My house has always been intense. Emotional, sensory, intellectual, psychomotor, and imaginational intensities have all had permanent seats at the dinner table since Dave and I have been together. Around the house, my son likes to announce, frequently, that he has “all five intensities,” thinking this might absolve him of reason and responsibility (it doesn’t.)

But lately, things have had the added boost of hormones joining us, too. My daughters are beginning the first stages of puberty, and we’ve had to pull up another couple of chairs. Except, the hormones want fancier, bigger chairs, and they want to decorate the intensity chairs, too. The girls have started having impassioned speeches with each other, and us, over everything from breakfast to library trips. There’s more screaming, and crying, and wailing in general. This morning, my son came down to announce that once of his sisters was “crying while peeing.” He threw up his arms and walked down into the basement, hiding out until things calmed down upstairs.

I know it’s upsetting to be feeling such powerful feelings, and not fully understand, or be able to control them. I remember having an intense adolescent separation process, and being unable to explain why I felt the way I did (it certainly would have helped to know about giftedness and intensities!) I also remember (vaguely) learning about the “separation and individuation” theory in medical school as applied to adolescence, in which the individual establishes an identity apart from others and completes a healthy separation from the family. It is naturally a “push-pull” phase of life, simultaneously pulling the family in closer – while fearing becoming independent – and pushing the family away, knowing that independence is necessary, and desirable.

But none of this higher-level knowledge is much help when I’m dealing with two daughters who are at each other’s throats over imagined transgressions in the bathroom. The intensity makes it even more spectacular. I’m sure it’s also harder to be a twin; it helps that they are fraternal, and look nothing alike. Regardless, it must be doubly difficult to separate from your family and your twin, too.

It does help me not to take anything personally; I can support their molding an identity without feeling personally affronted by the sparks that are thrown off during the process. Meanwhile, I have my sights on the outcome: a healthy separation from our family, while exploring and ultimately finding an identity they can be comfortable with, grow with, and celebrate as their own.

So, hormones, let’s have a open and frank discussion. Decorate things any way you like, just don’t destroy the house. I’ll still plan to feed you dinner.

Kathy and her husband, Dave, blog about homeschooling their three gifted children at


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