I have two beautiful daughters, one four and one nearly two. Both are fun, beautiful, smart, curious, determined, energetic girls. I could continue with the adjectives but I think it is clear how in love with and proud of my children I am. My older daughter, C, is smart. Very smart. I know this is something all parents say and my previous string of adjectives may dilute how true this statement is, but early on I realized that she was different than her peers. She started memorizing books around two years old and will correct me if I add or remove a word. She argues with my husband and me and can come up with compelling reasoning why she is right (we still win, we are her parents). When she turned four and began preparing “big girl school.” we took her to get tested for giftedness. Sure enough, she scored in the 99th percentile of children her age and is officially gifted.
Just because a child is gifted, however, that doesn’t mean that they don’t still need their parents. One of the harder things to remember about gifted children, in school and in everyday life, is they need attention like every other child. C is usually a fantastic child, eager to help out and listen, but some days, in daycare (and at home), she starts to act out. This usually happens when she gets bored. It can be difficult for her to sit still and listen to an explanation she has already heard. Also, her teachers know she understands right away so they focus on helping other children learn. This sounds simple and is very understandable, but for C, she gets upset because she wants one-on-one attention too. At home I ask both girls questions: about their days or what they want to eat or who they played with. Anything really. C answers every time. I have to remind C that her sister Q needs a chance to respond. She does not particularly care for this because she KNOWS the answers and loves sharing her knowledge–she wants to talk and interact. But I want to give Q a chance to speak too and inevitably I spend more time trying to get an answer out of Q then it took for C to respond.
Physically C is exactly where she should be for her age. She started walking early, she loves to dance and sing and play. She has no fear of heights or slides or fireworks. She does, however, get really frustrated when she knows how something should be done but her body cannot complete the task. Potty training was an experience. Starting around 18 months, she would tell her Daddy or me that she had just gone, in complete sentences, but was unable to realize what was happening before she was actually going. It was confusing for us to reconcile how she always knew what happened afterwards but not before. It led to frustration for her because she wanted to use the potty. Physically, the nerves to let her know she had to potty were not developed enough at 18 months.
These small things are examples of the larger, more complex part of raising a gifted child. Although C is very advanced for her age as measured by intelligence, she is right where she should be emotionally. She has her fits and temper-tantrums like any small child and does not yet know how to control all of the emotions she feels. C wants to be independent and do everything on her own but also want me there with her. As her mother, I constantly have to remind myself that this child who speaks so eloquently still has not learned how to control herself.
A dear friend of mine (who has a threenager going on ferocious four-year-old herself) commented on why children like Frozen so much: they relate to Elsa–much like Elsa they are constantly told to act properly, hide what they are feeling, conceal their emotions, etc. This really struck me as true for C. Because she is so intelligent my instinct is that she should understand situations more advanced than she is emotionally ready to deal with. Don’t get me wrong, I know she is still young, but sometimes I think I can explain to her why she needs to do something, like wear long sleeves in the winter, and that she will be ok with it. Just because she understands what I am saying does not mean she emotionally is able to handle the disappointment of not getting to wear a pink sparkly dress. She gets upset, cries, pouts, and generally helps me remember she is four and just wants her way.
Luckily for me, my fun, beautiful, smart, curious, determined, energetic daughter helps me learn every day how to be the best Mom I can be; how to love unconditionally, how to be more understanding, patient, and compassionate, how to relax and enjoy the moment. Because above all else, I want my children to be happy; I want them to know how much I love them, their amazing stories and intense emotions, their warm cuddles and their growing independence.