Do you ever envy parents with non-Highly Sensitive Children?

My toddler started attending daycare three time a week about a month ago. He cried the first three times I dropped him off. On the fourth day, he said good bye and didn’t look back.

That’s the way most “When My Kid Started Daycare” stories go, but it’s something I simply cannot take for granted. It’s not something I expected, and not something I can easily get used to, and that’s only because I know just how badly that same story can go. It’s actually all I’ve known, until now.

In an online forum last week, one mother (who clearly was having a bad day) asked:

“Do you ever envy parents with non-Highly Sensitive Children?”

Without hesitation, I clicked on the comment box and typed: “Never.”

And although that maybe true now that my son is five years old and has metamorphosed into someone much more resilient and flexible and carefree, it wasn’t always the case.

It only hit me the other day how true that was when I was reading my toddler’s teacher’s comments on how his day went at school. The note didn’t stand out from the other notes I’ve been reading three times a week. It wasn’t out of the ordinary in any way. But “ordinary” was something we didn’t get to enjoy very much, once upon a time. The note read:

“Alex had fun playing with a noisy fire engine and digging in the sand. He enjoyed doing his craft and listening to stories.”

What I would’ve given to have had the chance to read such a wonderfully ordinary note about my Highly Sensitive Child three years ago. Not one part of that sentence could’ve been said about our son when he was in daycare. Noisy fire engines were the devil, digging in the sand where other children were digging was out of the question, and crafts are something he’s only just starting to attempt at the age of five. The only part that would’ve been true was the “listening to stories” bit, but the teachers would have no way of knowing it with him sitting in a distant corner of the classroom with his back turned to everyone.

Back then, my answer to that frustrated mom’s question would’ve been a very strong, and very teary “YES!”

Back then, we were literally the only parents who had to take time off of work for a month to be with our son in daycare so he could adjust. It was the first time in that daycare center’s history that a transition period took this long and was ultimately unsuccessful. We felt so painfully alone and yes, we did envy all those other parents who didn’t have to spend the rest of their day heartbroken at the site of their child screaming from genuine distress.

School newsletters and pictures weren’t as cheerful as they are today. We couldn’t just have a quick look to make sure everything was okay and move on. There weren’t many smiles or oohh’s or aahh’s. There was more heartache, and worry, and doubt, and questions like, “Why is he sitting there all by himself” and “Why isn’t he enjoying this like all the other kids?”

And it wasn’t just at school that we envied other parents.

We envied parents who went to restaurants with their kids and happily enjoyed their meal together while we took turns holding a very uneasy child and we gobbled down our cold food, regretting the moment we thought going out for lunch was a good idea.

We envied parents who attended every picnic, wedding, birthday party and BBQ they were invited to with their kids while we turned down every single one because it just wasn’t worth it.

We envied parents who could take their kids to the playground for some fun while we couldn’t even get ours to go down the slide until he was absolutely sure it was safe to do so. This only happened a year ago.

We envied parents who didn’t have to explain why their kids were behaving irrationally over something seemingly trivial. We envied them because they could call some things trivial.

We envied parents who had children like our little Alex, because their days seemed to be so carefree, so easy, so ordinary.

Watching our highly sensitive son today in the same situations that would have caused him  a whole lot of anxiety not long ago, it’s hard to believe how far he’s come. It’s the only thing that really justifies me quickly answering “never” to that question, as if for a brief moment I’d forgotten all the pain we’d been through. And I can only imagine how that answer must have made that poor mother feel, that mother who is going through today what we went through a few years ago. It couldn’t have felt good. And I imagine it must have made her feel more alone, and for that I am so terribly sorry.

But to that mother, and other parents who are feeling a lot more envy than they’d like to, I can only say that we all feel this way as parents, regardless of what our children are like, even if we don’t like to admit it. My non-HSC toddler has driven me to the very brink of my sanity, making me look around every now and then and envy all those parents who have calmer, more predictable children than my ticking time-bomb of a son.

We all have bad days, months, years that make us doubt ourselves and yes, our very decision to become parents. And I’ve learned that that’s okay.

Because I am not alone.

Do you ever envy parents with non-Highly Sensitive Children? envy, jelous, frustration, you are not alone

If you haven’t checked out the ‘resources’ section of this blog, please do. There are some incredible online support groups for parents of Highly Sensitive Children, filled with moms and dads who offer invaluable support. You are not alone.

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#SoGladTheyToldMe: The campaign that is bringing moms together

I’m sure that by now, most people will have seen this parenting video that was put together by an infant formula company.

The Mother ‘Hood Official Video Similac, The Sisterhood of Motherhood

The Mother ‘Hood Video

And I’m sure that most of you will have giggled at some point, and then maybe even teared up towards the end. When I watched it the first time that’s just what I did. But the video stayed with me after that, and the more I thought about it, the worse it made me feel. Ironically, the same reasons that make it funny also make it incredibly sad, and of course that’s because it was meant to be a parody of the awful truth. It was meant to be an exaggeration of the notorious “mommy wars”, but the way I see it, it wasn’t an exaggeration at all. Those wars can be brutal; they can break you; they can make you question every little thing you do even if you thought you were doing okay. Those wars are so vicious, you wouldn’t believe how vicious they can be until you’ve actually witnessed them as a mother.

Now even though the video is well-meaning, its attempt at a comedic depiction of something ugly was, at least for me, just as ugly. It amazes me how fast we are as moms, or rather as parents, to jump at each other and rip each other apart when we’re in the same boat, doing our best to achieve one common goal: to raise happy and healthy children. And no matter how hard you try and how much you love, you will be put down in a second if you couldn’t breastfeed, if you didn’t have a “Hollywood” transition into motherhood, if you co-slept, if you didn’t co-sleep, if you gave your kids juice, or if you turned on the television to give yourself a break.

It’s unbelievable really. The other day, around the time I saw the video, I decided to seek advice on what milk to give my toddler now that he’s almost two. I posted my question in a Facebook parenting group I joined, and I must have received over seventy messages. Less than 20% of them were directed at me. The rest of them involved moms lashing out at each other for using one type of milk over another (and according to the discussion there seems to be over three thousand types!), or for for giving their kids milk at all. You go to a supposedly safe place to get support from other people who are all doing the best they can to achieve the same thing you are, and instead you get to witness mothers humiliating each other for the choices they made or didn’t make.

So if we can’t even be there for each other over our choice of milk, what happens when things get serious? Why are we made to feel so alone in this when in fact we’re all in it together? Why are we so quick to point our fingers at each other, confidently and passionately claiming that our way is the only way, when we all know there has never been just one way of doing anything? I don’t expect us to agree on everything, but you know something is very wrong when a discussion about Goldfish and Bunnies, or in other words, crackers, results in a bloodbath.

A few months ago, The HerStories Project announced an open call for submissions for their next book which will focus on postpartum depression. That was the first time I’d realized how rarely we openly discuss these truly difficult topics. I went through an awful time for months after I had my first baby and never once thought I should ask for help. I blamed myself for what I was going through; I was ashamed of the way I was feeling; I hated myself for having fallen apart. I did my best to hide from the world until I managed to pull myself back together. And why? Well because if I can’t discuss going back to work after having had a baby without being criticized, if I can’t consider stopping breastfeeding because it’s making me miserable for fear of being shot down, if I can’t complain about being completely exhausted because my baby still won’t sleep through the night at ten months without being blamed for having spoiled him, how on earth am I supposed to say things like “I can’t enjoy my baby because I’m miserable” or “I’m not sure I’m cut out for this”? I have never personally known anyone who suffered from postpartum depression and asked for help. I have never personally known anyone who admitted that her transition into motherhood was rough. And I am certain most people I know and love have no clue I had suffered in silence.

Stephanie Sprenger, writer at Mommy, for Real and The HerStories Project, put together a beautiful piece a couple of weeks ago, calling for moms to come together in the spirit of support and understanding, and change the way we talk about motherhood by being more open and honest with one another. Her #SoGladTheyToldMe media campaign has been a huge success and has had mothers everywhere sharing advice they were given, or wished they were given, that helped them in their struggle.

This is not an easy time to be a mom. Maybe having a child has always been the ultimate invite for unsolicited advice and criticism, but back in the day it was limited to family, friends, maybe even our neighbors or the occasional mean mom at the playground. Today, the internet has made it possible for a mother to have hundreds and thousands of strangers judge and point their fingers at her, often making sure they let her know they’ve got her “all figured out” while they throw their destructive comments at her, ripping away whatever confidence she had left when she made her transition into motherhood.

Needless to say, not everyone is like this, quite the contrary. In my online experience, most people have been kind and understanding and supportive. In fact some of the online private groups I belong to have offered invaluable advice and help without which I would have surely fallen apart. But I think we all know firsthand that it takes one negative comment to break you. No matter how much support and love you receive from other people who get what you’re going through, it takes one judgmental comment to wipe it all out.

It’s time we started to really talk about motherhood, not just the good stuff, the stuff you see on Facebook walls, but the real stuff, the hard stuff. It’s not always smooth. It’s not always easy. It’s not always love at first sight. Sometimes it is. For many women it is. But for many women it isn’t.

And that’s okay.

#SoGladTheyToldMe

Join the #SoGladTheyToldMe campaign! Take a picture or use the hashtag to share the best advice you got as a new mother. Let’s make a big deal out of this!

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The Very Inspiring Blogger Award and Nominations

A couple of days ago, I was nominated by Andy Mulberry from Something Smells Fishy Here for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. When I received her message, I had to read it over and over again to make sure I got it right, even though it was pretty straight forward. So, a HUGE thank you to Andy for the nomination! It means so much to me when someone, somewhere, finds what I do worthy of recognition. And coming from a great writer like Andy, I couldn’t help but do a little dance of joy.

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The different forms of creativity

The Different Forms of Creativitiy - The Highly Sensitive Child and Creativity

While reading about other Highly Sensitive Children in online forums and other blogs, I very often find moms and dads who talk about how creative their children are; how they love to draw and paint; how good they are with building blocks; how they can make incredible works of art out of almost nothing. And every time I read these wonderful stories of other kids, it made me observe mine all the more closely.

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One Boy, Five Birthdays

No matter how hard I try – and I have tried, very, very hard – I can’t seem to remember how exactly I found out about Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Child. But I will never forget the words that led me to check it out.

My child hates birthday parties,  said someone on the internet.

What? A child, other than mine, hates birthday parties? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I read it over and over again assuming I may have misunderstood. But I hadn’t. There it was, a real comment from a real mother of a child who hated parties. Continue reading

SURVIVOR STORIES: Changing The World (Or Believing That You Can) On Two Hours Sleep A Night

I discovered Emily-Jane’s blog, Surviving a Sleep Thief, a few months ago, and it has been one of my favorite blogs ever since. Emily-Jane’s writing is incredible, her stories inspiring, and her take on something as horrible as chronic sleep deprivation absolutely hilarious!

So imagine my surprise when I found an email from her in my inbox asking me – ME! – to contribute with my survivor story! It felt like Christmas and a promotion at the same time: I had made it to the Sleep Survivor Hall of Fame!
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It’s what kids do: The Highly Sensitive Child and disappointment

It's what kids do - The Highly Sensitive Child and disappointment

I have a confession to make. I got mad at my five year old because he failed to properly rip a piece of paper.

On the occasion of the Saint Martin’s Day celebrations this year, I volunteered to make lanterns with the children in my son’s class. Being a lover of crafts, I got busy looking up lantern-making tutorials that would be easy enough for the kids to make, yet fun and as creative as can be when making something with a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds in under 30 minutes. After what seemed to be hours of searching online, I finally found the perfect one.

Or at least I thought it was.
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5 Outdoor activities our Highly Sensitive Child loves

A few years ago, when my 5 year old was just an infant, I didn’t know many things. I knew some, but not many. One of the things I was sure of from the very beginning was the fact that my baby loved being outside. Whenever he got restless and cranky after I had tried everything to comfort him, taking him outside for some fresh air always did the trick.

Another thing I was certain of was that my son didn’t like to be around too many people at once, and he became inconsolable if there was too much noise where we were.

To make matters worse, for the first 3 years of his life, we lived in a country where parks were extremely scarce and public green spaces virtually did not exist. The infrastructure did not support biking, or even walking, let alone with a stroller. Sidewalks were difficult to find, and if you did find them, you’d either have trees sticking out right the middle or more typically, cars parked along the whole stretch.

So what do you do with a small child who needs to get out and can’t stand noise and crowds, when the only kid-friendly places we could go to were malls and indoor playgrounds? I’ll never forget how my son fought and cried when he realized we were about to walk into a mall. He always enjoyed spending time in the parking lot watching cars go by that he did the actual mall.
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Facing fear to enjoy the thrill of life

Dr. Elaine Aron recently wrote about her experience white water rafting in the Grand Canyon. In a beautiful post, she tells the world about how this experience was both incredible, and incredibly scary. She shares with us the fears she had to face on this trip, and not just the fear of the risks that come with white water rafting, but also the social fear of spending 13 days with a bunch of people who are nothing like you, who might make you feel like you don’t belong there, and who wear t-shirts that say things like “The best things in life are dangerous”. While reading about her experience facing her fear to enjoy the thrill of life, I got to thinking about my own fears.
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Even before Google, my mother knew

Being Highly Sensitive isn’t easy. Being Highly Sensitive and not knowing it is even less easy.

I didn’t always know what I was, or why I was the way I was. But there was a time when I wished I wasn’t.

I only discovered Dr. Elaine Aron and her work about a year ago. That was when it became clear to me why my son behaved the way he did. And through my discovery and my new understanding of my son, I realized that I was also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), which explained why I felt the way I did growing up.
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