Monday, September 24, 2012

A switch...The gifted child

We live with a gifted child.

When our Lia turned about 18 months, I knew something was different.  She had been a really good baby, didn't cry a ton, slept really well and was mostly observant.  However, when 18 months hit, it felt like she had changed overnight.  The transformation was unreal.  Her vocabulary and understanding went through the roof!  She could say almost anything she wanted to by 20 months.  Lia and Hannah seemed to have the same communication skills, Hannah was 4 and Lia was 2.  While this sounds amazing, Lia would say things like, "I promise, Mama, I will not do that again." and then turn around and do it.  I wasn't sure what she truly understood, so disciplining became a big problem.  Her manipulation skills were very impressive.  We found that most babysitters were outsmarted every time they tried to put her to bed.  Flavio and I couldn't go anywhere.  Her behavior and tantrums were for the books.  Everyone just kept telling us she was just a hard 2 year old and that she would grow out of it.  I didn't agree.  But there wasn't much I could do for a two year old at that point.

We endured (and that is no exaggeration) her second year of life, with her battles against eating or swallowing her food, going to bed, hitting or biting her sister, screaming and throwing herself against the wall or floor, taking toys away from other kids, and having a meltdown and screaming at the top of her lungs almost every night around 2 or 3 AM because her blanket wasn't right, or her sock had turned wrong or she had taken off her pajamas or her get the point.  We were exhausted and overwhelmed.

Then she turned 3.  I was hoping for a miracle.  But the insanity moved into her extra circular activities.  I would come to pick her up from gymnastics or preschool or dance and I would get, "you are Lia's mom, right, well...." and they would have to tell me how she was not listening and refused to do what they had asked her.  They would tell me that she had thrown a tantrum or spent the whole class in the bathroom playing with the water.  As a mother, that is not the most pleasing experience to have.  I was embarrassed and I was angry.  I was angry with Lia, I was angry with myself.  What had I done to my child, this was all my fault.  I wasn't a good parent.  I was ruining my child.  Depression set in.

I needed help.  With no family close by for some relief, I went to the doctor and he told me to find a child psychologist.  We did.  Again, we prayed about who could help us the best. We found Dr. Karen.  She took us in and listened as I cried and told her how I had destroyed my child.  How I felt so upset with her all the time.  How I felt I was the worst mother of all time.  And how I worried about her future and I thought she was going to end up in jail or worse, dead, because of her lack of obedience and seemingly love for going against every adult in her life.  Dr. Karen smiled and let me get it all out.  Then she tested Lia.  We waited for the results.  And the following week were given the best news, not for the reason you may think, Lia was gifted.  Her IQ was tested at 130, and it may be higher, but testing a 3 year old is not always completely accurate.  Dr. Karen sat us down and told us how Lia's abilities are the cause of her behavior.  Lia was born this way.  Her brain was way more advanced than her little body and Lia was just trying to deal with it all.  So that is where our Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide came from.   

We had been given a gift, literally with Lia.  But the reason I was so happy with the news was not because we were now raising our own little Einstein, but when the characteristics of a gifted child were explained to me, I realized that I hadn't done anything wrong.  I felt vindicated, that I had not ruined her.  It wasn't my fault.  A huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  It wasn't my fault.  Selfishly, this was all I could think about.  A huge relief came over me.  It. Wasn't. My. Fault. We had something to work with now.  And I was excited.

She is now working with a play therapist...she is making some great strides in her behavior.  But it will be something we will have to work on for her entire adolescence.

"The Gifted Child.  No individual can be more exhilarating, or more frustrating. The parents and teachers who deal with these wonderful children can often be described in a single word: Exhausted. The gifted child can speak as an adult one minute, comparing the emotional relationships in Les Mis with relationships in her own life, or discussing potential conflicts between evolution and the bible, and in the next minute throw an impressive tantrum because she didn't get what she wanted... right now! She can have you in awe of her theories on accelerated space travel, or pulling your hair out in frustration over her argumentative refusal to do her part in everyday chores."

I knew we were not alone, and that we could now do something about it.  We are excited about the future, but when it comes to living with a gifted child, you have to slow down and work day to day.

My goal with this post is, to not only share our experience with a gifted toddler, but to hopefully find others in our same situation.  So if you know someone who has a gifted child, please pass this along :)  Thanks!  We need all the help and support we can get.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it amazing how just understanding something can make it a million times easier? I'm sure Dr. Karen is one of your favorite people. :) And by the way, good for you for doing whatever it took to find some help. That, in and of itself, makes you a very good parent!