sensitive child

My dear, sensitive first born. 

You came into this world a red, screaming, angry ball of fire. I should have known based on those first few hours that you would be my sensitive child. The first year of your life was filled with dog hair covered floors because the sound of the vacuum would send you into a screaming fit.

The second year of your life was spent convincing you that warm food – especially eggs – wouldn’t harm you. The third and fourth years were filled with emotional meltdowns over the smallest things. Someone touched your water cup at school. Another kid scooped the rock you wanted to scoop on the playground. A classmate took the chair next to your favorite friend and your friend was sad, so you were sad/angry. Each year your sensitive nature ventures down a different, and more mature path. I am happy to say you’re no longer afraid of the vacuum and you will *occasionally* eat food that isn’t cold and congealed, but you’re still that same sensitive ball of fire as the day you were born.

Together, we survived the toddler years, only to enter the early kid years and find them an equally formidable opponent. At times I find your heightened sensitivity extremely overwhelming and exhausting. Such as your inability to cope with the slightest, perceived offense. Like the other day when our much-older next door neighbor had the audacity to play with kids his own age doing activities that older boys enjoy doing and almost-five-year-olds are still too young to do – like ride their bikes around the neighborhood without their parents.  At other times, your sensitivity is incredibly endearing. Not only are you sensitive in almost every aspect of the word, but you are equally emotional and dramatic. You got the trifecta, my sweet boy.

Just the other day you fell off your scooter and gently landed on the grass. Not a scratch on you. No blood. No broken bones. Not even a bruise. You immediately began writhing around on the ground screaming and yelling, “I’m gonna die. I’m bleeding.  I’m gonna die.” You attracted quite an audience. It was hard not to laugh because the scene appeared so comical. It was made worse by your 18-month-old brother then falling off the picnic table onto his face, sitting up with a scrape, a bump, and an immediate bruise and rubbing away the blood droplets as he went about his business – not even a fuss. Polar opposites. 

Then I look at the real tears pouring down your face and your quivering lip, and see that you’re genuinely upset. No matter what I think in that moment, whatever you’re feeling is a big deal to you. And a flood of emotions run through me…sure I sometimes wish you would tone down the dramatics. Yes, I wish you’d take a moment to process the situation before immediately jumping to the worst outcome and melting down over it. Yes, I absolutely get embarrassed when you act like this. But you’re my child. And your emotions become my emotions. Your sensitivities become my worries. You are so much like me, and when I’m being honest with myself, I know you got it from your mama, kiddo. Before life taught me some hard lessons, I was a sensitive ball of emotions just like you. I have merely learned to hide them better after years of practice.

Just last week you were having a rough day. Everything we said or did set you off into a tear-filled fit. I was at my breaking point with you and your hyper-sensitivity when I received a call with news that made me sad. I didn’t cry, but my mood must have noticeably changed because within minutes of hanging up, you stopped what you were doing, crawled into my lap, wrapped your little boy arm around my neck, looked into my eyes and asked me if I was sad. You sat there, quietly, patiently, watching and reading my face as you waited for my answer. And in that moment, my sweet, sensitive, emotional, dramatic boy… I understood you. 

You are a ball of feelings – some painful, others positive. All of them overwhelmingly strong.  You love us so deeply, you feel so much, but your little brain and body just can’t process all of it and all those big feelings come erupting from you like a spewing volcano. You’re sensitive nature is overwhelming to us…but even more…it’s overwhelming to you.  And this sensitive card you’ve been dealt….man, it’s a tough one.  

The worst of it comes when I have to discipline you. I correct your behavior and you pile on the punishment by scolding yourself. You constantly take a mild punishment and turn it into an attack on your personality by crying and saying, “I’m the worst kid ever. No one should love me.”  It’s heartbreaking and stops me in my tracks every single time (which may be your sneaky plan to end the discipline, now that I think about it), but I have to still teach you and guide you, my sweet boy. I know it hurts your feelings when you get in trouble.  Believe me, it’s no walk in the park for me, either.  But it’s what we parents have to do.  With you, it just takes a bit more patience and calm discussions on my part.  We’ll get through it.

As you grow older, you will find yourself overwhelmed with those ever-changing emotions. And don’t even think about the hormones, yet. That time will be a trial to handle when we get there.  You are going to feel love very deeply, and when it ends, you are going to hurt for longer than others think is reasonable. You will love big. You will feel big anger. You will experience big joy.  You will be on a never-ending rollercoaster of emotions. Some people will misjudge you or think you weak because you feel so much…so big…so deep. But those that understand you and love you, will understand. Just like I do. Because I was you. Because I still am you…just a little more mature, a little wiser, a little more jaded. I have learned that being a hyper-sensitive person isn’t a weakness – it’s an unparalleled strength. You have the gift of understanding. Use it.  Be sensitive to the struggles of those around you. Help lift them up. Be sensitive to your own emotions – don’t be afraid to feel. Be sensitive to other’s feelings. Be the guy who is always there to lean on, talk to, and confide in. Your big heart will take you places, my sensitive boy. 

My hope for you is that you find a way to balance all those overwhelming emotions so you can enjoy them without letting them break you. Don’t be overly sensitive to other’s opinion of you.  Most of the time it’s their own insecurities you sense, not their true thoughts about you.  Understanding this is so important. As a sensitive person you will question what the world thinks of you, and in return, the world will try to change you. Life can feel as if it’s trying to break you, to remove that sensitivity and turn you into a tough, unfeeling, one of the masses.  Don’t let it. 

Just as I learned that there is no changing you…the rest of the world will, too. There’s no need to break you or toughen you up. You’re wonderfully emotional and beautifully sensitive just the way you are. And who knows…maybe you can channel that flare for the dramatic into a career in showbiz.

Just don’t forget your mom.


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