On Raising a ‘Sensitive and Emotional’ Child
Despite being twins, my babies are remarkably different little humans. I am reminded every single day as to their uniqueness. This was a lesson I had to learn at first, to not compare them. My son is a sponge, he is constantly absorbing and feeding off of his surroundings. My daughter less so. She currently goes through her days happily singing to herself and her play frogs. Already I can tell her imagination is a deep and colorful one. As she grows I will continue to make a point to be invited into the beautiful world inside that mind, to make certain she always feels safe to include me, and never shuts me out. Because who knows how deeply things are affecting her, perhaps she just doesn’t express them as easily as her brother. And I have an entire post about that challenge, but today I want to talk about the challenge of raising a sensitive and highly emotional child, my little boy.
Harry has always been affected by his surroundings, and there is nothing wrong with that. I feel like in our culture we are so ready to invite concern over a little one’s emotional state, or feel we need to ‘fix it’. I really hate that mentality. My son feels SO deeply, and expresses those feelings with complete lack of inhibition. I will set him down for a brief second to change his sister’s diaper and you would think I had abandoned him in a remote Peruvian forest alone. And yes at times his pathos is a bit comical in the intensity with which he expresses his feelings, (cue face down on the floor complete body throw and sobbing) but the facts are, that is REALLY how he is feeling. His tender heart has not yet learned to hide itself. Yes, eventually he will learn that being set down for a few moments isn’t the end of the world, and he will also learn that when he wakes up he is never alone and left for dead. And one day he will talk to me about his feelings instead of just sobbing.
But, THOSE are the things I want to teach him, not to hide himself away. Someone once told me to ‘stop babying’ my baby. (First of all, right now he IS A BABY. But I digress.) BUT, I am not babying him. I am teaching him validation of himself. That who he is MATTERS, that who he is BEAUTIFUL. That what he feels is beautiful, that there is nothing wrong with his heart and emotions. I do not want to teach him how to stuff his feelings down inside, I do not want to teach him to feel less deeply. I want him to learn how to manage situations that affect him and protect himself, I don’t want him to learn that he should ‘feel less’, or that something is wrong with him because someone hurt his heart. It’s more than I don’t want him to have the ‘man up and suck it up’ mentality. It’s that I want him to celebrate the depth of his heart, to learn to protect it without paralyzing it. I want him to learn he is more than enough, and to not judge his personal worth according to how others treat him. And yes obviously I want the same for my daughter! But I know I will need different approaches to teach each one of them this.
We were at the playground the other day, and he was cracking UP watching two little boys run back and forth while my daughter happily played with my mom. They were very kind little kiddos, and engaged with him and played with him despite the age difference. And I watched my baby light up like the sun with their interaction. But, I know not everyone will be so kind. Not everyone will respond to him in such a manner. One day he is going to reach out with his heart and it will not be lovingly received. And I want him to be prepared for that day. I want him to know when that happens it’s ok it hurt his feelings, it’s ok to talk about it, but that in no way is it a reflection of him, in no way is he wrong that it hurt his feelings. I want him to not only give kindness, but to expect it in return, and when it is not given, to not lay the blame on himself.
It is so easy to question ourselves when we have unpleasant encounters, to say, “What did I do wrong?” And I am not stupid, I know eventually one day my son will not handle an encounter to the best of his ability, he is HUMAN. But I do not want it to be his go to reaction to question himself. There is a difference in being responsible for our actions and being immediately ready to blame ourselves. I don’t ever want him to ask himself, “Was I too much? Am I too much for that person? Is that why they didn’t like me?” I don’t want him to clam up, shut down, hide his heart away. I want him to KNOW he is exactly enough, that he is precious and irreplaceable, that while he might not be everyone’s cup of tea that doesn’t mean he needs to change his flavor. I want him to know his flavor is not only one of a kind, but to teach him to have confidence and celebrate it.. Let us teach our children to celebrate their unique qualities, not to hide them away.