On Being Intentionally Active

I remember the moment distinctly.  We were sitting at the cub scouts end of the year picnic, watching Cub and the other 6 year old boys playing t-ball.  I watched as Cub tried really hard to behave like the other 6 year old boys and he just didn’t know how to do it.  It was pretty painfully cringy to watch.  He just simply didn’t know how to “act his age.”  Typically he was pretty serious, engaged in thoughtful conversations, and enjoyed magically creative dramatic play.  In his attempts to fit in with the other boys, he became that overly silly, in-your-face kind of boy.  And, with his psychomotor intensity, he was physically buzzing around everyone and talking non-stop.  But, psychomotor intensity doesn’t necessarily equate to advanced psychomotor ability.  So, not only was he buzzing around, but he was doing so clumsily and simply seemed as though he didn’t know how to move his body.  My husband and I looked at each other and said, “Oh my gosh.  Our kid’s the annoying kid.”  My mind could flash forward a few years and the picture it painted of Cub’s social life wasn’t pretty.

Later in the week, I finally acquiesced to my husband’s fairly regular requests to enroll Cub in a martial art.  It was one of the best activity choices we’ve ever made.  And, in reflection, here’s why.

The physical discipline he has learned has helped him to grow more grounded in his movements.  He understands how to move his body with intention, which helps him modulate his psychomotor intensity.  The form of martial art, Aikido, is a defensive discipline, so it has also curbed his previous tendency to get into people’s faces, knowing he doesn’t need to go on the attack, but can quietly wait.  He has had the opportunity to learn from other people, older and younger, and to develop his own leadership skills.  In addition to the physical skills, there is an intellectual element of Aikido as he learns strategy, Japanese culture and language, and an understanding of the philosophy of Aikido.

His successes with Aikido have taught me a few things with regard to choosing the appropriate extracurricular activities for our gifted kids.

First, I now try to very intentionally choose activities that allow an outlet for their various intensities (overexcitabilities).  The more we feed the intensities, the less dysfunctional they become.  Aikido for psychomotor intensity.  Drama or Destination Imagination for imaginational intensity.  Art classes or philanthropic service projects to feed the sensual or emotional intensity.  Strategic gaming clubs for opportunities for intellectual intensity.

Second, I try to not only choose activities that feed the intensities, but also that help my kids learn how to modulate them.  There are a lot of downsides to intensities and us gifted people need to know how to regulate those downsides.  But, there are a lot of upsides, as well, and we need to teach our kids how to build the strengths and regulate the weaknesses of their particular intensities.  Aikido has been fabulous for this as Cub’s learned how to be generally more grounded in his body.

Third, we seek out multi-age activities.  Our kids develop asynchronistically, which means they rarely fit in with chronological peers.  They tend to do better with older or younger kids.  And, when multi-age groups for particular activities don’t exist, sometimes we create our own.  I managed a Destination Imagination team geared to homeschoolers so we could have a range of kids’ ages on the team.  Worked far better than sticking Cub in the public school’s team with all the same grade kids.

Fourth, we are very intentional about talking together to determine what and how many activities to participate in.  Gifted kids tend to be more introverted, so the fast-paced, be busy 24 hours a day, sign up for lots of activities world that we live in is often even more detrimental to these kiddos.  Sometimes we choose activities that are one-on-one, or solitary, or just at home.  And Cub generally has an understanding of what his limits are.

There are so many fantastic opportunities for our kids these days.  It becomes difficult to say no or to find the right match.  But, I’ve found that when I can be intentional in the ways I’ve described, my kids can flourish.  They learn how to build upon the strengths and modulate the weaknesses of their intense personalities.  And, thankfully, with Aikido’s help, Cub is no longer the annoying kid.


For More tips, tricks, and stories about the intersection of extracurricular activities and intensities, check out the Blog Hop at Gifted Homeschooler's Forum!

Caring Just Enough

In recent months a lot of the dirty “secrets” of society have been bubbling up to the surface.  Though, in fairness, these have really only been “secrets” to people privileged enough to be able to ignore them.  Racism and sexism have been blatantly supported by some of our country’s supposed leaders.  Institutional racism, sexism, able-ism has been caught on video and shared throughout the world.  People of differing faiths have been demonized and threatened to be put on a national registry.  Countries of plenty have been closing tight fists around their lands and resources, under the unreasonable belief that there simply isn’t enough to go around.  Immigrants are being dehumanized.  Refugees are being refused safe harbor.  People are being shot and killed.  LGBTQ individuals are being targeted and hunted down.  Victimized people are choosing to respond with more violence and hate.

For people with emotionally intense personalities (many gifted people), these bubblings can feel extremely overwhelming.  Anxiety and fear and sadness and anger and helplessness are felt by many people, but for emotionally intense children and adults, these feelings are multiplied and intensified.  Emotionally intense people not only feel things more intensely, but they also tend to be extremely empathetic.  They literally put themselves in the shoes and feelings of all the people who are being hurt and harmed.  And when there are so many people being hurt and harmed, many of our brightest, most empathetic minds simply shut down from overload.  The empathy becomes paralyzing. 

Now, obviously, this paralysis is simply not helpful.  To anyone.  Paralysis does not help to end racism.  Paralysis does not help to empower women.  Paralysis does not help to create sanctuary for our world’s poorest.  Paralysis does not help unite with people who are different from ourselves.  Paralysis does not help end violence or hate.  Paralysis simply does not help.

So, what to do?

Our brightest and most caring minds need to care, but not too much.  The trick is to care enough, but just enough.  We need to examine our own passions and decide what we, individually, are impassioned to fight for.  It is ok to choose one issue and throw all your passion and power into fighting against that evil.  In fact, it is necessary to choose just one.  And then we have to trust that other people are out there choosing the other injustices to fight against.  It is ok to notice some injustices and choose to devote your attention somewhere else.  We humans simply cannot give our all to everything.  We have to choose.  And that is ok.  I give you permission to care deeply about one of the “secrets” and do what you can to advocate for change.  I give you permission to notice the other “secrets” and let someone else do what they can to advocate for change. 

Now, of course, I’m not advocating for perpetuating the hatreds.  I will teach my children to be respectful and accepting of everyone, regardless of who they love or their gender, skin color, country of origin, abilities, etc.  But, I cannot be at every rally or write my congress people about everything.  I will be much more effective if I choose my area of advocacy, and throw all my intense passion into it.  I will be much more effective if I choose to care just enough.