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Raising a Precocious Child
Raising a precocious child.
I know, everyone’s child is precocious. This is the story of mine.
For five years before the advent of his sister, my son was not just an only child, but an only local grandchild to three grandparents. He reveled in being the center of everyone’s attention and the recipient of all of their love, affection, and, yes, largess. He wanted for nothing. Every toy, video, game, trips to the zoos, museums, botanic gardens and every other cultural venue were standard fare. Educational enrichment, my personal favorite, matched his rational/cognitive bent and was consumed in large mouthfuls. An enriched childhood, truly.
If he felt the need to talk (which he did frequently) there was always someone around who would be delighted to provide their undivided attention. Watching his insatiably inquisitive mind at work was a joy and a wonder. As a small child (three or so), he gobbled up children’s reading books, mathematics, and science. The newspaper and occasional magazine were not off limits to his quest. Once he read something, it was then imperative that it be discussed (I suspect so he could show off what he had learned.) Regardless, this subsequent discussion explained, expanded, modified and confirmed the subject matter, resulting in a more substantial grasp of the multiple issues at hand.
We taught him respect, courtesy, honesty, caring, love, and joy by word and by example. We never, ever, lied to him. Since lying always devalues both the liar and the person being lied to, we never told him any “white” lies, “little” lies, “convenient lies”, or even lies to spare feelings. We did teach that honesty does not carry with it the obligation to comment on everything. Silence is an effective and far too underrated response.
As a result of his intense interactions with adults, he developed interpersonal skills that allowed him even greater access to adults. This upward spiral fed upon itself bringing him to new heights with more and broader encouragement. He developed a keen sense of humor, well beyond his years. His wit often caught adults by surprise, provoking even more genuine laughter.
To conclude this background discussion, this blessed young man took the college boards (SAT) at twelve, easily achieving admission level scores for even the most discriminating schools.
All of this said, my purpose today is to describe a particular vignette when my son was about five, as it demonstrates the results of his enriched environment in conjunction with his aptitudes and gifts.
Since he and I were well suited to jointly reason and discuss pretty much anything that came up, we would joyously do so at every opportunity. (As an aside, I would answer his questions in as much detail as he required - even if I had to postpone an answer to allow for research. Some of our discussions would take hours, ending only when he was satisfied or had fallen asleep.) As a result of this open and welcoming approach, there was little cause for conflict. No, he did not always get his way, but he did always get an explanation - and never a lie. On the rare occasion where we were not of the same mind, he usually took it in stride, because, after all, he had very little experience with arbitrary and capricious parental behaviors. Behaviors which, by their definition, trigger resentment and anger and a need to respond.
So here we are, him at five and me at, well more than five, having an atypical discussion where there was no meeting of the minds. In a huff, we both decided that some time in his room, for reflection, was warranted. (As another aside, we never, ever, spanked, hit, slapped, pinched, twisted, shook or used any other form of physical punishment, believing that this teaches nothing but violence and fear. Violence from someone who is supposed to love you is worse yet. Do you really want to see fear in your child’s eyes?)
Now, his room has every toy, book, video, and game that you can imagine. Though I believed that this time out was insignificant, I nonetheless found myself sitting on the floor closely outside of his closed door, listening intently to hear him crying, singing or playing or even calling his nana to get her take on the inequity of it all. Instead, after about 30 seconds, in a heart-rending moment, I see this tiny finger come under the door to touch my toe. I quietly moved my foot closer against the door. He tweaked, and squeezed and tugged at the toes he could reach.
After a few seconds, when his fingers withdrew, the door opened a crack and there he was sitting on the floor on the other side, saying nothing. Pretty soon his hand crept out of the opening. My hand inched over to touch his. His hand gently burrowed beneath mine.
The door opened wider and he moved into the opening, now leaning against me, still saying nothing. My arm found its way over his shoulders to pull him closer. Like a light switch being flipped, he jumped up, got a handful of his books, sat down in my lap, still on the floor outside his door, and said brightly, “What should we read daddy?”
The total elapsed time was maybe five minutes but seemed like a lifetime to both of us.
My love for him never presumed nor expected that we would be in agreement on everything. His own mind will lead him where he needs to go.
Sometimes a parent’s unconditional love and presence is all that is needed.