Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Kid Update: Leah

Sweet Miss Leah.

Leah is one month away from becoming a seven year old.  At (nearly) seven, she is so very many things: hard working, an excellent big sister, kind, compassionate, opinionated, playful, serious, stubborn, mature, empathetic, a care-taker, a Jesus lover... I could go on. 

She is my little mother.  She loves her siblings, loves to help me and to hold leadership roles both in a classroom setting and particularly within our family.

She is wise well beyond her years.  She is capable of an enormous amount of empathy and compassion, of maturity, sense of justice and right and wrong, of  incredible talents, intense intelligences and high aspirations.  

The development of each of these traits is incredible to witness.  

One thing I have not discussed openly is our struggle with her giftedness.  It sounds like such a contradiction in terms - which is why I haven't talked about it before: she is highly, highly gifted.  And it's really hard.

To even give the sense that we are complaining about this giftedness seems, to many, as if we were complaining about having won the lottery.  She is immensely talented, and will be intellectually able to literally do anything she wants, her whole life long.  Boo-hoo, right?

That being said, giftedness generally - but this level of giftedness particularly - leads to a number of emotional intensities and special needs that require an immense amount of time, patience, wisdom and grace; often that push me to the very ends of my own limitations.

She is a perfectionist to a paralyzing degree.  I'll never forget listening to her on the baby monitor in the middle of the night.  At not even one year old, she would wake up at all hours and practice enunciating words that had given her particular trouble during the day.  She wanted those suckers to be perrrr-fect.  And nothing less would suffice.

She has never lost that sense of determination, nor has she lessened the standards to which she holds herself.  It leads to an enormously debilitating internal struggle: if she even senses the chance to make a mistake, she can become so overwhelmed and frustrated she will not even make an attempt.  Or, frequently, that sense of being overwhelmed creates explosive feelings that she literally can't deal with, followed by outbursts that are destructive and ugly.  It doesn't matter if she could do it - the mere suggestion that something might interfere with her perfect outcome can shut her down before she starts.

It is an exhausting process for her.  There is always the potential for one of her perfectionist-landmines to explode in all our faces, without warning, at any given moment.

Added to that is the fact that she is developing intellectually faster than her six year old body can keep up with.  In other words, there are simply some skills that she can't do yet; some things she isn't ready for because she's only six, though the capabilities of her mind and her will extend much further.  She literally can't live up to her own self-imposed mental standards because... she's still six!

Our biggest challenge by far, though, is the battle she faces with her own emotional intensity.

I don't quite know how to describe it, except to say that her radar for emotions is bigger.  Where you or I are able to take in information and emotion and process it in what might be considered a "normal" way, what she has taken in is just bigger, in both quantity and intensity.

You and I pick up cable TV with our radar.  Her emotional radar is the kind NASA might use to explore the universe.  For a six year old to deal with all of that emotional input and the intellectual complexities it poses on a day to day, minute-by-minute basis is no small task.

Put another way, we're Watson.  But she's Sherlock.  And if you're at all familiar with that analogy, you know that it's no picnic to be Sherlock - or the people who love him.

That's not to imply that things are all bad, because they certainly aren't.  Leah is sweet, funny, kind, capable, helpful and loving. She is polite and respectful, gets along well with everyone she meets, and if you met her you'd never know how deeply she struggles behind the scenes.

Of this I am sure: The Creator of everything has created her exactly as she was meant to be, for a purpose that is mightier than we can imagine or understand.  Not in spite of the things that set her apart and force her to overcome, but because of them.

We are so, so lucky to get to shepherd, coach and guide her, and to share her days (even when those days are completely, exhaustingly difficult.  Right now, they are).

God has used her almost as much as anything else in my life to show me His goodness, His ways and His blessings. So often, she has been the tool that God uses to s-t-r-e-t-c-h me in my own capacity as a mother, largely by helping me to understand my own inadequacies and need for patience, forgiveness, gentleness and grace.  

Those are precious lessons that I could not pass on - that I might never even have learned - without her.  

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