She sits overlooking the North Umpqua, reading an information board about the life cycle of salmon.
I walk over, asking her about what she’s read. We discuss how salmon life is hard for the few eggs that survive into young salmonhood, and about the birds of prey that are eager to snatch them out of the river.
“Like me,” she says.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Satan is a predator, out to get me,” she replies. “And he uses you and dad to be mean to me.”
I’ve never been accused of being the devil’s assistant before, at least not to my face. But this conversation doesn’t shock me. Esmé’s passion for truth and fairness and God, her retention of facts and her ability to tie things together, are regularly juxtaposed with her 6-year-old self-centric worldview.
I remind her once again how much her dad and I love her. How love means we must, as her parents, train her up in the way she she should go. And sometimes that might not be what she wants in the moment, and it may not be what we want to do, but ultimately it’s for her good.
She’s heard it before, and it doesn’t seem to impact her at all. I say it anyway. It doesn’t hurt to say “I love you” again and again, in many various ways.
And how I love that kid. Her brilliance, her spark, her beauty, her passion, her sweetness. Her insistence on doing everything the hard way, the difficult way, the different way, and all the pain that results.
We’ve been pretty silent here this past year. It’s the general busyness of life, in part. But it is also the crazy vortex we’ve been in since Esmé started public school last fall. I’ve known she was academically ahead of her age-group, but I didn’t realize how very uniquely she is wired. She learns differently, is motivated differently, doesn’t fit the mold for anything. I read the almost-daily notes from teachers; I watch her mix with other kids. This rabbit-hole of parenthood, I’ve realized, is weird to the extreme for us.
Should I Kvetch or Kvell About My Kid? I could have written that article myself. Except for the Jewish twist. No matter what I say, it seems to come across wrong, so I’ve chosen to stay silent for the most part.
I don’t know what Esmé’s IQ is, and I’m not particularly keen on finding out, but immersing myself into gifted parenting resources, everything makes sense. Like putting in contact lenses. The sleep issues as a newborn. The potty training. The food textures. The precision. The dislike of repetition. The perfectionism. The transition issues. The desperate need for music at bedtime. The boredom. The need to go against the flow. The imaginary worlds. The need for control. The mind games. Oh, the mind games.
I’ve gone through intense emotions of pride in her accomplishments, guilt at the molds I’ve tried to force her into, sadness at the loss of personal dreams for her, frustration at a world that just doesn’t seem to get her at times. And tiredness. Extreme tiredness.
The “gifted” label is far too loaded for my taste, but in finding it, I find a world of parents who provide comfort in the knowledge that we’re not alone. There are no easy answers, and the majority of us seem to stay silent for fear of being misunderstood.
One thing I have missed in this year of discovery is the grounding of faith. I’ve filtered through stacks of parenting advice, keeping some and discarding most. I haven’t found many Christian mammas blogging about this topic.
And I want to know: how do I nurture and grow that heart for Jesus, above all? How do I keep my own priorities straight while struggling with fatigue? What are the important parenting battles, the hills to stand on and fight to the death? When should I be quiet and let the still small Voice do the talking?
“The last to cross the finish line will win.”
It’s a crazy rabbit-hole I find myself in. And the answers are opposite down here.