Any other “This is Us” watchers out there? Silly question given that there were 14.76 million viewers of the January 23rd episode alone. I’m one of those many millions who have fallen in love with the show. And not just because of the fantastic acting and writing, but because of their nonchalant, yet incredibly accurate, portrayal of raising a gifted kid and being a gifted adult. I love how the character of Randall shows that giftedness impacts his life without highlighting his giftedness as the defining characteristic of his identity. I love how he lives an ordinary life in the midst of his extraordinary intellect and abilities.
But, this isn’t really meant to be a post all about me gushing my fandom, nor am I making a case that the show gets everything about giftedness right all the time. No, instead I want to explore a story arc from the last episode that had nothing to do with crockpots.
In the last episode, Randall and his spouse bought a low-income housing complex, with the intent of improving living conditions for the tenants. They hold their first tenant meeting and learn about all the complaints and Randall jumps full steam ahead promising immediate fixes for everything. His passion for justice and desire to be helpful and intense excitement oozes out of his every pore. His wife gives him the knowing look and encourages him to “slow his roll”. The episode continues with Randall getting in over his head, making some hasty mistakes, and having to have the “you were right dear” conversation with his spouse. To which she answered (to the best of my paraphrased recollection), “Let me share my knowledge with you and just slow your roll. We’ll get to it all, but we need to slow our roll.”
I don’t know about you, but as a gifted adult, I could completely relate to this. In fact, I believe my husband and I have had several similar conversations with me assuming the role of Randall and Jon being the spousal voice of wisdom. And, as a parent to gifted children, I could also completely relate to this. My kids come to me with HUGE ideas matched by their HUGE excitement and they are ready to dive head first into the project of the day.
The true beauty of this story, lies in Beth’s response to her husband. She has mastered the art of supportive realism. She doesn’t immediately stomp on Randall’s enthusiasm, but she doesn’t jump in head first along side of him, either. Such a difficult balance to find.
I know that I’ve accidentally squelched my children’s dreams when I’ve tried to spare them from future disappointment or mistake making by calling their enormous plans into question. I’ve heard other gifted kids call their parents “dream destroyers” when parents focus too much on realistic expectations and don’t match their child’s enthusiasm. I’ve also been on the receiving end when my husband would question an idea I was intensely excited by. He wasn’t meaning to, but it felt as though he took a little pin and popped a hole right in my beautiful, exciting balloon.
But, I’ve also experienced the mistakes of my hasty over-commitment to one of my intense ideas. And I’ve seen my kids feel the overwhelm of similar mistakes. Which is why I loved the phrase, “just slow your roll.” It simultaneously gives credence and support to an idea, while also providing realistic caution.
So, when your kids come to you with their 32nd AMAZING idea of the day, get behind them. Support them. Mirror their intense excitement. Voice confidence that they’ll be able to do it. And remind them that they don’t have to do it ALL right now. Help them learn project management and planning. Help them move forward fast enough to maintain the excitement and enthusiasm, but not so fast that the snowball rolls faster than they can run. Help them to slow their roll.