The Basket of Intensities

It has been said that one of the most interesting things about being a parent of a gifted child is learning about your own giftedness, and then being able to reflect those experiences back to your children. For me specifically, learning about gifted intensities has been a fascinating way to understand our family. Thank goodness for gifted psychologists. Dave and I describe our family as a “basket of intensities”, and try to teach the kids about what their intensities are, and how to embrace them (and, at times, control them).

This, of course, means that I can also embrace and try to control my own intensities as I understand them. It’s strange to explain to someone who hasn’t had the experience how much a part of you intensities are. Living with them is like living with your nose, or your ears; you’ve never known a life without them. So, learning that these feelings and impulses are part of my fabric, and related to my intellect, has been extremely helpful in explaining to the kids how to understand  their own. We have discussions about why they feel such incredible joy, love to have their backs and feet rubbed, will get completely lost in their own world, or want to talk in great detail about what they are reading.  We also discuss that everyone has some of these feelings, but they probably don’t feel them with the same degree of intensity.

I have also learned that trying to suppress intensities is not always possible. When the kids were little, I would spend all my time saying “don’t touch that”. Later, I realized that if a situation arose where their sensory intensity combined with their intellectual intensity, that “not touching” something was literally impossible for them. For instance, we would be at a museum where, say, an Egyptian artifact was intellectually very interesting to them, and some idiot had not put glass over it.  After countless times of yelling at them under my breath or physically restraining them, I learned to say, “when you feel you have to touch something, touch my arm instead.” A simple acknowledgment of their need, while giving them an appropriate outlet for it.

How did I identify with this? Well, sometimes, I’m the one who has the unbelievable impulse to do something, touch something, say something, move around, etc. and now understand why. Whether or not I am able to control it altogether is another story, so I suppose I’ve developed some empathy in that respect as well.

One reason we are more comfortable hanging around other families with highly gifted children is that we don’t have to explain ourselves. The parents and kids are very accepting of intensities, because we all have always had them. To us, they are normal.

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