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Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget

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True story: Last night at about 11:38 p.m. I was down in the living room guiltily reading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I say guiltily because an hour before I told my husband “I was just going to read one more chapter.” Ha! Yeah, right.

I heard my nine-year-old’s bedroom door open. “Mom?” he asked. “Are you staying up late reading too?” He had The Underland Chronicles #3: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods in hand. Yup. He’s a chip off the old block.

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I could chart my life as a history of crazy book obsessions.

Start with Game of Thrones  and work all the way back to Anne of Green Gables. Or take a look at the home library I’ve assembled for my kids.

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Lots of people love books. A love of reading is easy to understand. But for the gifted and highly gifted, reading is usually just one of many obsessions. That’s because gifted people tend to be INTENSE.

I'm the one holding the baby.

I’m the one holding the baby.

Even though I grew up in the San Diego Unified School District’s Seminar Program for highly gifted kids, I always thought of giftedness as something that effected me in school when I was child, but not at home when I was an adult.

Then, when I became a parent and realized that at least one of my own children was gifted, I got a fuller picture.  Part of my work to become a better mom–at one point I printed out and read every article on the SENG resource library–gave me new understandings about myself.

As an adult, I still have passionate curiosity. I move from one learning obsession to the next. My husband likes to say “If it wasn’t this, it would be something else,” every time I pursue a new interest.

I could chart my life has a history of crazy hobby obsessions.

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Right now it’s lacto fermented salsa

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…and Zumba.

Previous obsessions have included bulb planting, vegetable gardening, canning and let’s not forget blogging.

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At one point I was even obsessed with composting which is why we have three different types of compost bins.

The one on the left works best.

The one on the left works best.

A couple of years ago I randomly became interested in the life and times of Rose Wilder Lane and the true story behind Little House on the Prairie. Over the course of a few weeks I read about ten books on the subject, all while holding a two-year-old while she napped. A year later, I wrote an article for the paper called The ‘Little House’ Books still Inspire.

A similar intense study of Ayn Rand lead to the article Motherhood is the Definition of Self Sacrifice.

I titled this post “Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget” because even after a passion fades, 80% of it sticks with me. I still compost, scrapbook, garden and blog, but those things no longer consume me. What I learned however, sticks around for the long haul.

Intensity helps you reach the 10,000 hour mark.

Intensity helps people reach the 10,000 hour mark.

So the big question is how to help gifted people deal with their intensities before they drive the rest of their family crazy.

I’m not sure I have the answer to this. But hopefully if you raise children to have a good heart, the things they become intensely obsessed with will be a blessing to themselves and their family.

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Like a mom obsessed with canning for example.  😉

Bruce Bardsley, Vampire Slayer

I’m sorry if today’s commentary is not very insightful. I’ve spent the past few hours supervising a seven year old with a pocket knife.

My son Bruce(7) is really into whittling right now. Our whole back patio is littered with wood shavings, and we now have a huge selection of stakes for____???? Okay, I don’t really know what the intended purpose of these spikes are, but if vampires ever come to Edmonds we will be ready.

The picture you see before you represents several hours worth of work, and one “finger carving merit badge”. It’s just another example of how intensity comes to our family naturally and to the point of craziness.

On a random side note, for those of you who didn’t know “Bruce” is not actually my son’s real name. So I’m a little curious if now that I’ve titled a blog post “Bruce Bardsley”, if that name will be Googleible.

Intensity and Giftedness

I could write a different post about intensity and giftedness every single day of my life.  If you are a gifted person yourself, or the parent of a gifted child, you could probably write those posts too.  Intensity is the dual edge sword of giftedness. It is what leads you to practice, practice, practice, and also what can lead you down the path to crazy-town.

I apologize in advance for the obnoxious naval-gazing aspect of this post, but if you are interested in my thoughts about living with intensity, here goes…

Here’s a little gifted boy from my family; my grandfather, pictured here as an insanely young Eagle Scout. As part of his work towards this honor he earned 36 merit badges even though only 21 were required at the time. Intense?

My grandpa was also an accomplished violinist and musician, a member of the San Diego Symphony, and a music teacher. While looking through his high school yearbooks a few weeks ago, I noticed that he was elected concert master of his school orchestra and performed as first violin, as a freshman. If I had to take a guess, I bet you that there were 10,000 hours of practice behind this, driven by Grandpa’s intense love of music.

If you are a regular Teaching My Baby to Read follower, you might recall my son’s adventures over Christmas break, when he first decided to learn piano. Bruce spent six hours a day, practically chained to the piano, for three days in a row. There was crying, giddy laughter, six-year-old swearing (Piano playing if for fart-heads!), and a lot of begging on my part for Bruce to choose a different activity. From December 20th to December 22th he learned 33 songs, and completed half of Piano Adventures Primer Level.

When I told my mom about how frazzled I was from Bruce coercing me into being his piano teacher, Mom let loose an evil laugh and replied “Karma is a b—- , Jenny.” She was referring of course, to my own multiple childhood trips to crazy-town.

When I was uninformed, I thought that intensity only impacted gifted people in their academic pursuits. Now as an adult who has read about Kazimierz Dabrowski, I know that intensity can manifest itself in the Psychomotor, Sensual, Emotional, and Imaginational realms of personality and behavior as well. Now for the aforementioned naval-gazing:

When I was seven years old I engaged in a months-long, endless assault on my parents to subscribe to the Disney Channel.  It culminated in my grandparents purchasing the subscription for me for Christmas. What freaked my mom out, was that instead of just whining for what I wanted for a week or two like a normal second grader, I relentlessly approached her with well thought out arguments, statistical analysis of our family’s television viewing habits, and reliable forecasts of how the education and entertainment value for our whole family would be bettered if we only had the Disney channel.

Then there’s the time when I was about 9 and earned Pioneer Girl’s Highest Honor Award, completely through my own efforts and determination. This came as quite a shock to both of my parents, who are Atheists. (Pioneer Girls is a Christian organization.) At the awards ceremony the head leader announced that no girl had ever done that before in all her time serving at that particular church. I hadn’t realized this when I had first began doggedly cranking through the activities in my Pioneer Girls Guidebook. I just thought memorizing Bible verses was fun!

Even as I grew older relaxation has always been a particular problem for me, because I have trouble relaxing without relaxing intensely.

Here’s a needlepoint it took me three years and three boyfriends in high school and college to finish because the project was so large. It was also the beginning of my battle with carpal tunnel syndrome. I wouldn’t stop needlepointing when I was in pain, because I wanted to finish.

The obsessive gardening and 1500+ bulbs in my yard are contributing factors to my tendonitis. You see, I can’t just use gardening as a relaxing pastime; I have to garden intensely.

Then of course, there is my latest hobby, which would be blogging…  Let’s just move on.  🙂

If you can imagine what type of teacher I was, then you can probably guess that I was very passionate about teaching. I stayed up late, working hard, then working harder, to become a better teacher. I’d wake up in the morning, worrying about my students. I spent half of my summers working in my classroom. I couldn’t work 40 hours without working 60, and then spending my vacation, working some more. This is very reminiscent to me of Bruce’s current first grade teacher, who must be an example of Karma coming back to me in a good way, because she is so wonderful.

Being an intense child?–Extremely difficult!  Parenting the intense child?–Even harder! Putting your child in a classroom where the teacher is still there to answer your phone call at 5:30PM? –Awesome!