Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Gifts of 10

I have been doing a lot of reading about gifted children recently. I’m sort of embarrassed to admit this, as I consider myself a pretty involved and aware parent. But while Roger and I have been addressing a host of issues with Caroline, it never occurred to us that these issues were part and parcel of one issue: giftedness. Suddenly, lots of seemingly unrelated issues are falling together and making sense... I feel like I’ve been stirring a pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces around and around and they just started to form a picture. Thank goodness for Caroline’s wonderful and amazing 4th grade teacher, Kathy Alexander.

The characteristics of gifted kids are fascinating. You can read about them here or here. I’d never encountered this information before, so probably like many folks, I equated "gifted" with "smart." And, to my surprise, there’s a huge difference. This is a simple illustration of the difference, if you’re interested...) The biggest revelation for me is how much giftedness has to do with a host of social and emotional characteristics and issues, beyond a high level of intelligence and/or academic achievement.

So, I’ve been immersed in this stuff lately, in large part because of the social and emotional angst Caroline has had about various things at school. We’ve had these long talks about friends and feelings. Oh, yes, and we’ve been having the Big Girl talks, too– puberty, periods, changing body parts... I guess it’s no wonder that I’ve been focussed on the serious side of life with a gifted, pre-adolescent.

Then, yesterday, I was in my office (reading online stuff about gifted kids, as a matter of fact) and Caroline came into the room. Well, she didn’t just come into the room. I heard a wild drum beat, and the stomping of feet, and she came prancing down the hallway from her bedroom wearing an african patterned fabric (actually, an old wrap-around skirt my MIL had given her for dress-up) wrapped around her head in a fancy turban-like arrangement, a pink sparkly Cinderella dress (now too small) worn as a top, and lace tights. She had plastic Mardi Gras beads draped around her neck in layers. She was holding a big bongo drum, and leaping and drumming as she came.

"I’m just feeling happy, mom!" she announced, and off she went, leaping and drumming and scaring cats out of her path.

This morning, I got up to find Caroline downstairs watching tv. When I came into the room, she had a telephone (an old, disconnected rotary telephone that is part of her play stuff) at her ear and was engaged in a dramatic conversation. "Yes... Uh huh... Really? When? ... Well, I don't know..."

At a pause, I asked, "Who are you talking to?"

"Mo – om," she said, rolling her eyes, "I’m not talking to ANYone, this doesn’t work, reMEMber?" Ooh, such derision in her voice. "Besides," she added, "I"m a horse."

10 is an amazing age.


  1. Anonymous9:44 AM

    I am the mother of 3 gifted boys, now almost all grown. They have each found their own path but, yes at times, it has been difficult. The blessing I had was a gifted program at our schoool where during part of the week the gifted students studied together. They branched out from regulated curriculum and studied many different things. This enabled my boys to be around other children thinking about things the same way. This was a Godsend since my boys were not gifted or interested in sports. We are from a really big sports state. And like the previous goes really fast.
    Mary P.

  2. Thanks for sharing the links, and for opening up a discussion of what giftedness is and isn't.
    If only it had to do just with being "smart", sigh...And schools are so focused on "no child left behind", it seems like the gifted kids are the ones who lose out, Unless, you are lucky enough to have a great teacher, which my kids have had many that were but some that were the worst also.