Our Rabbit is a sensitive child. She seems to feel everything in an amplified way, both physically and emotionally. Over the Summer I was worried about this to a point where I was starting to wonder if maybe what I’ve always just thought of as ‘sensitivity’ is more than that and if I should be seeking professional help for possible sensory processing issues. I’ve calmed down a bit since then and I’m fairly sure my original stance was the right one but isn’t 90% of parenting just suspecting we are doing things wrong? (That is not a factual statistic so don’t quote me!)
Truth be told she gets her sensitivity from her Mumma , but Rabbit is far more sensitive than I am! I like to think that my very sensitive husband and me combined our sensitivity powers and created a Captain Sensitivity type person in our Rabbit. She is the most sensitive person that I know but our Monkey isn’t overly sensitive by any means. They are very much chalk and cheese and they often clash because of their differing sensitivity.
Rabbit wants to help Monkey all the time, she hates to see her struggle or upset, she wants to constantly touch her and be close to her, she forgives her easily, is easily hurt by her and never tells her to stop if she is doing something that Rabbit doesn’t like. Monkey however is fiercely independent, only likes to be physically close on her own terms, is louder and rougher and not scared to speak her mind. Monkey is stubborn, rarely admitting when she is wrong or to blame and doesn’t dwell on things like Rabbit does. They are sort of perfect for each other. If Monkey wasn’t so independent then Rabbit would be doing everything for her and that wouldn’t help either of them. They also get to practice interacting with people very different from themselves by being with each other, a great skill for their lives in the big bad world. They also love each other because of and at times in spite of their differences.
The more I read about sensitive children the more I see the term Highly Sensitive Children and in my opinion that is what our Rabbit is. Its not a diagnosis, its more a personality type and its definitely a great way of describing our girl.
So as I learn to parent my sensitive child I thought I would share our journey. Sadly I’ve spent Rabbit’s entire life (up until about 6 months ago) trying to encourage her to be ‘OK’ rather than accepting just how big her feelings are. “You’re ok” “Its nothing to cry about” “Don’t be silly” are things I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve said to her frequently. I thought I was doing the right thing, encouraging strength rather than weakness. I’ve spent my entire life trying to dull my own sensitivity thinking that being less sensitive would make me stronger because I saw sensitivity as a weakness rather than the amazing strength that it actually is.
One thing I’ve learned is that raising a sensitive child opens you and your child up to all sorts of judgement. People expect children to act a certain way and if they don’t fit that mold due to sensitivity (due to ASD, sensory processing disorder, other hidden disabilities, personality types, learning difficulties or whatever) then society in general think its ok to judge, to comment, to assume. And because of this I’ve been trying to raise my daughter to fit the world instead of trying to raise her to be herself and now that is going to stop.
Just because our society wants to desensitize us doesn’t mean we should let it! So next time Rabbit is holding her ears in public and saying its too loud I will hold my hands over hers and if people look I will ignore them and I will smile at her and tell her that it is ok to feel the way she does. When she falls and doesn’t graze her knee but cries anyway because it hurts her I will tell her that I’m sorry it hurts and hold her until it feels better. When she cries more than her sister, because I’m washing Monkey’s favourite toy and it hurts her to think about how sad Monkey will be whilst her favourite toy is in the wash, I will hug her and tell her I am so proud that she is such a caring person and help her find a way to feel better by helping her sister feel better.
My daughter is amazing. She feels things so deeply, she cares so much and I hope that she never dulls her sensitivity to fit into the insensitive world.