Waves of Intensity


They didn’t remember the ocean.

I was sure they would, but they didn’t. It’s one of those strange artifacts that comes along with raising gifted kids; they have incredible memories for some things; A can tell you everything about the Clone Wars, but doesn’t remember his ornament from last Christmas. Even the girls have just recently begun to recall things from years past. Much of the time, when their various intensities aren’t recording memories for them, they’re just kids of their own specific age – kids for whom the general RECORD button of life has only recently lit up. So, despite having been to Hawaii multiple times as toddlers, and to San Diego in 2010, it was all new again for them when we returned to San Diego this week. New…and wonderful.

I’ve never thought about the ocean from the perspective of intensity, but it’s all there – sight and sound and touch and smell and taste. The sensation of wet sand between your toes, the sucking of the tide, the roar of the waves crashing, the humid salt air, the tang of brine when a wave crashes funny and serves you an unexpected mouthful. Imaginational comes to the forefront for H; ‘let’s pretend we’re on the only tiny island in a world of water!’ Psychomotor bursts forth onto the beach for A, and I have to go into an impromptu sprint and get him by the arm at the water’s edge to remind him that he can’t go in too deep. Part of me wanted to go in with him, though;  I’m 43, and I still find the ocean a wondrous and amazing thing. For them, it was nearly overwhelming this time.

Intensity comes along on vacation. It might as well have had its own checked bag. From Legoland (where A quite unexpectedly self-identified as a coaster junkie) to the Birch Aquarium (where H and E wept silent tears over the newborn moon jellies), it was everywhere.  We all had a good laugh when we encountered a knob labeled INTENSITY in a jet cockpit on the USS Midway; we all know what we are, and we can laugh about it. But the ocean captivated them all like nothing else.

It was great fun to watch them interact with it, to bring all of their norms of engagement into play with this immense, ever-moving force. They don’t know that beach sand is stealing a little extra kinetic energy with every step, or that the tide patiently waits to pull them seaward as they run among the tidepools, or that the day slips away in the soft California sun faster than we’re used to; so the entirety of their afternoons was exertion. They ate like rescued castaways every morning and slept like infants every night, exhaustion overtaking them in the way it did when they were tiny, leaving them sprawled, still in their clothes, as the sand dried quietly and fell to the carpet below. We had to walk them to the bathroom, get them into their pajamas, and see them back to bed like we did when they were two.

The ocean was more intensity than they themselves had in them, and seeing them confront this vast, implacable force of stimulus – and cheerfully losing the energy battle each day – reminded me of why parenting gifted children is such a joyful, but exhausting, exercise. They are the ocean within our home, never resting, always in motion, threatening to leave us with no energy to spare while the tide keeps rolling in and out with measured regularity, question after question, tears and shouting and laughter all taking their turns. And while I’d very much like to conserve my energy – taking short steps in their fine sand instead of long, loping strides, staying ankle-deep in the surf – to do so is to deny the nature of the thing.  The beach was meant to be run along joyfully, and the tide met with measured resistance, energy for energy – like for like.

I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Such a beautiful analogy, I will always think of this post when I start to get overwhelmed by my children’s intensity. Now I realize why they are always so calm and happy at the beach!


  2. This was such a nice read this morning in my search for a few good blogs pertaining to giftedness. I’ll definitely be a new and regular reader. 🙂


  3. Thank you both!


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