Why Gifted Children are Terrifying
Gifted children, they're those sweet little bundles of joy that know how to built bridges with their blocks before they can talk. How darling. A few years ago I found myself drawn to a baby, a human baby, something I usually avoid like the plague. It was a few months old, a girl, and had the most intense eyes I have ever seen on a baby. It drew me clear across the room and I nearly took her from her mother's arms trying to figure this out! It was an eerie encounter. I turned to the child's mother and said, "Ooooh, you're going to have fun with this one! She's gifted." I think I creeped everyone out in the room so I just wandered off after this. I realize the encounter made me look vibrantly like the village kook, or perhaps a shaman or psychic at best.
Now I admit I love gifted children. They're amazing. I'm also severely guilty of accessing every child I meet. Are they gifted or do they have room temperature IQ? Are they well taken care of or completely feral? Depending on these answers I will either take an interest in the child or pretend it doesn't exist. I supposed to some this makes me a bit of a monster but I just like to feel as if I'm not wasting my time (go ahead and boo me in the comments section of this article. I can take it!)
But anyway, back to the point. I am writing this article because I know if I were to ever have children I'd be overjoyed if they were gifted and would probably fall into a deep depression if they weren't. It's a bit of a catch-22 though. Gifted children are wonderful but as I am about to point out - they're terrifying.
Gifted Children May Outlearn You.... Quick
Gifted children aren't necessarily the ones that can burp up whole passages of books they've just read. They are kids who actually can see patterns a lot easier, learn much faster, and be able to put everything together. Unless you're constantly watching them this means they are always going to be in trouble. For instance one might be good at climbing, real good at climbing, and despite your best efforts they might be able to climb right out of their crib and take a cat-like position on the tallest piece of furniture they can find. I've seen it before. You'll constantly be the one trying to make increasing "improvements" and the kid isn't even three yet. Think about that.
Gifted Children Can Talk.... A Lot
We've all heard stories about embarrassing things children say. Out of the mouth of babes, mothers will lament. It's true. Children repeat whatever they hear, sometimes wrong, and even worse - sometimes right. Gifted children are far worse, they often speak very early and very well. I had to deal with a three year old once that was speaking full sentences, and not in incomprehensible baby babble either, you could tell what she was saying. If you think a five or six year old says some embarrassing things think what a three year old could be saying. People don't even know to be quiet around them because it's just a three old...
As I stated before I stay away from children as often as possible but when I am around them.... boy do they give me a whalluping dose of Too Much Information. I know whose daddy is being treated for the clap now. I didn't need to know that. Even worse what do you say back to that?! Just smile and nod like it's all normal!? I have no idea... but I know not to say anything at all when children are around. Even silly BS stories you make up to entertain them will come back to haunt you - like the kid whose parents were called into school because he was caught telling all the other children that babies come from seeds... mind you, it's not what you were thinking. His parents just told him babies are from the cabbage patch and you can't grow a cabbage without seeds.
Gifted Children can be Socially Malicious
I remember being a small child and not understanding why all the other kids seem like total morons to me. Why couldn't they understand what I was saying?! As soon as I learned that I did have n edge I started using it for evil, telling the most gullible children the daycare center was haunted. This did not end as I got older, it just got weirder and more complex. I'd let other children cheat off my paper after I'd written something blatantly wrong in the answer box, I'd convince a child I didn't like to do something bad and then convince an onlooker to tattle, I'd write suspicious things in my reports, and in my teens I found great joy in baiting pedophiles on AOL AIM with incorrect information, leading them on wild goose chases to nowhere. Today I still can't resist the urge to rearrange the fridge magnets in any household that has someone with OCD living there. I don't even know what I'd do if I had a 14 year old that was found to be baiting pedophiles.
I know from my own experience these behaviors are caused by a mixture of isolation (none of the kids getting them) and boredom, and I don't have an answer to either issue. Everyone gets bored sometimes and you know how hard it is to find a gifted play group? And do you even want your kid in a gifted play group? Imagine the trouble they can get into when it's five minds, not one!
Gifted Children have a Scary Sense of Humor
It's true. All the gifted children I have ever known have cultivated a sort of dark and twisted humor. I went to an Earth Day celebration recently where there was a very ill-picked performer on stage singing a zombie love song, "I just want to eat your face - that's how I know I love you!" When the part came up about sucking out eyeballs a small girl on the right hand of the stage was giggling in delight. If that's not creepy I don't know what is.
I remember when I was four or five my brother thought it'd be hilarious to teach me a sing-a-long. It was Pink Floyd's the wall. Imagine a five year old gleefully singing, "We don't need no education..." in an attempt at a British accent. Cuuuute. This is also what I meant about having more than one gifted child.
I remember when I was a little older I spent every day in school in a state of ennui. To fix this I started "breaking the rules from within." At eleven I was writing history reports with references to George Bernard Shaw. At twelve I was handing in reports about mythical animals I had made up. At one point my school was tired of having children not pass in their homework so they made all the children get their parents signature every night to assure them that their assignments were known. I signed my own planner - in the name of a different popular author every night, sometimes even children's authors!
I went to a public school and would never force a gifted child to go what I went through but I fully expect them to pull some of the same stunts and more that I can't even imagine and in the end I will be the one sitting there not knowing whether to be proud or horrified. "You did what now?!"
Gifted Children can be Legally Interesting
This is where things get really fun, learning just what kind of entrepreneur your child is. In Kindergarten I caught silverfish in my bathtub and sold them to peers as pets. When my dearest was a vaguely puberty-aged he thought it'd be a grand idea to sell dirty photos he'd spent hours downloading (in the era of dial-up) and then printing on the town's only color printer. A few years later he was pirating movies and CDs and I was selling dirt sculptures. Many of these endeavors are questionable at best. I don't know if you can prosecute a child for peddling porn.... and in all honesty I don't want to know either. Sadly gifted children know how to "cut to the quick." They can find short cuts to their goals that might not always be legally appropriate.
This is not to mention one of my favorite adventures... when a ten year old stole the car from the driveway and disappeared with her two friends for five hours, taking a detour through five towns in the middle of the night. She was eventually caught when she entered the city, sideswiped a taxicab and then tried to outrun the cops going the wrong way up a one-way street. And in typical gifted fashion she then leapt into the back seat and pretended to be sleeping. PERFECT.
It's Easy to Screw Up a Gifted Child
I know you hear it all the time- something you didn't even think about, something you said on a whim, is likely to screw your child up for life. It happens but it happens with a more alarming frequency in gifted children because they're always thinking. They are analyzing things that shouldn't have been analyzed in the first place and it's all going wrong in their little heads and it's all your fault... they'll never be normal or happy again. Congrats!
There's a Fine Line Between Intelligence and Madness
One of the most heartbreaking realities is that sometimes having a higher IQ can predispose a child to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. I wish I could shed light on this with a joke but it's true. Sometimes no matter how much fun you have with a gifted child growing up their adolescent and young adult years can be too much to bear. I have heard that a mother is only as happy as her most miserable child and although I don't have any children I think this happens to be true. I also know what it's like to be around someone who is suicidally depressed and my boyfriend has lost six friend to suicide or suspicious possibly suicide related causes. I would hope that with enough love and support this wouldn't be an issue but I know this isn't always the case.
Gifted children are a LOT of work. They'll keep you exhausted for all eighteen of the years you chose to let them live in your home. They'll be constantly outdoing you, constantly coming up with things that both amaze and confuse you, and in the end if you're really lucky you'll have raised a wonderful individual who is ready to tackle the world.
For most of my life I have said I wanted to be childless but sometimes the idea of a gifted child causing trouble around the house will make me smile and I will continue to wonder if I made the right decision.