Last Sunday was our 4 month old Scotch Collie puppy’s first training class. It was Tikki’s first class but I’ve been through this before with previous dogs.
I manhandled Tikki past the other puppies to a clear section along the outside of the training ring. Unlike our old lab mix, there was no frantic leash pulling to reach the other dogs. No desperate whining to let me know that his very bestest friend that he just met is 5 feet away.
Instead while I dutifully listened to the instructor, Tikki sat and watched. Watch is probably a bad verb for the intense laser-like focus of a collie. Less than 5 minutes in the instructor had to stop class. Tikki was unnerving the poor beagle puppies on our right. She wasn’t helping the overwrought German Shepherd on our left, either.
I spent the next 50 minutes feeding her a constant stream of treats to keep that laser-focus on me. Sure once I got her to turn that laser on me, she rocked out the attention exercises. She quickly understood what I asked of her on new exercises, too.
But her intensity was draining. I admit to giving the giant, immobile pile of mastiff puppy a longing glance. He wasn’t unnerving anyone. Or moving for that matter.
Later as I herded our loopy children toward bed, I told my husband about the class. “Even the dog is intense,” he replied.
And then it clicked into place.
Our gifted children are intense. Their intelligence, boundless curiosity, and endless energy is a wonder to behold. They devour books, rip through curriculum, and ask poignant questions. But just like our collie, there is no off-switch to their intensity. That same intelligence, curiosity, and energy can be off-putting to their peers.
And that intensity is exhausting for parents.
Like when your 5 year old decides at bedtime to finally learn 4 digit addition. That’s wonderful and all, but mommy has been on the clock since 5am and it’s quitting time. Can’t we just be a immobile pile of
fur -uh, child for awhile? Please?
People often think of giftedness as being a universally positive thing. Parents of gifted children know that it’s a double-edged sword. Intellect can translate into academic achievement. Or it can mean learning the loopholes and underachieving. Creativity may lead to great artistic talent. Or thinking up new ways to wreck havoc.
Because, get this, my gifted children are no better than any other children. Just different. They have strengths and struggles just like all children. Or dogs for that matter. That mastiff is an all star at ‘stay’. Assuming he wakes up to hear you say it.
Having groups like “collie” and “mastiff” doesn’t make one dog better than another. It just means you can quickly guess a particular dog’s likely strengths and weaknesses. “Gifted” is another useful designation for relaying the traits of a particular child. Their likely strengths and struggles.
I’d better quit before I run this metaphor too thin. Also, the collie is herding the golden retriever into the wall. Again.