Embrace, don't Erase
When you’re raising a high needs infant and toddler it’s so easy to feel caught up in all of the ways they make you feel. Tired, wait...exhausted, strained, stretched, tried, tested, angry, and frayed! All of it wrapped up in one. For the longest time I tried to understand what we were doing wrong to cause him to be so difficult but I have come to terms with that. There is nothing to judge, I feel no more shame for ‘making’ him the way he is. This is simply him and I have come to completely embrace it.
It was inevitable at a certain point that we began to look inward as the people around us began to express opinions about what we needed to do to ‘get him under control’. I felt very defensive and judged by even those closest to us for ‘allowing’ him to behave the way he was. We don’t ‘allow’ him any more that we ‘allow’ our daughter to be the way she is! Once I came to terms with that I felt a tremendous burden lift off my shoulders. I was not a bad parent and we haven’t failed. We are simply raising a little boy whose spirit and determination is so immeasurably strong that our role has become setting boundaries that work for our family while being very careful not to break his spirit. It doesn’t mean we let him run around getting away with everything but it means we’ve had to parent him so differently than our daughter.
I’ve had to become so intentional and thoughtful in how I respond to every situation. Basically I’ve had to become a master manipulator/negotiator with him. He always has to feel dignified and respected! Crazy right? But it’s clear as day to me; If I disrespect him, I will pay. If I treat his tantrums with sensitivity and dignity I am way more likely to get him to move on. My husband and I struggle with our parenting styles in these situations. His inclination is to draw a very hard, no nonsense line that typically ends in an epic meltdown and him being removed and taken to his room. We’re trying to find a happy medium where we allow him his dignity while also being clear that certain attitudes and behaviours aren’t ok. We’re getting there but it’s a work in progress. I don’t want to erase his passion. I don’t want him to dull it, temper it and hide it away because of fear about the consequences. I do want him to feel like he was heard even though it doesn’t always mean getting what he wants.
I think what I’ve realized about having a high needs, very intense child is that he has been my biggest teacher. He has forced me to hold up a mirror to all of my weaknesses and face them. He has forced me to acknowledge how impatient and snappy I can be. He has forced me to confront anger I didn’t even know I was carrying around. The problem was not him, the problem is how he forced me to confront my ugliest parts of myself and do better. For that, I will be eternally grateful to my high needs baby…That’s not to say I would ever sign up for it again, not in a million fucking years, but I can see the good now, coming out the other side of it.
Trying to dam a river while it’s flowing is next to impossible...changing it’s course however is not. The river flows all the same but on a different path, and with any luck a more fruitful one.