B likes me to tuck her in and have a bedtime chat. I snuggle down between piles of books and stuffed animals.
“Are you sleepy, Honey?”
“No. I’m waiting for my mind to remember everything it just learned. Sometimes when I learn so much in one day, it all goes to the same spot and gets scrambled up and doesn’t make any sense.”
I imagine a room full of boxes where information floats through the air and has to land in its rightful destination. She tells me it takes some time, but eventually her thoughts settle in the correct places.
After a few moments of quiet in the dark,
“Mom, how do you think Homer wrote so much if he was blind? Did someone write the words for him? How do you think he knew how to describe everything? I guess there are a lot of things that you don’t need your eyes for. Sometimes you can just see with your heart.”
We discuss this and new ideas she has and topics that I am studying.
Recently, I read “A Forgotten Voice: A Biography of Leta Hollingworth“, by Ann Klein. She was a pioneer in gifted psychology; a brilliant, dynamic woman during a time that did not offer women as many opportunities.
I tell B about Hollingworth, and how she led the way in the investigation of how the mind works, and studied people whose minds could learn more and faster than others.
“Like me, Mom? That’s how I am. I learn so fast and I feel like I can learn everything and my brain will never fill up. It’s like a notebook, and every time I fill a page, I can turn the page and there is another blank one to write on.”
Yes, I say, like you. I tell her about how Hollingworth also studied the role of emotions in those whose “brains never fill up” and how they often feel more intensely than others.
“Like me, Mom! When I get so mad I cry, and when my beaker fills up so fast and I feel like I’m going to explode!”
She asks if the people whose minds work differently feel differently in the world too.
“Sometimes I feel like everyone likes me and sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in anywhere, Mom?”
Not long ago, I spoke with a young man who is battling depression. He described feeling much like this when he was young. His “rage to master” is still present in his twenties, but the more he learns about the world, the more it feels like a burden. Navigating the intense emotions that come along with deep understanding can be challenging. “Fitting in” is a concept he’s given up on.
B articulates how she feels and learns beautifully. I hope that her mind’s notebook pages keep turning and filling, and that her father and I can encourage her through the passionate and lonely and expressive moments in her future. I hope she’ll find her tribe where she is understood. I hope that when she’s older, she’ll embrace her uniqueness the way she does now.
For now, I hope our bedtime chats continue for years to come, for I love to hear her thoughts as her unique mind settles.
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