The asynchronous development is a PITA post

Nostalgic picture of a well-loved, 50-year-old childhood toy
©careerusinterruptus

The thing about asynchronous development is, I can’t fairly write about how it looks in our house. All the stuff that would scythe right through popular one-dimensional notions of giftedness is too freaking embarrassing to my kids, and I respect them far too much to put it online.

Because the whole point of asynchronous development is that, whilst some of the stuff gifted kids do makes them look absolutely amazing, quite a lot of other stuff they do – or can’t do, or won’t do, depending on the issue – looks pretty bloody babyish. It is babyish. And my kids aren’t stupid; they know perfectly well they “should” have outgrown it like their age-peers have, but they haven’t, yet. That’s not down to my coddling or their manipulation or kids these days being soft/spoiled/getting away with murder, it’s just wiring.

It’s integral to the full picture of what we’re wrangling here, though, because the one thing us parents of gifties want you to know is that honey, we ain’t bragging. We cling to these words along with our gin bottles, because often, the “asynchronous development” part of the gifted diagnosis is the only thing that makes our kids make any degree of sense.

So instead, I’m going to share a moment from my childhood, when the asynchronicity – the all-over-the-shop development that makes gifted kids appear several ages at once – really twinkled, now that I look back through the lens of Much Reading.

On one hand, my parents bought me a subscription to Readers’ Digest for my sixth birthday, because I was desperate for reading material and they were desperate for me to stop asking questions – and they knew I’d love it. And, oh my god, I did love it. I devoured it, cover-to-cover, every month until we moved to Australia when I was 14 and the subscription lapsed. I can still tell you a whole stack of things I learned from Readers’ Digest. So on this hand, the expected precocious little smart-arse, right?

On the other hand, when my younger sisters ganged up to shame me out of thumb-sucking and sleeping with my Humpty, age 9 (first clue!), I epically lost my shit and bashed them over the head with a broom (second clue!). This hand – whoa. This hand was Daffy Duck, except actually dangerous. (Having been on the receiving end myself, I must say the tantrums of a three-year-old are a picnic compared to the same fury and lack of control whomping out of someone six years bigger and stronger.)

Now I know how today’s parenting forums would pile on. The “I would not stand for thats”, the “completely unacceptables”, the “9yo is definitely old enough to control their tempers”. It was completely unacceptable, obviously, but the point is – controlling your temper isn’t about age. It’s a learned skill. At 9, I had the self-control of your average three-year old, because I had never lost my temper before. Until that point, my parents would reasonably explain their position in any conflict and I would reasonably accept it. I’d never hit anyone; I’d never even thrown a tantrum. So my fit that night was a double-whammy: not only had I walloped my sisters, the fact that I could wallop my sisters came as a giant shock to all of us. It terrified the crap out of me, and I burst into tears every bit as loud as theirs. I was A MONSTER!

That’s asynchronous development. That’s the reason parents of gifted kids clutch their gin: at any moment, your hitherto rational, advanced, and well-adjusted child may suddenly be taken over by a foaming poltergeist of their much-younger selves – or, as in my case, a developmental stage they’d seemingly skipped altogether. (Tip: they never skip stages. If you think your kid has skipped a stage, by all means, read ahead and meet them wherever they are, but mark the place in your book. You will be revisiting it, sooner or later. Sometimes much later.)

Sure, some gifties lose their temper regularly and still take forever to learn that control. For others, it’s different aspects of development that are out of whack: they can read but not write, or recite the periodic table but not toilet-train, or calculate orbital trajectories in their heads but still need to co-sleep. The point is the lows that come with the highs and the vertiginous zipping between the two. One minute your nine-year-old is waxing lyrical about David Hartman, the first blind person to graduate med school in the US; the next minute she’s lost all self-control, everyone’s screaming hysterically, and you’re checking the littlies for concussion.

As a parent, I have suffered this whiplash so many times, it’s a wonder my head is still attached. It’s the thing I most wish to convey when I talk about the gifted. Sure, there’s an intellectual component to the diagnosis that hogs the limelight, but as a parent, you don’t really care about that. No, what keeps you awake at night is the berserker lurking behind the vocabulary, ready to leap out and wallop everyone when least expected.

That’s the thing that drove me to the forums and eventually, to my tribe of other, similarly-traumatised parents, and it’s why I’m sharing this now. Because if you don’t get what asynchronous development is, you might not know that this is what gifted looks like.

The under-the-bed post

© careerusinterruptus

The delightful thing about living with intensity, is the intensity of the intensity. It’s absolutely relentless. If you do get a break, you’d better gulp air and fuckin’ brace, baby, because without a doubt, the next wave is coming. Welcome to inside my head.

I had planned, you see, a learning post. We learned how to sex mealworm pupae this week (yeah, I know, still no mealworm post, but I’ll get there); we identified the giant caterpillars devastating my patio pots as Eupanacra splendens, a type of hawk-moth larva native to just a few Pacific islands and Queensland; CraftyFish taught herself and me how to make macrame friendship bracelets; we learned about the ancient Irish origins of Halloween; we learned that it is possible for someone who has, theoretically at least, outgrown croup, to have it and asthma at the same time with the right virus; we learned how Huntsman spiders mate (so that’s what pedipalps are for!) and that they can move 50 body-lengths a second; one of us learned far more than she wanted to know about symptoms of menopause and found herself reading a very long article about corruption in Airb’n’b, a service we have never used and have no plans to ever use, because far out, interesting. All that goes into the ol’ cerebrum and swirls around all week, until thoroughly processed, which takes ages, because answers beget questions in an endless loop until you find yourself in the lougeroom with a torch trying to spot tiny specks of white on mealworm butts at 10pm.

Then life broad-sided us. CraftyFish picked up the aforementioned virus and spent the week on the sofa, milk-pale and miserable, and on Friday Mr Pixel went out to build a barrier to stop the chooks venturing onto the road and ended up losing a fight with a hardwood pallet. He’s in a backslab now, waiting for a referral to the fracture clinic at the Children’s Hospital. (NB: we also learned what an avulsion fracture is, and why a broken foot merits a knee-high plaster.)

These don’t sound like big deals. In the grand scheme of things, of course, they’re not – it’s just all the emotional and intellectual crap that goes with it. The two-hour flood of utterly heartbroken tears when CraftyFish realised she couldn’t go trick-or-treating because sick; the anxiety everyone felt around Mr Pixel’s evident pain and having to spend an afternoon at the hospital; my (quiet) shock at how brilliantly he managed himself and the staff at the hospital, even politely explaining to an admin about my hearing impairment; more floods when Mr Pixel – who in addition to the foot fiasco has now also contracted CraftyFish’s virus – finally snapped at his sister’s overwhelming, loving, fuss and in a moment of sarcasm, utterly broke her heart. Again. It’s exhausting, this. Not just the constant barrage of upset but the effort to not react, to model calm and to be supportive, when my wiring is just as fucking flash-firey as theirs and I hate hearing shouting, let alone having it directed at me.

All this against a background of whoops, Mummy has forgotten how to sleep again and is scraping five hours a night so that her head feels permanently like it’s being trampled by a herd of angry cows.

So we’ve been hiding on our screens a lot this week, and for me at least, that’s been disastrous. Because this week, out there has been a lot of bad shit. There was the old white man’s cartoon slamming mothers, the backlash, and his battening down the hatches with more misogyny.

Queensland not only handed over another 30,000 acres to fracking, it also gave its police extra powers to search peaceful protesters, while Victorian police went straight to brutalism (with overtones of white supremacy and – some other, just, repugnance) in a thoroughly shocking display of violence that their Premier thinks is great. We had a young friend there. Reading the post of a young man who was choked and beaten, I also come across devastating words by a sustainability professor that cut a swathe of horror and grief right through my guts – even though I already knew it, sort of, it’s a different thing altogether to hear it so bluntly stated by someone with the authority to do so.

Racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism and just plain nastiness continue to abound.

And behind all that, always, the climate. The questions and the fear and the bewilderment and the anger – the rage – that has to be constantly managed in the face of denial, false-information spreading, accusation, lies, confusion, inaction, and lately, aggression towards those of us who want change.

And against all that, the tiny details that never escape notice. The dead fledgling, the litter in the gutter, that child’s smile, the heat, the misuse of apostrophes, that woman’s tattoo, the moldy pumpkin smell, the bruised finger, the softness of the brownie and the sharp bitter curry, the sticky floor, the mountain of laundry, the dust, Soft Wookie/Warm Wookie/Great big ball of fur, Dr Barbie being the only (relatively) “fat” one, the tacit rise in doctor’s consultation fees, the dad on his phone while Mum rocked the sick baby in ER. All this. More. All the time. Going in. Sticking. Resurfacing. Raising questions but no answers.

As I wrote, today, a man helped himself to a chair and a place at my little cafe table, without so much as making eye contact, let alone the polite chitchat of checking whether that’s okay – and then when his coffee was delivered, got up and walked off, leaving his chair in the walkway. It is such a little, almost insignificant thing and yet, so telling.

I’m done, people. I’m going to hide under the bed.