I seem to keep saying this to parents of younger gifted kids: It gets better.
When the Teenlet was younger I felt all alone, adrift in the midst of the chaos of a highly asynchronous, twice-exceptional, and drastically misunderstood child. We were all frustrated - he because he wasn't getting his learning needs met and didn't have any true peers, and dad and I because he was hard to parent. HARD to parent. The emotional outbursts, the anger and frustration over schoolwork, housework, even just asking him to pick up something he'd left on the floor was potentially a land mine. His anger went from 0 to 10 in a millisecond. At that time, he would describe his emotions as a smoldering volcano which was ready to blow at any moment, and uncontrollable.
All of that changed at about 12-1/2 years old. The combination of an excellent therapist and puberty kicking in has made such a huge difference in how we all function. Let me tell you about some of the most dramatic changes we've seen:
- Growth. Physical growth. My scraping-the-bottom-of-the-5th-percentile (height and weight) child, in one year, went from barely-5th to 50th percentile. That makes mom happy, doctors happy, and child happy not to be the teeny one any more. And he gets treated like the age that he is, not like a child. It doesn't quite make up for the intellectual difference between himself and his peers, but he's more welcomed into older groups because he doesn't look like a 3rd grader.
- He can tolerate boredom better now. WOAH! Boredom has been his worst enemy throughout his childhood - causing classroom troubles, home boil-overs, and friendship disasters. This makes such a huge difference in how he can engage with others in every aspect of life. He can play with a friend doing something that isn't his favorite, because he can tolerate being bored for the sake of his friend. He can sit in a classroom where he knows everything already and not make a scene or start distracting the other students. He has figured out how to entertain himself even when his usual entertainments are inaccessible.
- Speaking of school, he is (finally) getting straight As. My non-performer is performing - because he wants to! Executive function skills have kicked in and he has been doing a fantastic job of doing his homework (without any prompting from me), and conscientiously following through on required tasks for school. This year he is taking two classes at a local public high school (Biology - so he can get a lab, but this is the class he knows more than the teacher does, because it's his specialty, and he's already taken AP Bio at home; and Freshman English for continued writing support), and three classes in a dual-enrollment program at DigiPen Institute of Technology. I'm not homeschooling any longer because I don't need to. He's doing it all himself.
- I figure we got through the terrible teens when he was ten - at that age he was pushing all the intellectual and physical boundaries he could at the same time he was emotionally quite infantile. We are seeing nothing in the teens that we haven't already dealt with, and because we've been consistent from day one in how we deal with things, he already knows the boundaries. I'm not suggesting that we're not in for a testosterone-driven ride as he hits older adolescence, but so far the consistency of our parenting has carried us through the few little rough patches that we've hit in the past 2-1/2 years. He's been challenging his parents' beliefs since he was 8, so he doesn't have a lot more to do there, and emotionally he's been far more stable as a teenager than he ever was as a child. If the job of the adolescent is to figure out who they are apart from their parents, he's been doing that for a while.
- He's learning to be self-assertive. One of his biggest challenges has always been to communicate to non-parent adults (or even parental adults when he's in a state of overwhelm) what he needs. The ability to say to a teacher, "I need some quiet space" or, "I don't know when this assignment is due" has been, until just this year, elusive. But this year he is doing all the communicating with his teachers, and I hardly have to be involved at all. He is able to advocate for himself when it's needed, and reliably follows through on homework, passing information to his teachers and coaches as it's needed, and is basically functioning as his own person. We're still here for him if he needs us, but he hasn't needed us to advocate for him at all in the past year.
- Because we were able to homeschool for some of his crucial pre-teen years, he has learned some adult responsibility and survival skills. He does his own laundry (has done for 3-4 years), packs his own lunches, or makes them if he's home at lunch time, he gets himself up, dressed, and fed. He feeds the cat every day. He is helpful around the house when he notices something is needed (taking the garbage out without being asked, carrying in groceries from the car, etc.).
He's not perfect - nor is our relationship. But I really like the relationship we have now.
So this is my word to all the parents of younger kids who are going through hell right now: it gets better. I never thought we'd get here, but I always hoped we would by the time he turned 30. He's only half that, and I'm so proud of the young man he has become and is becoming.