Wednesday, October 31, 2012
How to raise a prodigy
The New York Times magazine has a lengthy essay this week on "How do you raise a prodigy?" adapted from Andrew Solomon's forthcoming book, Far from the Tree. Solomon does a good job of introducing the topic of profound giftedness to the public, explaining that it is not an unalloyed positive. Such children do not fit into the normal mold of childhood, and so parenting such a child is a challenge. One has to walk a fine line between pushing too much -- the narrative of many a prodigy flame-out story -- and the less-told tale of not pushing enough. After all, a child with prodigious musical talent who isn't given access to good teachers and isn't given enough time to practice will not develop as he could. As one mother pointed out in this story, her child isn't normal. So why should he have a normal childhood? It's actually impossible. Solomon ends by saying that "I don’t think I would love my children more if they could play Rachmaninoff’s Third, and I hope I wouldn’t love them less for having that consuming skill, any more than I would if they were affected with a chronic illness. But I am frankly relieved that so far, they show no such uncanny aptitude." That's a fascinating way to look at the issue. I wonder how often parents of children with profound gifts wish that things were more normal in their lives. I imagine it's not infrequent.