This is a really cool thread. :LOL
I (and two of my siblings) would fall into the category of 'profoundly gifted' (my other two siblings would just be "gifted":LOL); my son is just shy of 18 months old and while he's not quite where we were at that age, he's obviously very, very bright, and not just precocious. I agree that it's difficult to determine giftedness in very young children, but that's because much less research has been done on giftedness than on mental retardation. 30 years ago, they said that you couldn't tell if a child was autistic before they were, what, six or seven? Now they're diagnosing children as young as two. If you look at the 'bell curve' for intelligence, you'll see a bubble at the low end; that's because testing is more sophisticated at the low end than the high end. But I digress! My point is, long before there was any "proof" that children could exhibit signs of autism before they were a certain age, parents could tell; the same is true for gifted and profoundly gifted children today.
The perfectionism is a hard thing to deal with, and very very common in gifted children. They feel a need to be perfect because they're capable of more than other kids and they're aware of it, so they want to compensate for what their age-peers can't do. My brother would get absolutely hysterical about the injustices of the world from a very young age. He is, to this day, a paranoid worrying kind of person. I joke that it's because he's a virgo (every virgo I've ever met has worried like this, regardless of their intelligence). Anything unjust seemed to just jump out at him and make him miserable, like the fact that other people had so much and we had so little, or when he found out that hamburgers (his favorite food at the time) came from cows, or the children who were starving in Ethiopia, or any number of other things.
I felt a little differently about things; I worried about them, but always felt like I'd change the world once I got old enough that people would take me seriously. Eventually, I figured out what I would change, and what I was going to do about it and now I'm working on it. :LOL I'm much more relaxed about things like that than my brother was.
Making mistakes is a huge crime to a gifted child; we're not allowed to make mistakes. The farther from the average a child is, the more aware they are of it. Teachers (and parents too, sometimes) seem surprised or disappointed when a gifted child does not perform optimally, and no matter what you do to hide it, the child knows that they've disappointed you with their performance. They feel like they should never even attempt something that they're not already certain of doing well at, because they don't want to risk that disappointment. I think that the best way to deal with this is to emphasize positive aspects of things they didn't do well at (You tried something new! That's so cool!) and to let them see *you* making mistakes, and how you deal with them. It's also important to commend your child when they do well. This was very irritating to me as a child, and still is today: my mother seemed to expect me to get perfect scores on achievment tests and such, and never commented on them unless my scores were less than the maximum. I never heard "hey, you did a great job on those tests" or even "thanks for going to school that day and staying awake for the test", but when one of my scores was a 12.7 instead of a 12.9, she asked me why.
Make mistakes, let your children know that you're not perfect. Let them know that you're willing to risk not being the best at something, and that it's really not the end of the world. My mother, whenever she failed at something (and oh, it happened all the time!!) would blame someone else for her problems. (Often me; it was, after all, my fault that her life sucked so much in the first place.) She never, ever, ever took responsibility for her failings, and as a result none of us could ever see failure as a normal part of being human. It was obviously better to lie about it or blame someone else than to fall short in any respect.
Because we were so bright, we picked up on these attitudes *very* early... I can remember having these thoughts as young as 3 years old. Incidentally, the first time I attempted suicide I was three; I felt like a failure, couldn't find someone else to blame, so I internalized that and figured that the only way to correct the mistake and keep it from happening again was to take myself out of the picture. Since there was no place for me to run away too (I knew that walking would make me tired long before anyone looking for me) I thought it would be best to kill myself. Sounds strange, but this was seriously my thought process; it was right around my third birthday.
About school: I never in my wildest dreams associated school with learning. I had no idea that most people did until I was in second or third grade and someone asked me what I'd learned in school. I told them that you didn't learn things in school, you learn things at home or at the library. They asked me why kids go to school and I told them that it was so their parents would have time to clean the house and have time to themselves without kids around. "Then why do you do those books and worksheets and things at school?" "Well, how else is one person supposed to entertain a dozen kids for 8 hours?" They had nothing to say to that. :LOL My mother thought that I wasn't interested in learning after third grade, because I had lost interest in school by then. She wasn't really aware that I had never linked the two in my mind. The first time I learned something in school, it was my junior year of high school in AP Chemistry. :LOL
My children, needless to say, will not be attending school. I went to private and public schools (so did Mike, who is bright and probably above average but not gifted) and feel that niether would suit my children as well as I would. Private schools tend to foster an unhealthy sense of elitism and entitlement which does not serve children well later in life, and public schools cannot cater to individuals, despite their best efforts. Slightly to moderately gifted children can thrive in the public school system; exceptionally and profoundly gifted children are just as lost as profoundly retarded children.
About being three: I missed this, because my big awakening happend at 18 months, but I have a niece who flipped out about being three years old, and later about being four. This was because other things were associated with the birthday that she wasn't ready to deal with; for example, for her third birthday she was told she'd have to give up drinking from a bottle. She wasn't ready to let go, so she decided she wasn't turning three. She also had to give up using her pacifier in public; this was very difficult for her, and made her want to stay in the house and be two for the rest of her life. At four, she had to give up the pacifier for good and would ask "Can I be three for ten minutes?" meaning "Could I have my pacifier for ten minutes?"
Many children, especially those who can think about it, feel pressure to perform differently once they hit a certain age. For example, I remember thinking that I should behave differently once I turned two because my age would no longer be mentioned in months. It wasn't an issue for me, because I was already doing most of the things that would have been asked of me (drinking from a cup, using the potty by myself, etc) but for most gifted children, it is. They feel a pressure to grow up in a hurry because people (adults) don't take them seriously as children, and they feel a need to be taken seriously so they can get on with the business of changing the world for the better and compensating for their age-peers and such. So don't press them to grow up first, just take them seriously now. My mother always talked to me like a person (she too was a profoundly gifted child, as well as someone who remembered being 18 months old and being irritated with grownups not treating her like a person... as her mother before her was). She asked my opinions, she gave me choices, she listened to my ideas and honestly considered them. This is one of the things she definately did right, and this is what I do with Eli even now.
I never fit in with my age mates, and I never understood them. The very first time this happened, I was about 25 months old and was at a friend of my mom's house. She had a little girl (who I later found out was actually older than I was) whom I was expected to play with, but she couldn't talk.
I tried to engage her, but she didn't understand me so I walked away and picked up a book (Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss) and sat down to read it. The little girl picked up a green crayon and started to write in the book!
I told her that books are for reading, not for drawing and I tried to take the crayon away from her, and she totally freaked out. Her mother came and asked me what she had done and I told her. She said "Oh, she's allowed to color in her books." I made a face (
: ) and said "Books are for reading, not coloring," but I handed the little girl a book. She said "Don't you have any coloring books? She thinks all her books are coloring books." I had no idea what she was talking about, and my mother told her "No, my kids don't have coloring books. They color on paper, they read books." I was so confused by it, but the next time we went to the grocery store, mom showed me the coloring books. I brought one home and was very disappointed, and decided I liked paper better. My brother liked the coloring book, though; he liked the lines clearly delineating where to color and where not to. I found it irritating. :LOL
Some children are not emotionally prepared to deal with older children, while others are not really equipped to deal with children their own age. I don't think this really has to do with giftedness per se, but it is much easier to see the discrepencies when a child is gifted, kwim? And then there's the physical aspect: I was smaller than all of my classmates, as well as younger (late birthday; I didn't technically start early). A small-for-age not quite five year old in a classroom full of average to large kids who *all* turned six before my fifth birthday. I was physically lost, even though I was much more mature emotionally as well as intellectually. When they played house, they always wanted me to be the mother even though I was the smallest. (I hated playing house, because I was the oldest of four children in a single parent family. Why would I want to pretend to change diapers when I had to really change diapers all the time?
: ) When they played school, they always wanted me to play the teacher (this was more acceptable to me, as it usually just meant that I had to read a book to the group and that was easy enough. :LOL) I had a class full of kids who were larger than I am who looked up to me... but I couldn't push myself on the swings, because my legs didn't reach the ground when I sat on them. I could win every game that involved skill, but physical size is a huge advantage in many games that kids that age play and I always lost those. As far as I'm concerned, this is one more reason to keep my kids out of school. Eli is very small for his age (just yesterday I noticed that for the first time when he sits down in his 6-9 month sized pants, his ankles show; he's finally getting too tall for them!) and if he follows in my (and his father's) footsteps, he'll stay that way until he's at least 12 or 13.
Back to my own son: Eli wants to get out of diapers, learn to read, and do all sorts of other things which I simply can't deal with right now beacuse I am hugely pregnant. :LOL If I wasn't in my third trimester, I'm fairly certian that Eli would be dry all day by now, and I know that he'd know all his letters and numbers (right now, I'd say he knows about a third of his letters and recognizes & counts 0 through 11 with no prompting; at least, that's all he knew last time I asked him :LOL). I also know that he'd still be getting most of his nourishment from breastmilk, that he'd still need to be snuggled to fall asleep comfortably, that playing in a puddle of water would still be terribly amusing.. in other words, that he's still a baby, despite his intellect. He does lots of amazing things, and it fascinates me, but I'm still aware that he is a baby and needs to be treated as such. He still needs a hug and a kiss when he gets a boo-boo, even though he knows the kiss doesn't really make the boo-boo go away.
After NewBean is born and my post-partum brain fog and TBP have resolved themselves, I will help Eli do the things he wants so desperately to do. I too feel like I'm holding my child back, and it's a really disturbing feeling to me as I promised never to do it. It's a physical limitation, but still it
: irks me something fierce! How many parents can say that their child was ready to potty learn before they were? Or really want to cry because their child is harassing them to learn how to read or count or spell and they just can't summon the energy to deal with it? *sigh*
Wow, this is a really long post!! :LOL :LOL I hope someone's made it to the end of all that rambling. I'll try to keep it more concise in the future.