I thought we were headed to the ER. As we pounded up the stairs, me running slightly behind Mr. Genius, all the horribly possibilities flashed before my eyes. Maybe he jumped off the bed again even though we’ve told him not to a zillion times. Maybe he got a foot caught in his ladder rungs. Maybe he broke his arm, neck, head – something!
We opened his door to hear that hysterical sobbing no parent wants to hear. We swarmed over him, asking him what hurt, what happened, why was he upset, what was going on? In between sobs, he told us that his domino set fell down 4 TIMES AND HE WAS SO UPSET!!!
All that adrenaline sidestepped instantly to anger and frustration. WHAT? That’s ALL it is? That’s what all the pounding, screaming, crying, kicking walls, and throwing things was about? Are you sure you’re not hurt?
Mr. Genius went back to work, relieved and annoyed at the same time. I sat on the floor trying my best not to laugh and directed that anger and frustration towards something more active: pick up the Legos you dumped on the floor. He pitched a fit about that too, but I firmly set boundaries and told him that it’s ok to be upset, but it’s not ok to destroy something when you’re frustrated.
I sympathize. Sometimes the emotions are just too big, too much, too overwhelming. Sometimes they NEED an outlet or they will tear you apart. For me, that outlet is crying – even when I’m angry, which is totally humiliating, by the way. The Engineer and Destroyer both run more aggressive. They need to throw something, hit something, or kick it to death. They truly need that physical outlet to get the emotions out. I tell them to “kill a pillow!” and offer to hold it for them.
Emotional overexcitabilities, or intensities, are a hazard of being gifted. Of course, not every gifted individual experiences this, and some neurotypical individuals do experience it too. You’ve heard of anger management classes, right? That’s one way to deal with it.
This is nothing new
I should be used to this. After all, the Princess is the queen of melodrama, and will work up a full cry over something so basic and simple that it’s mind-boggling. Like me, she probably uses crying as an emotional release.
I really should be used to this. After all, I live it. I’m the child-grown-into-an-adult who turns berserker when I’m angry. As a kid, it was terrifying to feel my emotions rage so far beyond my control that I physically shook. As an adult, I can control it. It still scares the crap out of me when it happens. That feeling of being out of control is one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced: because you feel like it’s not you at all and you’re worried what it might do.
I’m not a therapist or counselor, so I can’t offer advice on how to handle this area. All I can say is that treating the emotions as valid goes a long way to being able to deal with them.
We could have laughed at the Engineer and told him he was overreacting. I hate that word. We could have gotten angry and yelled at him for scaring us. We could have ignored him and let him fly with the storm and hope he landed safely. None of those approaches would have helped him, or made him feel ok about his emotions.
The other problem
On a side note, this entire episode was triggered by …. you guessed it …. perfectionism. Another quirk in the gifted mind. He got so frustrated with the task that he lost any ability to problem solve and figure the issue out. After the storm he gave up, even though we told him the solution to fix the problem.
I swear, when these kids make it to adulthood I want a big freaking trophy. Because this is parenting on steroids – navigating this gifted minefield. I better get chocolate for the rest of my life, kiddo – and I’m saving all of these blog posts to prove it!