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To peak early or bloom later. Saturday August 22, 2015

When ever I introduced a new friend male or female to my dad, within 5 mins he had told them how I topped the year when I was 11. At first it was sweet then embarrassing then awkward that the last thing I did academically that made my dad proud of me, was over 35 years ago.

It was not my dad's fault that I peaked early and never really lived up to the expectations from being seen as a smart child. I spoke early taught myself to read early and even at 4 my parents were predicting my academic future. Alas I peaked too early and spent my life never being able to surpass my achievement at 11.

My parents never exploited me as I was no where near being a child genius, just a child who loved learning and reading.

When I see people on Facebook saying how smart their child is because he can say the alphabet backwards at 2 years, reading at 3 years, doing maths for 9 year olds at age 5, I hope that the child is not going to be worn out by the time they are a teenager.

When there is pressure for children to perform, to be bright, to be so creative their parents can boast about them to other parents what happens when they no longer stand out from their peers, when their achivements aren't deemed worthy to be post on Facebook or turned into an anecdote.

Many children are naturally bright and enjoy learning so lets not put so much pressure on them to perform, just encourage them to be themselves and to have fun discovering their invidual skills and talents and what makes them special.

If I had my choice I would choose to bloom later than peak early.

What about you, what would you choose?

Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Crisitna Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 4:40am

That is why I like a certain pedagogy that encourages a child to play, have music, hear fairy tales till it comes to seven years old when it is mature to learn to read. Of course, it can be a little earlier.

"Many children are naturally bright and enjoy learning
encourage them to be themselves and to have fun discovering their invidual skills and talents and what makes them special."

Well said.

Debs Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 6:43am

Blooming lovely Leah and I totally get it. I am completely inspired to take this on with my son and make sure I don't inadvertently have him peak too soon!

And your blog also got me thinking about the meaning attached to what happened to you at 11 and to wonder how much is a story you've created around it... (See previous blog on story!) For a long time I felt I had let my parents down by being a single parent, by living far from them (and the list goes on!) and then I realised this is just the human condition. We are hardwired to want to make our parents proud and have them praise us. But at some point in our early years they just naturally stop praising us. There's no meaning attached to this stopping, it just happens naturally as we grow up. I had attached meaning that they were no longer proud but of course that wasn't true, they had just stopped saying it. And now I invest more time in praising myself - finding my new peak and then telling my parents how proud I am of me. A new bold stance for a shy violet like me I can tell you ;-)
I'm looking forward to hearing about how much you bloom today (and tomorrow... next week... and always)because a beautiful flower can bloom again and again. Xxx

Pennie-Lynn Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 7:10am

I remember being washed up by the time I was 13. Not that I wasn't smart or creative anymore, but I had reached the point where I understood how the system worked, and I didn't really care for it. I knew the things I could write or the buzz words I could say to elicit a praising response from my teachers.

I've come to believe that a higher IQ makes mental illness different. Clinicians are often intimidated by someone who knows the DSM-V or the latest research and may even think we're faking. Knowing how crisis line workers or nurses are trained to respond can ruin the comfort being given. Whether manic or depressed, a higher IQ can be a curse.

We need to treat children to see innate intelligence as a tool over which they had no control. We need to praise the things they do have control over, such as choosing to memorize a poem because it's grandma's favourite or comforting a crying friend. And we must always give them a liberal dose of, "I love you for who you are, not what you do."

David Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 8:35am

I did well at school in science, got good A-levels, (2 A's and a B) went to Uni in 1980 and only just scraped a Physics pass. I sailed through the 1st Uni year without doing much work, (getting very into rock climbing instead) then failed the 2nd year completely.

My parents must have wondered what was going on (we didn't talk about feelings in our family), but really I was depressed and lost by now, with a lot of "what's it all about?" in my head. I scraped through the 2nd year exam resits and then the 3rd year was just survival and trying not to slip into depression, "self medicating" with more rock climbing and listening to music (which didn't help). At no point did I acknowledge I was depressed, nor did anyone at the Uni do anything - I was just left to "stew in my own juice" so to speak.

I met my wife in the 3rd year, and honestly (and my friends at the time agree) she may have saved my life - I'm just eternally grateful that I was lucky enough to meet her then.

There followed some more years of not knowing where I was going, and depression, but there wasn't really any help back in the early 80s and all I felt like was a huge disappointment to everyone, with no purpose or point to my existence. And it's taken many years of plodding away and experience to get where I am now, in my 50s and relatively happy with my life.

And I do put a lot of the depression down to being an "early bloomer", and being top of the class at 16/17 years old, then falling off my pedestal within just a few years. The sense of failure has stayed with me all my life, and it took me a long time to really KNOW that success didn't have to be what my parents thought it was (big house, nice car etc). I thought I knew this, but deep down, that's why I felt a failure all the time.

My hope is that nowadays we are more aware of depression and its causes than when I was young, and I'm very grateful that despite still having some black days, I do feel I'm in a different place now. It's one thing to say "yeah success = money is just b&^%*cks", and quite another to know it with more certainty.

Lesley Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 9:25am

Leah, Thank you for this post. It is the story of my life. I was very bright at primary school - the Dux. I then went to a highly academic grammar school and for a variety of reasons (my inner desire to perform as my means of feeling good and receiving praise) I worked very hard there to be very academically successful at the age of 17. I played the piano as well but resisted the pressure to do exams in this. By this time I had had at least one episode of illness - due to stress and exhaustion. At uni I worked and partied hard. Got a good result and then launched myself into a career in the 1980s in IT.

Wow did I achieve, wow did I earn lots of money but then the big crash came of total exhaustion. I had peaked early and had my breakdown at 26 years old. Like David I muddled on for years always feeling a total failure. I was the hare. The tortoises have now climbed past me and I can't help feeling angry and resentful about that. This sense of failure has stayed with me.

I kept on getting better then overdoing it, expecting too much of myself. I have lost two marriages in the process and have a soured attitude to life. I want to be around the people who knew me when I was soaring and achieving as they totally accept me and know that I was once brilliant. That I don't need to be that anymore. I am still very bright but have no motivation to work in the system, in society as it is because I have lost belief in British / American/ Western society. I don't really accept me in Britain and its class system.

So I peaked early too and it isn't fun to watch your income and "progression" go the other way for most of your life. With little family around me to be my cheerleaders it has been hard to believe in myself.

A well know actress committed suicide last year due to depression. She peaked early starring in the West End with someone of the stature of Olivier. After that she never got such an opportunity again and she felt a failure for the rest of her life until, despite a loving husband, she threw herself onto the railway lines.
We know how it feels.

Mary Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 9:33am

Thank you Leah for such a sensible outlook on bringing up children. I am 70 years old and although my 4 children were bright they all achieved at different times in their lives. My son -the brightest by far had a very good job, but at 35 gave it up to be a cycle repair mechanic, and loves it. Of course the challenge now is the 10 grandchildren! They range from 1 - 11 years and at all different stages and personalities. How I pray they too will all fulfill their potential academically, but far more important to be happy people who acknowledge God in all their lives.

Julia Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 10:37am

Hi Leah. What a very thought provoking blog. It has made me think back to my childhood. I have concluded that I have never peaked or bloomed particularly,well definitely haven't peaked in the academic world.It was more my lack of self confidence which has held me back although I did get a good degree mainly because I studied a subject I loved and found fascinating. My parents never put any pressure on me to to succeed academically for which I think I should be grateful. Sometimes I often wondered if my mother cared what I was up to but she always congratulated me when I had a success. She was wrapped up in her own thoughts much of the time.But you Leah! Peaking at 11, then you say you went downhill. Of course looked at objectively that cannot possibly be true. It was the offered opinion of your father, not reality.My father once said I was a bird brain..(when I forgot waterproofs for a wet riding lesson)I'll never forget this even though he was generally positive about me. Why do we fixate on the negative? It's not easy being a parent and I remind myself of this when I fixate on my bird brain.

Leah Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 10:41am

I am overwhelmed by the wonderful comments. Thank you everyone who has commented, everyone who has read my blog and everyone who is thinking of replying.
Cristina, thanks for reminding me about about different philosophies of teaching.
Debs thanks for your comments about story and how we can misinterpret it depending on our mood. I think that maybe by the time I am ready to bloom again I may be wilting!!
Pennie-Lynn your insights were most helpful.
David- Thanks for opening up and sharing your story. I wonder if my bipolar had something to with my peaking early- who knows.
Lesley-Your honest story really touched me. I appreciate you taking time to comment.
Mary- what a source od wisdom you are. those are lucky children and grandchildren. Thanks so much for your comments.

Leah Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 10:47am

Thanks so much for your understanding and helpful comments. I would disagree that you haven't peaked or bloomed as I think you have a real talent with words. Peaking doesn't mean winning prizes, having a great job.
My dad was proud of me, I made a joke of the fact he didn't have anything else to be proud of, but he loved me unconditionally. I do agree with focus on the negative comments by parents and teachers and forget all the positive ones.
Being a child and then being a parent is difficult at times.
I am my own harshest critic as I guess many people are.
I appreciate your insights.

Di Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 3:37pm

Dearest Leah ~
You bring to mind three core aspects of learning: curiosity, playfulness, and creativity. These three are seen daily on every playground, in every home, and in many schools. And they are required for learning & application to take place.

It is my belief (another form of rhythms!) that we are quite musical in our phases of peaking. You were way more than you think you were ~ your parents may have been misguided yet doing the best they could, given the environments in which they were raised. They adored you as well.

And now, look at you! Awesome gifts being shared.

John Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 7:31pm

Thanks Leah, for this heart felt post. And Leslie, you said, "I kept on getting better then overdoing it, expecting too much of myself." Can I relate. Two years ago I got wrapped around this very thing yet again and suffered heavy losses. When I returned to my senses (where do they go when we need them most?) I began a quest to discover what the heck was going on with me.
Came across a researched concept called "success-triggered mania." After two years of carefully making personality tweaks based on insights for the research, I suffered another round (on a much smaller scale, which was intentional). Recovering out of that episode, I edited the description to "succeeding-triggered mania."
I've worked in so many small adjustments to become more "succeeding safe." When you find you are full of lemons, at least try to squeeze out some lemonade.

Leah Sat, Aug 22nd 2015 @ 9:58pm

your comments are always so uplifting and inspiring. I like the idea of musical rhythms. Thanks so much for taking time to reply.

What a fascinating post. I would like to read a blog about this 'success-triggered mania' and 'succeeding triggered mania'.
"where do they(our senses) go when we need them most?" -another story from my life. My mind is buzzing from all the ideas in your post-thank you.

Thanks so much to everyone for your insights you have all given me much to think about.

Heather Angela Sun, Aug 23rd 2015 @ 5:32am

Interesting, as I have always thought my Early Peaking and Bipolar must be connected. I was continuously top of the class through Primary School, didn't have to work hard and my Mother always said it was as though "I already knew everything" but after that I have been very average. I assumed it was the onset of "hormones" and I eventually was diagnosed with "Manic Depression" at age 26 with a massive emotional crash. I guess we just have to try to cope with what life dishes out for us and try to be kind to others. That's my basic philosophy anyway. Love to all.

John Mon, Aug 24th 2015 @ 9:15pm

Hi Leah & Leslie,

After some thought, I feel the best place to exchange about this may well be here in the comments as I can't say when or if anything I submit officially will get posted. Some of this text is on pyschcentral (PC) under my pen name: Revu2. Or we can move this to PC (you'll have to join) and open it up there.

(from a PC post): After a shattering experience where a string of successes led to mania led to a devastating mistake I did some research and uncovered a string of research papers on a sub-set of mania called success-triggered mania.

Once I read through several academic papers and reflected on my life events I could see the pattern fit my experiences. I could also tally up many of the high costs of having it.

I've written some posts here on how I've been going after healing it. There is a way to see Revu2 posts on the forum or try google: site[colon] revu2

One annoyance is now 7 months (2 years!) later I feel like I've got a stronger inner self to avoid successes triggering me, the external life is all a mess from the last crisis, and may be for a long, long time or even never fully reparable. I now toggle tween some hope that working to repair all this is worthwhile vs despair because nothing is guaranteed.

(from another post on PC) I play a game where I get immediate information on the results of my choices to test my progress. Last week I did X (which was planned), felt a flash of excitement with it succeeding, then without deep thought did Y (not really planned), and bam! Immediate painful consequences.

This sequence summarized: Planned X + succeeding-excitement + Spontaneous Y = mania with painful consequences

X + Excitement = Mania + Y = disaster

I’ll feel cured when I master either not feeling the excitement in the midst of the game (deferring it, perhaps, to after the game to a locale where I’m safe to express my feelings) OR feel something else.

This morning I awoke with this thought: What if I can swap excitement with … the feelings of “on course” and “on guard”?

X + “On Course, On Guard” = Skill Growth

I trust I will eventually work this out.

Here's why: I once needed to be extremely conscious of my hands to avoid burns, scrapes, & cuts. Which didn’t really work if I got too fast or busy. When I worked out how to bring both hands into a partnership with an awareness of what I was doing and the space and tools in front of me, all that unintentional self-harming stopped. Even now I’m extremely good at protecting my hands, but once in a long while I’ll get distracted and feel something on my finger. When I look down I see my knife-using hand has gently traced the blade along my food-holding hand. No skin was broken, no cuts or bleeding. It’s like a loving caress.

So, that’s my destination—to have a similar cure with my mania.

John, Seattle, USA

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