On Being "Well-Adjusted"
Please keep posting on the parenting books thread -- I really appreciate it! One of the comments, though, had me thinking about the concept of gifted kids being "well-adjusted," so I thought I'd do a separate post on the topic. All parents want this for their children -- for them to have a happy social life, be resilient, etc. Unfortunately, I think this is more possible for gifted children once they grow up than it is for them when they are children. That's because adults can set up their lives in ways that make them happy, fulfilled, etc. Children don't have this option -- mostly because that's part of being a kid.
For instance, I'm pretty happy with my life right now. What a reason to be grateful, right? I work from home, so my desk is as messy and disorganized as I wish. It's got bits and pieces of different projects scattered everywhere. No one let me get away with that in school! I work on projects when I want to work on them. And I choose my own projects. So naturally I gravitate towards ones I find fascinating. I always had a bit of trouble sitting still; fortunately, by running my own small business, I rarely get stuck in meetings that don't directly pertain to me. I have friends of all different ages, and I rarely spend too much time with people who aren't smart or inquisitive. Because the bulk of my social interactions are with such people, I can handle other interactions with a lot more patience than I had in 8th grade when the only conversation going on at the lunch table was about the mall. Nothing about my life looks much like the average kid's class in school, where you interact only with people your age, and only do assignments someone else tells you to do. So no wonder I'm much more relaxed and well-adjusted than I was as a kid!
I've been thinking about how some of these adult choices could have been put in place when I was a kid -- or if that's even possible. Some parts are. For starters, it's more possible for gifted kids to be well-adjusted in self-contained gifted classes than in mixed-ability classes. In mixed-ability classes, you are simply the "smart one," while in gifted classes, other sides of your personality can come out. Voila! You are magically more well-rounded and well-adjusted, just by changing classes. Gifted kids also magically become more well-adjusted when they're allowed to pursue their favorite topics in depth, and when they're challenged. Suddenly, your brain is more engaged. Smart people like it when their brains are engaged. Life is more fun!
But I do understand that it would be pretty hard to run a school where you come and go as you please, do all fascinating work and only interact with people you like. Maybe there are benefits that come with adulthood. I guess this is something to tell a gifted kid who's getting frustrated with school and the rules of being a kid. For all we romanticize childhood in our culture, if you've got an adult brain in a kid's body, it's often better to actually be an adult. So hang on... it'll get better as you get older.