Yesterday we had friends over, a family with three homeschooled kids with whom we all get along very well. At one point in the evening Daughter, who was starting to get a bit overwhelmed, started screaming and crying and basically having a bit of a meltdown because her friend was insisting on calling her chameleon a dinosaur. I confess I wasn’t the most sympathetic; I basically said “it doesn’t matter what he calls it” and “why can’t he just pretend?” and went back to the living room to sit with the adults.
My friend (the mother) then said that it was common with gifted children that they see the world very much in black and white, and that they have a really hard time with people not being “factual”.
I don’t know about “gifted” and I’m not very comfortable with labels, but my friend’s eldest son is very much like my girl in terms of their interests and the way their minds work. They love to classify and categorize, have an excellent memory for words and facts, are science-oriented, and academically precocious. My friend said her son struggled with the same thing and now, at age 9, is only just getting to the point where he can accept that others may use their imaginations in different ways.
Daughter is definitely not your average 6 year old (though honestly, I don’t think such a creature exists anyways) and it is easy to forget the special qualities of your child when you live with them every day. I thought about what my friend said and realized how pathetic my response to Daughter was – basically “get over it”. I could have at least expressed some empathy and understanding. I could have validated what she was feeling: “I know it’s really hard for you when people aren’t factual”, perhaps following it up with an explanation: “Some people have big imaginations and they like to pretend things are something else than what they seem to be”.
This is one of those little experiences that make me really appreciate that our children are whole beings. We can’t pick and choose which parts of them “make sense” to us and which seem like an indulgence of frivolity. As someone who finds it extremely frustrating when playing a board game where rules are bent or broken by others, you’d think I’d have a bit more sympathy!
So this post is a little reminder to embrace our children as whole beings with many different, unique, and wonderful aspects to their personality. My daughter really is an amazing little person, and I am going to work harder at seeing that, at validating her world view and what is important to her (while of course, at the same time, helping her see how that affects her interactions with others and encouraging her to find ways to work together while still being true to herself).