An Open Letter to the Parents of Spirited and Sensitive Kids
Some Thoughts From The Future
I see you are pretty wiped out by this kiddo of yours. You know they are special and when that shines through, wow, you can’t believe how smart, funny and creative they are. But there are those other times — those whirling dervish times, those itchy tag tantrums — when you wonder what exactly you did to deserve this child.
And maybe you’ve got two of them. Wow. You are a frigging soldier.
I am writing from the future to tell you: This too shall pass.
I know, I know, it sounds like a cliché. It is a cliché. It’s also a true cliché. It doesn’t mean things will get better, although they almost certainly will, it just means, hang in there, this will be over at some point. Probably sooner than you expect.
Here’s why I wanted to tell you this.
My son, now 15, was a highly sensitive kid, mostly in the physical department. The shirt tags were a catastrophe. The socks, Omigod the socks, were a nightmare. He needed to spin in a circle for hours at a time to calm down. I would feel nauseous pushing him on the tire at the park and he would yell with glee, “More! More!” Finally, I got him a Sit N Spin so I could get my life back. He spun on the back patio while I made dinner every night. He spun until it was dark.
Then he transitioned to repetitively throwing a ball against the back of the house. I was sure all the windows would fall out and the walls would crumble to dust. I also hoped he’d become an Olympian handball player, but this activity was just for him, to soothe his anxious mind.
This weekend, I took him clothes shopping for the start of sophomore year. While we were out, I said, “Do you need new socks?”
“No, I’m good,” he said, “I can wear any socks now, you know. As long as they’re the right length.”
There was pride in his voice and I turned away, saying, “Cool, cool,” so he wouldn’t see that tears had sprung to my eyes.
Not only do I now have a child who can wear socks of different textures, but I also have a child who knows that used to be a problem and is personally pleased and aware that he’s moved beyond it. We’ve come a really long way. He also shoots hoops for about 2 hours a day. The monotonous thump of the ball is further away, and the backboard can withstand his 10,000 hours of practice. My house is still standing, every window intact (including the one that had to be replaced twice).
It wasn’t easy to get to this point. I used to yell a lot more. I fought some pointless battles. But I listened to him and tried to hear what he was telling me, and a lot of things passed. Those days are behind us.
What did we get from all of this?
We let our son listen to his body and gave him the space to tell us what it needed. It needed calmness and softness. We taught him to talk back to his body and ask it how exactly its needs can be met. My son has self-awareness and self-soothing techniques. His shirts are not chewed to pieces anymore. Instead, they are clean and soft and he is tall and athletic and smart and funny and kind.
Now I am fighting against “This too shall pass,” because I don’t want these days with my child, my first baby — either of my babies — to be over. Someday, there will be no school shopping and no thumping basketball. “This too shall pass” is becoming true more quickly than I can stand so I am trying to use every last second of it to learn about my kids and myself and grow and love. If you are earlier in your journey, try to see it from the other end, the time when your current struggles are behind you, and learn and grow and love.