Bemused Parent: Entry 5

“I’d like to sign up for extreme caving. It’ll be so cool – you get to wade and lie in cold water!”

This week, Ada’s Dad and I are getting a new approach from our daughter to sport – she’s gone extreme. In the past few months she’s changed from utterly fearing water underground to begging for a place on that new school trip, otherwise called outdoor education. When Ada learnt to swim, she was terrified about jumping into the swimming pool because she couldn’t see the bottom. Too busy analysing the risks. Now she wants to crawl through flooded caverns.

With their many gifts, it can be assumed that our HLP kids can do anything. But put an unpredictable situation in front of them and they’re often least likely to throw caution to the wind. I’ve lost count of the times when I’ve had to talk to Ada in an optimistic tone, outlying the benefits of trying something new (ssh, don’t tell her that I’d be worried). So how has she suddenly found herself ready to soar in spirit rather than sink despondently into a flooded hole? First there’s the term “outdoor education”. Ada loved the phrase – it says less sport, more of the proper learning. Then she tried a beginners’ caving course, not going too deep and learning how to wriggle through tight spots. It helped that there were rare bats roosting underground – most kids love animals but give an HLP child an unusual creature to look out for and they may obsessively learn all about it.

We’ve talked a lot about how proud she’ll feel when she conquers difficult challenges. It’s a tactic I’ve gone back to many times with sport. Ada walked late, she doesn’t have great strength and she has never been quick in movement, resulting in a dread of team sports. She’s quick to learn the netball rules but not so happy with the on court interactions when children pass the ball to their friends or better players – a different meaning of “possession”. Hey, it’s only sharing a rubber ball not the Ferrero Rochers!

So why isn’t she spending her time thinking of all the ways that caving can go wrong? Perhaps she’s maturing. A few years of being involved in new and “risky” activities that school arranges might have taught her that risks can be managed. It’s never ended in Doomsday so far.

At the local junior parkrun yesterday, Ada got a personal best. She was ranked about average for her age, which I feel she should be happy about. But usually every parkrun starts with complaining,  mostly about interrupted reading-in-bed time; naturally the essential weekend requirement according to HLP children. There’s also resentment of us mean parents who make her run just because we care about her fitness. After the personal best, I was struck by Ada’s quiet satisfaction – she got the message that her own endurance and practice makes a runner.

The parkrun is free, friendly and mostly non-competitive, with special incentives of wristbands to be won or themed sessions. We also tend to schedule runs for sunny days. Years ago, secondary school cross-country usually took place during rain. I hated it and ran quickly because I wanted it to be over. The P.E teacher sat snug and warm in her Mini watching the proceedings, drinking from her coffee flask.

With children you have to accept that they’re not always like you in personality. When I was Ada’s age, I loved horse riding and it’s still a sport that I enjoy, albeit infrequently, despite breaking a rib and toes. I hoped that Ada would be like me, but she worries about horses and their unpredictable ways. I challenge Usain Bolt to keep his Jamaican coolness on a horse that runs off with him or bucks when it isn’t allowed to eat grass.

It can be tough for an academically gifted child to keep up in sports when their ability level is not on a pace with that of their peers. But with hundreds of sports available, I hope that Ada finds her niche for life – even if it is in a sodden, pitch-black cave.


In this series we mine the wealth of lived experience and invite members to share their thoughts with us – perhaps through an article, advice, sharing their careers, a piece of fiction or a poem. The HLP Diaries are fictional tales of parenting children with high learning potential. If you are a Potential Plus UK member and have an anecdote you would like to share then we’d love to hear from you: email