N Marion : “Hi Foreli, would you mind if I ask you some questions first? I think readers would be very interested in a mother’s perspective on how do you raise a gifted child like this? (Laughs) The answer is probably changing by the day?”
Foreli: “I would be glad too.”
N Marion : “Many parents struggle to figure out just how to raise gifted children, what to expose them to and what to protect them from. We wished our two came with How To instruction manuals, but they didn’t, and we fumbled along at times. In Akiane’s case, I imagine you face unique struggles. She has these incredible gifts and also great demands on her time and countless opportunities. Is it difficult knowing just where to set boundaries and limits? I imagine you can’t ground Akiane if God takes her up into heaven. Beyond that, how do you deal with these challenges of seeking balance? Do you ever say: “Honey, just go and play and forget about saving the world for today!”
Foreli: (Laughs) “I presume many parents would either choose over-permissiveness or over-protectiveness in our case. For truly it is uncomfortable when your child says, “You say this…but God says this…”opposite from your viewpoint.
I believe we are dealing with only the tiniest of glimpses of miraculous divinity manifestations here. Yet the bottom line is- the gifted child is presented to a family. This child still in many respects is immature and lacking experience. And we as parents are responsible for her or his physical mental and spiritual development. The gifted child can manipulate “terrestrial trials” the most, because of his or her unique position and intellect. So it is even more imperative to guide this forming character firmly. Many prodigy parents are simply afraid of their offspring. So depending on their own personalities they will create either a dead wall of non-creativity or a valley of complete self-expression without any rules.
Not surprisingly, in Akiane’s second book of poetry, she talks so much of the tug of war between rules and personal freedom. I often ask her to reread her own poems for understanding the family unit mechanism when the family council fails her.
So in our family Akiane at no times is regarded more special than other children. We all delegate our workload and sacrifice for each other. We have family meetings that sometime extend over the entire weekend and consequences for misbehavior are strictly enforced. There are circumstantial exceptions of course, and each unique situation is gaged through prayer and meditation.
Every month we are presented with a situation that seems unresolvable, but when we all put our 6 heads together in a circle, quantum leap occurs. Humor helps too. Akiane knows that without family’s full support of her mission, none of her appearances would have been possible, and that is why even though she tests the waters like any child, she admits she needs a firm guidance.
As far as creativity is concerned, there are almost no boundaries for her. She even homeschools herself, gets up at 4:00 am when everyone sleeps to paint, is on her own during the radio and television interviews, makes decisions on her travel schedules, etc.
But there are no sleepovers or eating junk, there are no television and video games, there are no walking through the neighborhood without escort or there are no fancy allowances, just because of substantial sales. In many respects we are an ordinary family with extraordinary phenomena. But if God thought otherwise, why did he give this gift to someone with 3 siblings, plus one on the way…I guess the center of attention is reserved for God alone.
N Marion: Foreli, congratulations on the addition! That’ll make things less complicated. (Laughs) Your reply is wise. Some parents don’t recognize their responsibility allows for setting rules and structure. Still, your problem is unique having an artistic prodigy and what some consider a spiritual prodigy. I imagine someone wants to create “Akiane World” a theme park with Ferris Wheels, not that she’d want that. Somebody is going to come up with the idea and I imagine some parents might think they were opposing God if they said, “No!” I think back to a Sunday School story, how Mary and Joseph grounded Jesus after heading off to Temple and missing the caravan. Jesus submitted- a pretty strong precedence for gifted children. How do you juggle all the demands of parenting and life? Are you a planner?
Foreli: None of us are planners, because as soon as we plan our day, God changes it. We adapt to each day and each hour and are by nature very flexible. So if people want to visit or television wants to feature us, we are spontaneous. As for juggling, I have not seen one family that finds this easy. Even the models that sit for hours for Akiane to paint have a hard time, and may find that excruciating. Everyone has a book to write about their life. This is all in God’s hands and we take it just one day at a time, making sure we are not overdoing God’s work. We do not want to be too busy doing God’s work, because then we would not have free time to just commune with him in solitude. It sounds strange and overzealous. Attempting to do too much might not be exactly what God wants. Yes, we want our children to be kind to one another, and do their chores, but there is no greater satisfaction than to chat with them on your lap and share their life.