I’m learning that there are many bittersweet moments as a mom. Moments in which your children reach another developmental milestone bring tears of happiness and tears of grief as the loss of your baby’s babyhood become clearer. Gifted kids hit some of these maturational milestones earlier than others, and I have to say that I think that kind of sucks.
Take, for example, an incident that occurred a few years ago. Cub was 6 years old, 7 tops. For the previous 4 years he’d been all about superheroes and Harry Potter. He walked into the kitchen, head hung low, and said to me, “Mom, I’m kinda sad.”
“Really, buddy? What’s going on?”
“Well, it’s just really sad that everything cool isn’t really real. You know, like superheroes or magic or Harry Potter.”
Hugging ensued as this mama’s heart was torn into pieces and my mind frantically searched for a helpful, feel-better response. And I remember thinking that this sucked. He was still a teeny tiny boy, barely school-age, and his stupid logical brain had already taken away the magic of childhood fantasy. (Don’t even get me started on his struggles to suspend reality and simply enjoy a fictitious movie!)
And at that moment, I decided that maybe the magic of the fantasy was gone, but I could help spark some new magic. So, I said, “Yep, buddy. Right now there aren’t any people who can fly or climb walls with sticky web fingers, but who’s to say that you can’t find a way to make that happen? Maybe you’ll be the world’s first real-life superhero.”
I never knew it was possible to embody pure sadness and incredulous scoffing at the same time, but there it was, all over my 6 year old’s face. “Don’t be ridiculous, mom,” he said. And, having proven his point, he thought the conversation was over. But I had a comeback.
“Seriously, cub. If you really want to and you work hard and surround yourself with other smart people, maybe you and your crew will be the first to develop some type of injection or microchip that will allow people to harness the power of flight. 100 years ago nobody thought airplanes were possible. So who says it can’t be done?!”
Yes, my motives were probably suspect. Really I just didn’t want my baby to grow up so fast. But, ultimately, I’m pretty proud of this parenting moment. And, don’t worry, there are about a bazillion other parenting fails in my repertoire, too.
Gifted kids have enough struggles to contend with. The least we can do is keep imagination, hope, and fantasy alive for as long as we can, even if it has to shift form. This, after all, breeds innovation and creates the crazy humans who actually do change the world.
Or, maybe, I just really want to fly.