A few years ago I read an article that was both comforting and disconcerting. It was comforting because after reading it I understood our situation a bit better and I knew I wasn’t alone. It was disconcerting because I didn’t want to accept the reality of what it contained.
The Restless Ones discusses children who are characterized by the Edison Trait as described in the original book The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Free-Thinking Child in a Conforming World and the revised book called Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School.
The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Free-Thinking Child in a Conforming WorldDreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School (Formerly Titled ‘The Edison Trait’)
In the article, the children are described this way (bold mine):
They are spirited individuals who live life with passion and determination, firing out an endless stream of questions and often recklessly pursuing their own desires (like Edison, who wanted to see how fire worked and accidentally burned his father’s barn to the ground).
“They are conundrums, children with a profile that is both intriguing and maddening,” explains Palladino. “These children are appealing, daring and entertaining. Yet they are frustrating, demanding and difficult to raise.”
Their temperament and intellectual style will shake the stamina of the most devoted and patient parent. “Forget mom doing anything except challenging this child,” says Julie Chapman, admissions director of the Oak Hill Academy in Dallas. “These kids are physically and mentally hyper; they can’t shut off their minds. Yoga is not going to work for them.”
To be clear, Caroline is not reckless or wild. She’s not physically hyper either. But she can be intense and spirited! I admit my heart skipped a beat when I read the bold part. I felt better to be sure. This was when things really started to click for me that Caroline was differently-wired in some significant ways which I later would understand was giftedness. It was reassuring to hear that even the most devoted and patient parents will find themselves stretched in this circumstance because I did feel really stretched.
Having a Gifted Child Changes Your Life
At the same time, I’m honestly not keen on giving up the rest of my life while raising my gifted child. I don’t think it is good for me, David or Caroline for my sole focus to be on challenging my child.
But the reality is that if you have a gifted child it is going to change your life trajectory. It simply is.
I’ve had to adjust my expectations for my life.
Over the past several years I’ve invested a lot of time in reading to understand my gifted child. That is time that I couldn’t devote to my personal or spiritual life.
I honestly don’t get enough introverted time alone to be healthy and whole. I really don’t. I know it has taken a toll on my health.
My spiritual life has taken a hit. Between Caroline and me, we’ve missed a lot of church over the past several years. A lot. Finding community has been non-existent. Just being in church has been a challenge (again and again and again and again and again). I don’t get to attend Bible studies any longer. And we won’t get into my (lack of meaningful) quiet times. (Also reference lack of time alone mentioned above.)
My professional life has taken a huge step back. When Caroline was a baby and toddler there was no time or energy to do much professionally. I have a bit more now, but not enough for it to be satisfying or without stress from taking the time to do it.
And because my professional life has taken a huge step backwards, so has our financial life. I sometimes wonder what is going to happen financially to many families in the future who have sacrificed so much in order to homeschool their gifted child.
Adjusting Expectations with a Gifted Child in the Family
These are the realities of having a gifted child. I know that our situation of adjusting expectations is not unique in this regard. I’m sure this story could be repeated in many, many other homes. I’m sure there are parents with many more challenges than the ones I’ve listed above.
Has it gotten easier as Caroline has gotten older? Of course.
But I think most parents in this situation will tell you that it truly changes the trajectory of your life. While many families might feel that homeschooling is a choice they make, I feel like it is a choice that is made for me.
And, honestly, there is something hard about that.