“Suck it up, son. It’s no big deal.” – Damaging words we tell our children

Where I’m from, a country with a rough history and little hope of a brighter future, people have grown skin far too thick for their own good. On closer look however, one can see how a people can evolve in that direction, having little time to stop and consider the things in life that don’t have a direct impact on the now; having been forced to move fast and think fast, and fight constantly to get through every single day. Placed in this sort of situation, where practically nothing comes easy and the most basic requirements for comfortable living can’t be taken for granted, it becomes easier to understand why the general attitude towards sensitivity is, well, not great.

Suck it up, son. It's no big deal. - Damaging words we tell our children

Where I’m from, people are expected to get back on their feet again right after they’ve been knocked down. They’re expected to brush things off like they never happened. “Suck it up” (or man up / toughen up / get over it / pull yourself together) and “it’s no big deal” are things we say as often as “hello” and “goodbye.” Dwelling on something that may have hurt us or crying over disappointments is simply unacceptable. Whatever it is, you pick yourself up and keep going. That’s how it is. We don’t question it. We simply try to do what is expected of us.

But for those of us who are more sensitive than most, those words can be damaging. For those
of us who thoroughly process input (whether we like it or not), who feel much more deeply about the events that occur in our lives, and who require more time to collect ourselves after a difficult time, those words can leave scars that run deep.

Last year, we went back home for the holidays. During one of our family outings to a lake near my parents’ town, there was a young family standing close to where we were, feeding the ducks. At one point, the father climbs up onto a ledge for a reason that is beyond me, while his son, who must have been no more than four years old, pleaded with his father to get down while crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking, but what happened next was even worse. The father laughs at his son, stays up on the ledge a little longer, pretending he might fall over into the lake. He then jumps back down, tells his son “it’s no big deal,” picks him up and puts him up on the ledge where he panicked. The mother, carrying a baby, thought this was hilarious and laughed while her son begged his father to put him back down.

No one looked at these people like what they were doing was heartless and somewhat criminal. No one looked because to them, it was no big deal. Nothing happened. No one fell. And besides, boys aren’t supposed to cry anyway.

I suppose when a real threat a people has to constantly face is war, sensitivity is not the strength a country is looking for. Sensitivity might even be looked at as a major hindrance during a fight. I can’t even begin to imagine being thrown into a battle and have to watch people die all around me. I simply can’t.

But then again, without people who do over think and over analyze and over feel, how are things ever going to improve? When nothing is a big deal, what in the world would drive us to change our situation for the better?

You had a car accident, you say? So what?! An emergency C-section? Get over it, you both made it! Someone flicked you off for no reason? Big deal!

You’re worried too many trees are being chopped down? Too much garbage and pollution? Too much violence? Too many animals on the brink of extinction? It scares you that the planet might be in trouble?

“Suck it up, son. It’s no big deal.”

That’s what we tell our friends, family, colleagues, and worst of all, our children. If nothing is a big deal, if we’re taught to repress every feeling but anger, how is anything ever going to change? If no one cares about a thing, who’s going to fight for peace? For human rights? For gender equality? For sustainability? For the planet?


“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

-Jiddu Krishnamurti


Unfortunately, this is not just something I witness back home. It’s something I see everywhere. Boys are expected to behave like men—whatever that means—and fathers, mothers, teachers, strangers don’t hesitate to point that out.

As the mother of two boys who cry whenever we pass by workers pruning some trees on the road (because “they’re cutting off too much”), I can only say that it fills my heart with pride and joy to see such young people  care so deeply about what goes on around them. It is true that parenting a highly sensitive child can be frustrating at times, but is asking our sensitive boys to ‘man up’ the solution?

My highly sensitive son, on his sixth birthday last month, asked his friends to help him support a charity his chose himself instead of bringing him presents. He cried for about forty five minutes after we read The Journey Home, a picture book about how some endangered animals might one day join the dodo if we don’t do something, and decided to support a charity that helps the planet on his next birthday.  For a school project, his Christmas wish (as we saw it up on the classroom wall during his Christmas party) was for there to be no more war in the world so that people would stop dying and getting hurt. The list goes on and on.

And the thing is, we have very little to do with the opinions he has and the plans he comes up with. That’s all him. That’s the way he is.

And in my opinion, that is the way all “men” should be.

A six year old supporting a charity on his birthday instead of receiving gifts - The way all "men" should be

Too often, I hear of mothers complaining that their husbands don’t understand, or won’t accept their highly sensitive sons. A great book every parent of a highly sensitive boy should read is “The Strong Sensitive Boy” by Dr. Ted Zeff, in which he interviews thirty highly sensitive men form five different countries, demonstrating the factors that had the biggest impact on these individuals growing up, such as relationships with fathers, school, making friends, sports, just to name a few. Reading these men’s stories and finding out what helped and hurt them the most is not only moving, but also helps to open the eyes and hearts of fathers ̶ and mothers ̶ who may be trying to “toughen up” their sensitive boys.

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Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories – My Guest Post on Happy Sensitive Kids

Amanda van Mulligen, one of my favorite bloggers, asked me to guest post on her blog, Happy Sensitive Kids, which is an absolute honor!

Amanda is the mother of three highly sensitive boys and a brilliant writer. She asked me to tell her why I decided to write picture books for highly sensitive children which required me to go back to a time when I didn’t know what “high sensitivity” was; a time when my husband and I felt painfully alone in our struggles; a time when worry and doubt consumed us.

Head on over to Happy Sensitive Kids and read our story.

Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories

Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories


My Dearest Readers,

Today was one heck of a day. It was nerve-racking. It was exciting. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Today was publication day!

Our picture book for highly sensitive children, All Too Much for Oliver,  is finally available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. We have worked so long and so hard to make this happen, and it’s finally happened.

All Too Much for Oliver - Picture Book for the Highly Sensitive Child

My son reading All Too Much for Oliver

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The creation of a picture book for highly sensitive children

A couple of years ago, when I thought I’d try and write a children’s book that would help highly sensitive kids “feel more normal” (as one lovely reader put it), no one could have prepared me for the incredible amount of time and energy that would be required to pull it off. No one.

After two years however, as I hold my very first picture book in my hands—a beautiful book if I may say so myself—my heart fills with joy and a sense of accomplishment, even if sometimes it feels like it took much longer than it should have to reach the final stage. But then when I give it more thought, and count the number of times the story was edited and the number of people who were involved in the process, I wonder if this could’ve happened in less than two years.

Copy of our Book "All Too Much For Oliver" - Picture Book for Highly Sensitive Children (HSC)

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Finding the right children’s books for highly sensitive children

For as long as I can remember, reading three books at bedtime has been part of our nightly ritual. Three books is our rule—at least until the kids are a little older and the books become a little longer.

Our kids love their books. Our highly sensitive son, who is now almost six, has had a love for books I have never seen in anyone else. By the time he was one, we owned over one hundred picture books. And now, almost five years later, we’re struggling with finding space in our little home for our ever-growing collection.

So clearly, books are important in this house. But when one of your children is highly sensitive, choosing the right stories, especially at bedtime, is a challenge I never thought we’d have to deal with. To me, stories like Little Red Riding Hood, The Gingerbread Man and The Ugly Duckling are children’s book essentials . At least, that was before my son made me realize what these stories really were.

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A sensitive little expat: Learning to say goodbye

A few days ago, I got to rip out the September page off my wall calendar. I had been looking forward to doing that, but when the time came, I stopped to look at one little square before I crumpled it up.

I stopped to think about that one particular day, and to say goodbye one last time.

On the 4th of September, one of my dearest friends moved back home with her family. I cried like a baby, as I cry now while typing these words. I’d known the day was coming for some time, and yet I still could not deal with it gracefully. For the rest of the month of September, that square, marked with my friend’s name followed by a sad face stared me in the eye, as if challenging me to remain strong and collected, when every bone in body shook with the urge to break down in a teary mess right there on the kitchen floor.

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Sensitive, The Untold Story – A beautiful documentary about a beautiful trait

Last night, my husband and I did something we don’t normally do.

Our nightly ritual normally consists of us putting the kids in bed, finishing up the housework, and then slumping down on the couch, mostly with a glass of red wine, to watch something that requires minimal brain activity and triggers little to no emotional response. Some might frown at the idea of two people shutting down that way when the day’s over. But at the end of an overwhelming day, that is how we unwind and empty our buckets.

Last night however, we decided to sit down with a glass of white (only because we’d run out of red) and watch the long-awaited and much anticipated documentary, ‘Sensitive, The Untold Story’. And it was beautiful, and moving, and deep, and I am still choked up thinking about it this morning.

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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.

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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.


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.

very-inspiring-blogger-award Continue reading