One of the apparently surprising truths in my life is how intensely challenging A’s teen years were. From what I’ve gathered, the chief artifacts of the struggle are *my stories *A’s grades/classroom demeanor, because My Sweetie doesn’t gather his strength by sharing his troubles aloud and (mostly) because A is a congenitally private person.
Can I take a moment for that? I don’t know anyone who shares as little as A. Who has never shared, even from her tiniest selfhood. I didn’t know she could crawl until she forgot herself and did it in front of me one day when she was 6 (7?) months old. Evidently that was personal, and not for showing off…?! I suspect my mom may be private in the same way, which could go a long way to explaining why neither one of them has many people they think of as friends even though they are both charming and personable, and people are drawn to them. Anyway.
My life with Teen A was a season of loud voices expressing deep frustration, early, and often. (It got more intense than that, but I’m not talking about that today.) Part of what I found unusual, even in the middle of it, was the sorts of things we’d be yelling at each other:
“I am stupid! You’re just saying I’m not so I’ll feel better!”
“I know you’re not stupid, and I don’t lie even to make you feel better. You’re not going to make me lie, either: YOU ARE REALLY SMART.”
Since we yelled this at each other routinely for, oh, five years, I have never thought that she believed me. Once she believes something, that’s pretty much done, and non-her input is not what moves that needle. So the community impression of A as wicked-smart doesn’t matter either, except maybe to remind me that, indeed, I don’t lie.
Then there was yesterday’s article. I follow a couple of big gifted-and-talented groups on social media, and one linked to an article: “Underachievement of Verbally Gifted Children.” As a verbally gifted person, and the parent of two verbally gifted daughters, one of whom fits the underachievement profile like it’s her tailor-made suit, I immediately clicked through. (By the way, this same site has an article with an excellent table of characteristics for high achievers, gifted learners, and creative thinkers. They’re not the same, you know!)
I appreciated the article, nodding along as if we were in a conversation—or I was listening to a sermon: preach it! Particularly when I got to
However, the anxiety verbally gifted children feel when they are given one tedious task after another is often more than they can bear. The only way they know to cope with the anxiety is to not do the work at all. They will spend more time trying to get out of doing the work than they would spend if they just sat down and did it. But sitting down to do the work produces anxiety. Avoiding it and finding novel ways to avoid it not only helps them escape the anxiety but gives them a challenge!
Hoo boy. There it was, out in print by someone who was neither me nor A… the writer was “singing my life in his words.” I couldn’t help myself; I sent the quote and the link to A.
Who I assumed would delete the email promptly. The article title, after all, says “verbally gifted.” Remember how she’s not smart? Besides, “gifted” is the label pinned on B, and via the odd logic of siblings only one person can have any given label. (B once told me she wasn’t sporty, A was. Notwithstanding six years of soccer at that point.) At least A wouldn’t yell at me about it; she doesn’t do that now.
I flipped open my email at breakfast to, “This f****** article. Can I show it to all my teachers from middle school/high school???”
Leaving aside A’s teachers, many of whom saw this in her as well but for whatever reason were also unable to shift her outside the boring+anxiety nexus…
she has now picked up the label for herself. Not just smart. But gifted.
She’s not even 21 yet.
I thought I’d have to wait at least until she was 25, because A validates everything (Every. Thing.) for herself, and my Friends Who Have Gone Before all say 25 is about when one’s grown kids begin affirming that one has taught said kids a thing or three.
Four years early, my return on my investments is already coming in. Maybe that’s another part of her giftedness? <grin>