Bang! There went the week.

©careerusinterruptus

Sigh. There’s the whiteboard. Last Sunday night I brought it down to the playroom, so that CraftyFish and I could put together a plan for what we needed and wanted to get through during the week.

We don’t do well with routine in my house. Everyone gets bored if we do the same thing twice in a row and we’re all constantly generating new ideas for cool stuff to do, then getting sucked into the internet when we look up how to do it and forgetting what we originally planned. I haven’t quite decided whether we have executive function issues, ADHD (inattentive) or if this constant mental hyperactivity is just what gifted looks like.

Then, too, life is constantly throwing new and unpredicted excitements our way that knock us so thoroughly for six, we may take days to find our feet.

My aim, therefore, is for something like a melody, rather than a schedule, a routine or a plan. There are needs I aim to meet, one way or another, during the course of a week: the need for exercise, for getting outside, for creativity, for social connection, for the house to be somewhat slightly cleaned, for the animals to be taken care of, for stretching our comfort zones, for spending time with family, and for learning.

CraftyFish has Guides on Monday and piano lessons on Friday. In between is a blank slate. There’s no order; I just aim to keep the mix right. This week we needed to look in on Mum three times; she lives on her own and although she’s quite happy and safe, she can forget lunch, and won’t get out or see anyone at all if we don’t help her. On Sunday, though, CraftyFish was so busy doing … something, that by bedtime all I had for a “plan” was a trip to the skate park the following day and this week, art and literacy classes on Thursday afternoon. They didn’t even get written on the board.

And then Sunday night was one of those no-sleep three-ring circuses (even the Skeptic was up, briefly), topped, first thing Monday morning, by Mr Pixel’s computer blowing up when he turned it on. I mean, what sort of chance did that give us?

Exactly.

It went downhill from there. Eventually, we got out to a skate park that CraftyFish wanted to visit, only for it to be so thoroughly overrun with wild schoolkids that she freaked (not about the kids, per se, but about the possibility of running them over, since they appeared to have no self-preservation instinct whatsoever) and demanded to leave.

So we went on to IKEA, where CraftyFish refused to eat IKEA food because “it’s expensive junk and I don’t want to make you broke and I want to be healthy” (plus, also, probably, because she was still disappointed about the skate park and mad that we were there to buy something for her brother). Then she fell over onto her wrist and it turned out I couldn’t move the item we’d come for anyway, so we left with a disappointed Mr Pixel, a frustrated Mum, and CraftyFish in floods.

Tuesday involved Mr Pixel visiting the dentist; CraftyFish unable to decide whether to spend the afternoon at school or with us and therefore, yep, more floods; and the week’s first visit to Mum – on the way to ER to get an X-ray for CraftyFish’s swollen wrist. (Just sprained, fortunately.)

And yet somehow, things came right after that. CraftyFish has done about 15 pages of math that she’s getting 95% right. We set up her email address and a shop – writing the ‘About’ blurb, coming up with a shop name, etc – on the online marketplace where she wants to start selling the scrunchies she taught herself to make. A friend has already bought three. We bought stickers for the printer and she figured out designing and printing labels for her shop. She’s made a lot of LEGO and learned how to make plaster molds of her baby-doll’s face. (Don’t ask.)

On Wednesday we took Mum to the library and borrowed a book on LEGO stop-motion animation, so on Friday CraftyFish made half-a-dozen tiny but quite hilarious films. She counted her money ($103.75) and made another baby doll mask.

Meanwhile, Mr Pixel is thinking about how he’s going to build his computer himself and we are talking about options. While he ponders this he painted his Nerf armoury, did a LOT of LEGO, worked on a Nerf modification project, put the slats into his new double bed, played a lot of Minecraft, looked up videos to solve an algebra problem on his game, meticulously tended the mealworms – wait, have I mentioned the mealworm project yet? He helped me measure CraftyFish’s room so we can make sure the redecoration fits and has read all the library books – not a lot, granted, but he knows more about rockets than he did before. There have been some heavy discussions about Extinction Rebellion and quantum physics, which I’m reading but he wants to know about. Oh – and he went online and ordered the heavy IKEA item himself.

The Skeptic took them to classes on Thursday where Mr Pixel talked (and wrote) Dr Seuss and CraftyFish learned macrame, although she didn’t do much on account of the wrist. And they caught up with friends.

And on Friday, after piano, we went to Mum’s. Mr Pixel prepared the snacks and helped make her dinner and then we walked Mum down to the park where the kids went nuts on the exercise equipment.

It’s like this all the time. Sometimes I feel like I’m just hanging on to a pair of breakaway horses; all I aim for is to hit the big bollards on the way through. We got ’em all this week, I think, except Mr Pixel’s social life, which is on hold until we figure out the computer. And then we got some extra. Because in our house, this is what gifted looks like.

14 days

Him: Okay, so, just don’t paint the patio.

Me: <blink>

Him: Or, just don’t make yourself a dress!

Me: <blink, blink>

Him: It’s that simple!

Me: <squints> Dude. You’ve known me how long?*

Him: <throws up hands in despair>

Heh. He doesn’t even know about the mirror. Or the artworks.

*answer: 26 years. 26 years! Seriously. You’d think he’d have learned by now.

The Dish

You know that whole 17-day, 3000km road trip was organised around this, right? The CSIRO radio telescope at Parkes. Very first time I sat down to consider possibilities, I looked it up and it turned out, they were having a rare open weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. They would do tours! Well, there was no way I was missing out on that.

We got there 45 minutes early, I was so scared of missing out – and given that we had a 1.5hr drive to get there, that’s really saying something in our slow-starting household. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited. Quite possibly, never.

I will not pretend the kids gave a damn. The boys stayed on the ground while CraftyFish came on the tour, pulled along somewhat bemusedly by my excitement. And I was completely, ridiculously, viscerally, excited. Nearly a month later and I still thrill to think of it, to see these pictures. It is like an A-list celebrity encounter, multiplied a couple of orders of magnitude. I would’ve gone on the tour three or four times, if they’d let me, except I did also want to share it. With EVERYBODY.

It is not just that I think it is stunningly beautiful. The epic parabolas, the lacework against the sky. It is not just that it’s a hub of brilliant minds from around the world. They had an “Ask the Experts Marquee”, where I would’ve quite happily stayed all day talking to people about gravitational waves and pulsars and the temperatures of merging galaxies and the Square Kilometre Array, except that I was actually a bit too excited to stand there and talk to any one person for more than about ten minutes.

It is not just the stonking engineering: the 1000-ton dish, unattached to its base, still in its sixth decade at the forefront of the science, leading a global network ever forward technologically. It is not just the way this magnet for the curious rises out of the surrounding kilometres of flat red dirt like a massive sunflower, always turning, always searching. Listening.

It is not even the mind-emptying scope of what they do there, probing the farthest reaches of our universe for the birth of the cosmos. It is all of this, all at once, that fires my rockets. It’s like every crevice of my entire brain is being thoroughly, running-round-in-circles gasping-for-breath tickled. Think about all those big ideas for a moment. The hugeness of them. The implications. The burning questions still to come. Can you feel it? Even an inkling? Yeah? Welcome to inside my head.

Teh stubborn

I known, I know. You’re not supposed to use that word, with all its negative connotations. Positive parents are supposed to frame it as “persistence”, a far more admirable trait.

But I’m going with stubborn. In part, this is because my kids own it; I’ve heard “because I’m a pig-headed little butthead” more times than I can count in recent weeks. And in part because it’s genetic. I know precisely where they get it from and this is one I cannot even begin to blame on the Sceptic. The Stubborn is all my family. It’s Mum and both my sisters and my brother and dear god, my niece and nephew, love ’em.

But mainly I’m going with ‘stubborn’ this week to focus on the bottom line. When they are little, conventional parenting wisdom is that you must show children who is boss. Whatever it takes – losing privileges, time-out, the occasional spanking “to get their attention”, you keep upping the ante until you get compliance. They learn through “consequences” to do what you say.

In our family, though, there is … something. Something that gets in the way of that process. My sister and I call it the “nose-cutting gene”: most of us would rather cut off our own noses than do something your way or (god forbid) ask for help.

So Mum, for example, has refused for thirty years to drink the glass of red wine a night her doctor said would help with her cholesterol. She took herself off any number of medications, continued seeing negligent doctors, ate foods that landed her repeatedly in hospital. She won’t use a walker. Recently, when she was completely crippled with back pain and I had to call an ambulance to take her to hospital, I joked, “No more soccer for you, Mum”, as she lay on the stretcher, just to see the look on the paramedics’ faces when she said, “I can if I want.”

My kids inherited that. Oh, they’re not stupid: they were never compelled to touch a hot thing, or pull free to run in traffic. When it comes to a battle of wills, however, there is no backing down. They will do it their way, not mine, even if it hurts them. If I call their bluff, they up the ante. As a gamer friend put it, if they have to suffer damage 3 to cause me damage 6, it’s worth it. The more I invest in my demand, the more they refuse.

On top of that, it didn’t take me long to learn that this likely to cause them to freak the fuck out, because if damage 3 is scary (and it is), being at war with Mummah is ten thousand times scarier. There’s nothing cold or calculated about it; if they lose the plot it is not about ‘making’ me do/give them what they wanted (ie, a tantrum), it’s because they don’t know how to back down and they are terrified of the consequences. So one of my biggest parenting challenges is to regularly model backing down.

Hold your knickers, there! I do not mean that I model “giving in”. They do not get it all their own way. But if I take the heat out of it – if I say, “Oh, you’re not ready to do that, yet? Well, could you do it later? (After food, or rest, or a tickle?) Or could you do this, instead?” then I am teaching them that their needs matter, that they can say what they need, and that we can both get our needs met. If I lower the bar, I take anxiety out of the equation and we are all free to move.

It’s hard, lemme tell ya. I’ve got the same bloody gene. I see a problem, I assess, I come up with The Best Solution, I have a plan, we’re gonna have this sucker fixed by Tuesday. That’s how I got through my whole life, pre-kids, and it worked. But post-kids, doing things that way has meant arguments, all day, every day, about everysinglebloodything, with meltdowns galore to boot. I tried it, okay? I flogged the You Will Go To School horse for five solid years, and all it did was make Mr Pixel hate school. And cause literally thousands of fights.

And I know that in a few years, backing down is going to be my kids’ biggest challenge (especially my son’s). They need to be able to tell the difference between doing what they want because it’s what they genuinely want, and doing what they want to prove me wrong, hurting themselves in the process. We need to be able to negotiate in a way that will not have an angry young person hurling him- or her-self out the door into a car, or into a bad relationship, or an addiction, or a shitty career, because all I’ve taught them over the years is to dig their heels in.

So this week, my big win was putting sums for CraftyFish on the glass door, and asking Mr Pixel to help with painting the bed. He’d watched his sister scribbling on glass with dry-wipe markers; he’d heard us work through several low levels of sum that weren’t too hard. And to my astonishment, he said he’d rather do that than paint the bed. So, okay! Quickly scrawled some sums for him. Which he took five hours to work up to doing, and then made lots of basic mistakes, which we laughed all the way through.

True, I didn’t get help with the painting. Irrelevant. No, insignificant. Mr Pixel negotiated, a crucial life skill that many adults lack. He voluntarily did something he usually pathologically avoids, and which I deliberately didn’t ask him to do, because I didn’t give him a chance to dig his refusenik heels in. He did it and not only was it not painful, he actually enjoyed himself, and building that experience around something he’s paralytically anxious about – and sharing a laugh with Mummah, to boot – that is priceless.

It won’t work twice, I know that. I know we haven’t ‘solved’ his math anxiety. I will have to find other ways around that and yes, it’s hard fucking work. But that’s okay, because we are both learning, and learning is good. I am proud of both of us.

Crazy busy planning

Oh, my goodness, my brain is so busy these days!

On Friday I hosted an IWD event at home, just 14 women, to connect my strong awesome friends with each other. That in itself was a big deal for us; I can’t remember the last time we had more than one family over for dinner, and it required a heap of cleaning and tidying.

But when, on Friday afternoon, I had an hour to sit quietly while CraftyFish did her piano lesson, I took a notebook and spilled out all the other ideas that are crowding my brain these days:

I want a big bash for my 50th in September. LOTS of people. Started working on the guest list and, god help me, food ideas.

There’s no room in the house for that, but that’s okay, I’ve started a major garden makeover. It’ll be in three four five parts: the front patio, the side yard where the chooks live, the back yard, the back walkway connecting the side and back yards, and the back patio. I’ll do most of the work myself and it’s going to be absolutely freaking ENORMOUS. That’s okay; I’ve got enormous energy for it because I’m so excited by the lush vision I have in my head. So my 50th will be a garden party.

Two weeks before the party, I’m going to run the 10k Bridge2Brisbane. Right now, I can walk barely 2kms – and that’s after a couple of months of physio and exercise physiology unfucking my back and hips. I’ve got a long way to go but I’ve got my war-face on: a little bit, almost every day, working through the stiffness and the pain. Plus, you know, I bloody hate exercise. I’m just starting to hate being unfit more. I want a good old age and exercise is key.

My reward for that is going to be a tattoo, because I’m 49 going on 18.

And I spent yesterday planning a two-week road-trip the Sceptic and I will take with the kids in July. The only thing locked in so far is to be in Parkes for the 50th Moon Landing anniversary celebrations at the CSIRO radio telescope (The Dish). On our way through we’ll visit the Siding Springs Observatory (visitor centre only, alas) and another observatory there in Coonabarabran where you can actually do some observing (squeee!). Oh, and I suppose we’ll do some things for the kids.

And before that, I’ve set myself the task of completely revamping Mr Pixel’s room in time for his twelfth birthday, in mid-April. Painting, new furniture, sorting out a basquillion Lego pieces. With his blessing, if not cooperation.

You might be thinking, whoa, that’s a lot to cram into six months.

You might be thinking, hang on, isn’t she also writing a book?

You might be thinking, isn’t she also also home-schooling those supposedly gifted kids of hers?

I know. I know, I know, I know.

I know I’ve probably bitten off more than I can likely chew. I don’t approach these things remotely pragmatically; it has certainly never occurred to me to start with, say, a budget and work out what can be done within that. I’ve never set a ‘SMART’ goal that worked out. I am no judge of what is realistic or achievable. I really don’t think like that. I’ve tried; I suck at it.

In fact it’s probably fair to say, I don’t think much at all. I just dream – huge, starry, vivid dreams – and then make it up as I go along. Believe it or not, that usually works. There’s a huge energy that comes from following that vision. And more importantly, working like that – 97 different projects simultaneously on the go, a budget of ‘as little as possible’, no real plan, just a picture in my head – that makes for a very happy Rebecca. A very, very happy Rebecca.

Because in our house, #thisiswhatgiftedlookslike.


It ain’t much but it’s all I got

Yesterday, in his strenuous efforts to avoid writing a story, Mr Pixel found and watched a video on wealth inequality in America.

Ten hours later he still knew all the figures: 15.1% living below the poverty line; 1% who hold 40% of America’s wealth; the vast disparity between what people think is happening and what is actually happening, let alone the ideal that 92% of respondents voted for. He’s outraged.

We are not American; we do not live in America.

There is no reason on God’s green earth why he should have watched that video; he did, he said, because he’s a curious bird. (Mo Willem’s phrase has much life in our house. Or to put it another way – Hello, intellectual over-excitability!)

There are, on the other hand, a stack of reasons why he should’ve been writing a story: he’d had a great time in class, collaborating with other, similarly-humored kids to come up with the four characters they were supposed to write about; a genre he’s more than familiar with; a teacher he adores who in turn adores him; the plan that she’d collect all their stories, type them and bind them, so each kid would see their work ‘in print’ and also see how others had explored the same basic idea. Since he ran out of puff and needed to leave before they’d begun writing, the teacher said she’d look forward to receiving his story by email, any time until late the next night. You really can’t ask for better support than that.

But none of it – not the class craic, the amazing teacher connection, the flexible deadline, the reward of a bound printout – is enough to motivate Mr Pixel over the hill of anxiety that stops him writing. Because that is what it is: he freezes like a rabbit in the spotlight of having to make a choice out of the multitude of possibilities and he just. Can. Not.

We talked about perfectionism and how there’s no wrong answer; we talked about the fact that he’s able, if he’d give it a go. (I’ve read about dysgraphia; I don’t think that’s it, but then last night someone on a forum said something that’s sent me back down that rabbit-hole, so watch this space.) Besides the anxiety, there’s a great deal of genetic stubborn here (which if you ask me, he owns far too proudly): for eight years now, he’s consistently maintained that he doesn’t do writing, and so far nobody’s been able to budge that for more than a sentence or two. Scribing, voice-to-text, story prompts: they’ve all been flat-out rejected. He knows what I’m up to and he’s not having a bar of it.

I can’t tell you how nuts this makes me. The point-blank refusal sends me nuclear. Every time I hear ‘no’, I’ll be honest, there’s a reflexive bit of me that wants to reach for my Momma badge, the one that says DAMMIT, I AM IN CHARGE. There are so many good reasons to try and make him do it. Not least, the insult is galling: I’m smart enough, you’d think I could fix this.

But I’ve learned that that is my problem. Making it a power play turns it into a fight, which means he’s not writing. And writing is the goal, is it not?

So we played a bit with Google docs. We wrote each other questions and answers; he wrote a couple of lines about a fat, dumb gamer who met a Ninja who helped him defeat someone who wanted to win a tournament. Needless to say none of that bore any relevance to the assignment and after about fifteen minutes he was over it and quit.

But you know what? I’m counting it as a win. I’m gonna go ahead and celebrate because in that short process he did plenty of rewriting and self-editing. I am shouting it to the skies because it’s the closest he’s ever come to writing a story and even in two sentences his sense of humour shone through and really, truly, that’s all I want: my kid to learn to overcome his anxiety and learn to express himself.

In fact, since he learned something about wealth inequality in America, too, I’m counting it as two wins. The class about statistics is another thing he wouldn’t do, but left to his own devices he stumbled onto it anyway and the conversations have begun. I’m reading up and ready to talk.

Because this is Mr Pixel’s wiring: anxious and stubborn and avoidant as all hell, and yet burning relentlessly away underneath all that is the insatiable need to know. In our house, this is what gifted looks like.

Roller-coaster

It’s a cliche, I know. I just can’t think of any other word to capture the intensity, the speed of highs and lows, that we have fielded this week:

On Sunday, Grandpa reveals that he has lung cancer; it is operable so at some point in the next month or so, they’ll take him in and remove the offending lobe. Dread.

Monday: I finally post on the writers’ group I’ve been following for several months. I say, I’ve written a piece I think I might like to publish, does anyone have any suggestions? Brave!

When a commissioning editor expresses interest, I fight a strong urge to change my name, leave the group, go hide under the duvet and instead send her an excerpt. Scared!

CraftyFish’s Guide group goes for a fast-food meal at a place she’s never been before, followed by a toad-busting walk in the dark; she is terrified and then – having survived and had a great time with her friends – ecstatic.

Tuesday: I have a long text chat with someone else who’d commented on my post, saying ‘hello’ as a fellow home-schooling mum of intense kids. Funny, bright, wry woman who writes poetry. Lovely!

I get into the garden and build an entire raised bed. I end up covered in dirt and mulch that are stuck in the sweat. Satisfied. And proud.

The Sceptic comes home and announces that ‘some time in the next month or so’ for Grandpa’s surgery has been bumped to ‘tomorrow’; he has to be there at 05:30 and is first cab off the rank. Scared.

That night an argument with Mr Pixel (who refuses to do chores) bangs into something I read a while ago, flinging me down the rabbit-hole of wondering whether he might be ADD. Only two or three indicators that fit, but BOY, do they fit. I mention one of them to him and he looks at me, wide-eyed. “That – that’s me!” Hmm. I’ve never wondered that before; now I am wondering hard.

Wednesday: a landscaper comes to go over my proposed garden projects with a more practical brain and a knowledge of costs. Engaging! Thought-provoking. Also a little scary – it’s so grown-up of me to ask for help.

We spend some time with Mum. Bittersweet.

Grandpa finally has his surgery late in the afternoon; The Sceptic goes to visit. Relief. And some anxiety.

I spend hours searching for rain-water tanks to fit the garden and looking up psychologists to test the kids for giftedness, ADD/ADHD (I’ve long thought CraftyFish might be the latter), and the anxiety/depression scales, since they both show plenty of signs there, too. Beyond frustrating. There is so much available for autism-spectrum conditions now; so little for plain old giftedness, let alone combined with anything else. I cannot find one single person using the term ‘2e’. Is there any point dealing with someone who doesn’t get it?

Thursday: Estimates come in: water tanks $830 plus installation plus the base for them to stand on. Landscaping projects: $2000, if we do a fair bit of the labour ourselves. Psychological evaluations: $2700. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Commissioning editor admits my piece isn’t what she’s looking for. Ouch. The Sceptic reports his dad is looking better but still has tubes everywhere, so we’ll just hang on to that anxiety for a while.

Friday: I send piece to someone else. Scared again.

CraftyFish burns her fingertips with hot glue. After 20 minutes under tap water she is pale and her knees won’t hold her up, she is so scared and pained. Our GP’s hold message informs me they will answer in 15 minutes (rage!) so I take her somewhere else; wonderful doctor explains why the pain is a good sign; a nurse dresses her fingers (relief); Mr Pixel makes her laugh all the way home (gratitude). After lunch we go out for groceries. Tedium. Thinking. Ugh. On the way home we drop CraftyFish to a friend’s. She’s so happy! We get home and Mr Pixel – oh, my poor, sweet boy – Mr Pixel discovers that the guinea pigs are dead.

Pet deaths are so hard. Add emotional over-excitability into the mix and – well. Multiply however bad you’re imagining it by about 150%. Bedtime is horrendous. That’s okay. I can hold all the space they need. I am so strong.

Saturday: I wake at four. So. Much. To process. We spend the day hiding, the kids on their screens, eating like invalids, me baking like a madwoman. Late afternoon we visit Grandpa in hospital. He’s looking better than we’d hoped. A degree of calm.

Bedtime is easier but as Mr Pixel is dozing off the sounds of drunken belligerence disturb our peace. The drunks choose our yard for their last stand. We are ready to call the police when squad cars begin arriving, lights flashing. Three cars, cops all over the road. The drunks quickly lose their belligerence and wait quietly for friends to come. Way too much excitement at 11pm. Mr Pixel is rigid with tension and fatigue. I stroke him to sleep.

Sunday: Exhausted. I am having my writing time, my two hours off for a week’s good behaviour. On my way home I will pick up some lunch treats and … nope. Can’t remember the other thing. CraftyFish wants me to buy her a black sequinned hat for the funeral. (It is essential to look the part.) And then, I think, I might see if anyone wants to go to the beach. We need it.

Crazy, busy fingers

It’s a terrible photo, I know. But you try taking a photo of a pellet of gum, wrapped in five loom bands. Yes, you read that right: it’s a pellet of gum, wrapped in five loom bands. (I know, because I took them off and counted them, which is why I can’t take a better photo, and no I’m not asking her to do it again, because that would be crazy.)

This is a flag-staking post: my kids are gifted. No, I don’t have the certificates that say so, but we are an evidence-based household and the evidence is here in spades. Usually, on the floor. Scratch that: it’s on every flat surface, spilling out of drawers, in our beds at night. And so I offer Exhibit A: a pellet of gum, wrapped in loom bands.

A pellet of gum, wrapped in loom bands isn’t an IQ score. What it is is the product of a child so busy, so wired, so ON, all the time, that nearly everyone struggles to keep up with her ideas and her waterfall of talk, a child whose fingers and toes ITCH to be doing something, even when she’s already doing something. (As I write, she is making things with light clay, while watching videos online; I have about half an hour before she throws it down and begs me to wrestle her.) I already knew she was like this when I came across Heidi Klass Gable’s Ted Talk and first learned about Dabrowski’s over-excitabilities – this one, the crazy-busy fingers one, is psycho-motor oe. At the same time, I had a profound that’s MY child moment – the sort of moment I had not had when reading up on sensory-processing disorder or ADHD or anything else I could think of to explain the busy and the noisy and the intensity and her freakish ability to do many more things than I was aware of.

The profound recognition in that moment brought me to the other OEs: emotional, imaginational, intellectual, sensory. We aren’t so much about the sensory. It’s there, but I know many people way more sensory than we are. The rest of it, though? The rest of it fitted us so well, I finally had to accept something I’d been denying for a long time: we are gifted.

I had a very hard time, coming to that point. There was the issue of my own baggage (another post entirely, or possibly a book); there was the issue of my leftie bias against any form of elitism; there were my friends who don’t believe in giftedness, those who think it’s merely a polite way of saying ASD, and those who believe it is a straight-up elitist scam. Certainly, there are contexts where those things may be true. We all make our own and group meanings out of the most fundamental phenomena; that’s human nature.

So I’m not going to try to convince you. I’m going to use the Columbus Group Definition that most educators (and parents of gifted kids) use:

Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.  This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.  (The Columbus Group, 1991)

And I can’t answer for anybody else. I’m just going to write about our experience of giftedness, because writing about it helps me understand, because finally accepting that label gave me a useful search term and some tremendously useful connections, and because maybe there’s someone else out there who’s as lost and confused as I was for such a long time.

Anyway, there it is: a pellet of gum, wrapped in five loom bands. In our house, #thisishwhatgiftedlookslike.


Forks

Sometimes the internet sends you just exactly what you needed to hear, you know? This week this fantastic little post came across my facebook feed. It’s about how the little things – the niggles that you mostly ignore, to get on with what you’re doing – can, if you are neurodivergent, be RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. ALL THE TIME, like so many forks. To the point where you cannot get on with what you’re doing. You cannot cope with one more niggle. This is because your neurodivergent wiring brings you all the info turned up to 11, ALL THE TIME.

For some, this is sensory information: noise, smells, light, itchy material, the tag in your shirt. Fork, fork, fork. I got an inkling of this when I first got my hearing aids. I complained to a fellow school mum about all the new NOISE, which my brain had completely forgotten how to filter and had me pretty much ready to claw my brain out. She gave a wry little smile and said, “That’s what it’s always like for me, as an autistic person. No input filter.”

For us – my kids and me – there’s an element of the sensory (as I write, the too-tight waistband of my skirt is forking me, and god help everyone if my daughter can feel the seam in her socks) but it’s not usually what stops us. Usually for us, emotions are the dealbreakers. The pitchforks. We live with a ton of anxiety – not the acute, call an ambulance stuff, thankfully, but the sort that means fight/flight/freeze is often our normal. We are empaths, which means we are highly tuned to everyone else’s emotions. A sharp word will capsize someone and the waves rock everyone’s boats, even if – and this is my favourite bit – that sharp word had nothing to do with the person who heard it. Your pain forks me. And that is just as true whether you are my best friend, a blogger I just came across, the foreign victim of a terrorist attack, the citizen of a country at war.

I can protect myself from some of the forks by avoiding the news. But here’s a kink it’s taken me decades to figure out: I can’t really protect myself from your pain. I might eventually learn how; I mean I was in my late 40s before a friend told me I was an empath and I was like, whadda whuh?? So clearly I’ve a thing or two to learn about this gig. But right now, you know how they say, a problem shared is a problem halved? That’s true for us empaths, too. Not sharing doesn’t save me one iota. You’d think it would, wouldn’t you? NUP. I still have a fork in my heart with your name on it. I still lie awake, wondering and worrying. Feeling the weight. But when you talk to me, I know where you’re at. I’ll still worry for you, but it’s better if I know.

It’s better for everyone if we all know. It’s the only way we’re gonna learn. And god knows, we all need to learn. So don’t keep your cracks to yourself. Your griefs, your forks. Show ’em off proudly. Share ’em far and wide. Don’t hide them where they can fester.

Don’t hide from me.