We know our children best

This will be a difficult post for me to write.

Sometimes in life we will hear negative things being said about us or even worse, about our children, and after we let the news sink in, we deal with it in our own way. We will decipher and process and analyze what we’ve heard until we forget what it really was or where it came from. It makes us crazy with fear and worry, wondering if there is any truth to it, or what may have triggered it in the first place. And after we’ve driven ourselves completely mad, we finally manage to convince ourselves that there was nothing to worry about in the first place, and that we know best, and that if there was in fact something fundamentally wrong, we would know. And then everything goes back to normal and we feel fine, until the next time we hear it again.

Yes, sometimes certain things do need to be pointed out to us. Sometimes there may be something about our child that needs to be dealt with early on. Sometimes, something may come up that we cannot control or deal with on our own. But no one can convince me that if in fact there was something to be dealt with, something “unusual” so to speak, that this would be news to the child’s parents. Even if it is unclear to the parents what this “thing” is exactly, I refuse to believe that they are unaware of its existence.

I find myself yet again talking about society’s standards and expectations, this mold that we all need to fit into, or in other words, “the norm”. And this norm seems to be trickier when it comes to our kids; the standards are high, meeting them is not as easy as it should be, and failure to do so ultimately leads to harsh and unfair conclusions. I keep hearing from good, caring mothers that they feel like complete failures because they are told their kids don’t fit this mold. They worry and cry and wonder what  they’ve done wrong, and then they eventually take out their frustration on their kids because they suddenly don’t seem very normal anymore, when funny enough they did a day ago.

Being the parents of a Highly Sensitive Child, my husband and I have always been told or made to feel by others that “something is up” with our child. We have been given plenty of advice on how to deal with him and raise him. We have also been blamed for having “made him that way.” Unfortunately there was a time when we were inexperienced first-time parents who knew our child didn’t exactly fit in with others his age, didn’t really know why, and allowed ourselves to drown in all this garbage we heard. We drowned even though we knew our son was healthy, happy, loving and incredibly bright.

Then came the day when all the pieces of the puzzle finally came together, and it was finally made clear to us that our son was Highly Sensitive. It explained everything. And it wasn’t bad. It just was what it was. You would think everyone would see it that way wouldn’t you? After all, this is not something that needs to be treated. Yes it does make a person stand out slightly from the remaining 80-85% of the population which is not Highly Sensitive, but it’s not bad to be that way. We learned that no, it can’t just be what it is. It always has to be something. It seems that schools just feel the need to find the things that make your children “different”, give them fancy labels to scare the living lights out of you, and then make you feel completely inadequate as a parent. I am saying this based on not just my own experience, but the troubling stories I hear from other mothers on a daily basis.

Ever since our son started going to daycare at the age 18 months, we have had to face caregivers, and later teachers to explain what High Sensitivity was and how a Highly Sensitive Child needs to be dealt with. I won’t go into the details of what has been said, because they really don’t matter. And the reason why they don’t matter is because they have never been consistent, they have never made much sense, and because they always lead us to worry about things we never worried about before. Mind you, I am always fearful of falling into the trap of being too defensive when it comes to my child, or turning a blind eye to negativities that need to be acknowledged. It is after all a natural instinct to do so. But I am aware of it, and always try to keep an open mind when someone has an opinion about my child, regardless of how unpleasant it may be. After all teachers do see my son in an entirely different context than I do. The classroom provides different challenges for our children to deal with than then home does. At school, a child needs to socialize with others her age, respond to authority, follow rules, and do things she may not want to do, all while being surrounded by people who may not be as loving and supportive and flexible as the child’s parents and relatives.

But, however different these environments may be, if your child did have the serious problem his school will have you believe, wouldn’t he have shown some sign of it at home? Or on the playground? Or the supermarket? Should this news come as a shock to a loving, caring, attentive parent? I seriously doubt it. Which is why this kind of news should not drive moms and dads to the nearest psychotherapist to have their kids screened. When a child is happy, healthy, loving, clever, has no learning disabilities and is not harming anyone, why on earth do we still feel the need to label them? Why does something have to be wrong with them? Why are the world’s expectations so rigid and limited? Why is our society so unforgiving of those who stand out?

When I say “stand out” I mean “demonstrate characteristics or behavior we are not really accustomed to and don’t exactly feel comfortable with”. I have seen, all too often, little boys who are left to be aggressive and destructive and all over the place simply because they are little boys, and society expects them to be this way. Those children don’t stand out because we know what they are. We’ve seen it before. We see it all the time. And so, even though we don’t necessarily like the way they behave, we don’t label “it” and call it a problem. “They’ll grow out of it”, we’re told. And maybe that is the case. Maybe we all grow out of our peculiarities. But in the meanwhile, how do we decide what is problematic and what is not? Why does a happy child who has no learning disorders and is not hurting anyone have a problem, and the one who is aggressive and actually is hurting others doesn’t?

This week I heard of a mom who’s son was accused of “not having been assertive enough in dealing with a bully”. He has a problem. Bullying is treated like a phenomenon which just happens to exist, and if the rest of us can’t deal with it, we have a problem. Another mom went to see some “experts” who felt the need to force a label onto her son in order to be able to help him. Is that how society is helping our children? By desperately searching for ways to force our kids into familiar categories so that they can be diagnosed and managed even when all that they are is slightly different? They ask ridiculously vague questions that can be misinterpreted in a hundred ways and rate your child on a scale of 5 points with zero being the norm. Who stands a chance there? Does your kid seem awkward when runs and can’t catch a ball? Well then he might have Asperger’s. Does he occasionally avoid eye contact, even when he’s being lectured? Oh well then he must be at least mildly Autistic. Does he have trouble paying attention when it comes to certain activities? Then there’s no doubt he has ADD. Can’t this child just be slightly uncoordinated, feel uncomfortable when he’s being scolded, and be bored sometimes? Apparently not.

Maybe I’ve missed something. Maybe I just don’t get it. But it just seem like common sense to me that if our children are thriving and are learning and are happy, we should perhaps just let them be. Let them grow up. Let them make their mistakes. Let them be awkward. Let them discover what they like and what they don’t. Let them learn how to deal with others. Let them learn to become more coordinated. Just let them live their lives without making them feel like they’re not good enough.

And now I will admit, parenting a Highly Sensitive Child is not an easy thing. But isn’t parenting in general a challenging thing? If kids came easy and didn’t need us to help and guide them through life, then what would our jobs be as parents? And as teachers? Every child poses some kind of difficulty, or rather a whole range of difficulties for us to work with. Even as adults, we all have our own little quirks. And as long as we are good, functional human beings, who cares?

Again I will say that yes, sometimes there could be something that needs to be recognized and taken care of. If there was however, a mother and father would know. Dr. Stephen Cowan put it best in his article 11 Things I wish Every Parent Knew when he said:

“Mindful parenting begins by listening with an open heart to your child’s life without fear or panic. Studies have shown that a mother’s intuition is more powerful than any lab test in picking up problems. Unfortunately today we are flooded with so much scary information that it interferes with our ability to listen to our own intuition. (Just think of the arrogance of a doctor who acts like he knows your child better than you do!) “

We know our children best. And as difficult as it is, we should not panic when we hear groundless theories and attempted diagnoses from people who are in no position to conclude that something is wrong with our children just because they’re difficult, or just the kind of difficult they haven’t seen before. Maybe their intentions are pure; maybe all they really do want is to help our children. But making false assumptions and driving parents out of their minds doesn’t help anyone. Instead of being so focused on finding something wrong, we should perhaps try and enjoy the wonderful things all of our children have to offer, regardless of what they’re like.

And I don’t know how I will handle myself the next time I hear something senseless about my child. I know I won’t come out unaffected, but I also know that it won’t break me. I am listening to my child’s life with an open heart. I know him better than anyone does. And I know that he is nothing short of extraordinary.

To the mothers and fathers who are going through a rough and confusing time: Listen to your heart before you listen to anyone else. Enjoy your children and everything that they are. Stay strong.

You are not alone.

Highly sensitive child, Studies have shown that a mother’s intuition is more powerful than any lab test in picking up problems

Blog Hop: Why Do I Write?

I started blogging in mid-October last year. I never really planned on it. Never saw myself doing it. But now that I am, I’m loving every minute of it.

Exactly one year ago, I left a wonderful job at a big multinational, packed up our things, and moved to Singapore with my family. The transition from working-mom to stay-at-home-mom was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to go through. I’ve always loved my job, and always worked hard to strike a healthy balance between the office and my family. The challenge always was to do less of the former to focus more on the latter. Now that I’m home, I’m faced with a totally different challenge: trying to remember to give myself some “me time”, time to think, time to unwind, time to recharge. And although it doesn’t always happen, I am happy that I did manage to discover what I want to do with my life right now, given my current circumstances. I now know I want to do those things I used to dream of doing when I was stuck at the office working for someone else. Continue reading

The superpowers that make us parents

As I sat in front of my sick and miserable baby boy the other night, I found myself wishing with all my might, yet again, that I could somehow magically suck out his illness and take it into my own body so that I could deal with it instead. When we were little, every time one of us was sick, my mother never failed to say “I wish it were me and not you”. Every single time. Having been a Highly Sensitive Child, I always knew where she was coming from with her wish, but I never really felt its meaning until the night my first-born got sick for the first time. I sat by his crib all night, watching him and asking myself why it couldn’t have been me instead.

I have always felt things very deeply, but never as much as when I became a mother. When your children hurt, you hurt worse. When they’re happy, when they smile, when they laugh, when they say your name, and when they say “I love you”, your heart feels like it just might explode! This feeling of love, melancholy, fear, worry and happiness… A hundred feelings rolled into one complex feeling with no name that I am convinced only moms and dads can feel. It’s that thing that makes us transform into people we didn’t know we were. It makes us goofy; it makes us strong; it makes us weak; it makes us question ourselves and our every action; it makes us crazy. It makes us parents. Continue reading

Reading bedtime stories in the never-ending bedtime routine

The never-ending bedtime routine… Good or bad?

There are some things you are taught before you become a parent. “Facts” that you innocently, and quite unfortunately begin to take at face value. Snippets of so called truths that eventually make you feel you have failed at parenting. Some of these “facts”, to name just a few, are:

“A baby starts to sleep through the night at around 6 months, maybe even sooner”

“A baby should start to eat solids at 6 months”

“Between 18 and 24 months, a toddler begins to talk”

“Babies take their first steps between 9 and 12 months and are walking well by 14 or 15 months”

“A child can be potty trained in 3 days”

“A preschooler should have enough self control to behave in public and focus on any one given activity for a significant amount of time”

“Children enjoy the playground, water play, and birthday parties”

“Children love Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc.”

And my personal favorite:

“Babies should be put in bed when they are drowsy and learn to fall asleep on their own; an older child should be tucked in and left alone to doze off on his/her own” Continue reading

Expectations from a Highly Sensitive Child

Expectations from a Highly Sensitive Child

I returned home today after having dropped off my son at school, after a month-long Christmas break, and I was relieved. I am sad to say that I honestly did not expect the first day to go so well. It started well, and ended well with a wonderfully reassuring email from the teacher.

When we got to my son’s class, one mom was sitting outside on a bench with her tearful son, trying desperately to console him and get him into the classroom. Luca saw his friend in this awful state; he even saw him get up and walk away as his mother tried to talk him into coming back. She kept telling him that he had to do this today; he had to get in class. Luca, being extremely empathetic, sat there on the bench near his classmate before he walked away trying to be friendly, and although this whole scene made him a little reluctant, he got up a minute later and walked into the classroom. Continue reading

A Highly Sensitive Child dealing with a new baby

On March the 28th of last year, our second son joined our family. A beautiful, strong, and extremely pleasant baby boy. Alexander is now a little over 9 months old. Although he’s a handful, he is such a joy to be around. He smiles at everyone and everything. He smiles so much, he even does it when he’s crying. Hard to believe but true! He’s incredibly active, will not sit down to play with a toy for 20 seconds at a time; he will not sit through two pages of a baby book; he gets his mouth on anything he can get a hold of. He will throw and lunge himself forward, backward and sideways, no matter where he is or what is in front of him. He doesn’t hurt himself easily, as though his pain threshold was much higher than what I know. His strength is beautiful, and it is exhausting. Also, he is nothing like his older brother. Continue reading

Taking the time to breathe it all in

Well, a new year has begun. Most people would say that this is the time for self-reflection and goal-setting. But I have to say that after many years of failed and forgotten resolutions, I now know that bucket lists are not for me. I feel like I have just been setting myself up for failure year after year by trying to change myself in impossible ways. Continue reading

Baby’s First Pirate Picture Book – FREE eBook Download!

I want to start this short post by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic new year! I hope you are enjoying the holidays with your families as much as we are.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to offer you a little gift to share with your babies. I put together this Pirate Picture eBook using a treasure map I had made for my son’s fourth birthday party. My son loved this map and really enjoyed helping me make it, so I thought this would be a good way to keep it forever.

The eBook is an ePub file which is best read on an Apple device through iBooks. I found this to be the best way to view a picture book. For those of you who don’t have iBooks, you can use a Mozilla Firefox EPUBReader add-on.

pirate_book

Stay tuned for more eBooks coming soon! Until then, happy holidays everyone!

Santa is not fun for everyone

The fear of Santa Claus

Last week we were invited to my son’s class for the Christmas Party. He was excited about having us there; he had a big smile on his face, antlers on his head, happily singing along with the teacher and his friends. Everything was great until the teacher mentioned Santa Claus, and the door suddenly opened. Even though it was a parent who walked into the classroom, I saw Luca’s eyes open wide while he hid behind the kid sitting next to him. And then he just started to cry. No one understood why he was crying. The teacher assumed that maybe he wasn’t feeling comfortable with such a big crowd of strangers in the class. But I saw it as soon as it happened. Continue reading

Expressing his love for music

Music for the soul

I remember the day Luca was born like it was yesterday. The anticipation of seeing that tiny baby I’d been carrying for months, wondering what he might look like, praying that the delivery will go smoothly, and the fear and worry that it might not. And I will never forget the feeling that came over me when they brought him to me. I stared at his perfect little face in complete disbelief! Never could I have imagined a baby as beautiful and perfect as the one I held in my arms. Continue reading