Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trust the Intensity

photo by Xavia Claire Photography

For years, I have shared about my daughter, Tiff's sensitive nature. She just turned twelve so I wanted to share a few things that I have come to learn about my daughter over the years. I remember when she was only two years old, she used to scream for everything. She worried about so much. She also seemed to be unhappy often, and this was so hard as her mother. She wouldn't let me brush her teeth or her hair and finding clothes that didn't annoy her was challenging. Everything seemed to be such a struggle for my sweet daughter. For years her needs outweighed everyone else's in the family.

I honestly could cry thinking about how difficult and painful it was to parent a child like Tiff in all of her intense sensitivity. Loud noises made her run and scream. Changes were extremely difficult for her, as was not knowing exactly what we were going to do every day. Being spontaneous was nearly impossible because it would throw Tiff into such a distressed state. I would make sure that she knew what was happening everyday from hour to hour. She was a child who needed to know exactly what to expect and I learned how to give her that security.

Tiff also has a gift, although it can be really painful for her. She has the ability to read others like a book. Even if I am slightly annoyed with something, she knows it. She used to ask me repeatedly if I was mad at her. I used to hug her and and share with her that I wasn't upset with her. I was just having difficulty with someone else in my life. She has always been able to feel exactly what I was feeling so strongly that I found myself needing to explain things to her that my other children didn't even notice or care about. She is an extremely empathetic human being and being her mother has taught me more about myself than I ever knew was possible.

Family and friends used to tell me that I needed to have her evaluated, tested, put in therapy and medicated. Parenting a highly sensitive child, your intuition often becomes clouded by fears. I wanted what was best for her and to respect her in every way possible. I knew that if Tiff was put in the system it would forever change her. I knew she would be bombarded by others trying to control her and force her to be someone different than who she was. Instead of the advice from others, I took the path of my heart and continued trusting my instinct and her unique path.

I want to communicate to other parents with a highly sensitive child, that the this is such a short season in your lives. We have never punished Tiffany for the way she voiced her needs. She has never had a time-out, nor have we used any behavior modification techniques. She has lived in partnership with us and our role has been to love her for who she is. We have talked, explained, discussed and connected, helping her to feel safe and secure. I look back on the first six or seven years of her life as profound for me as a person, for my daughter has taught me so much about myself. I have learned the children never need to be labeled, medicated or made to change in order to have a happy, functioning life. Tiff has always been powerfully unique and she is someone who knows how to get what she wants in her life. The very qualities that made it hard to be present with her for those years have since shifted and are now some of her greatest strengths and more admirable qualities.

Today, I look back on those difficult and challenging years with such gratitude. Tiffany is one of the most beautiful, confident, patient and focused people that I know. She used to hate being around crowds and loud noises. Now her favorite place in the world, is New York City. She used to need so much help with tasks that others found easy. Now she helps me with daily tasks that the other kids find difficult. She used to horde food and toys, now she keeps her room spotless and simple. She used to hate itchy clothes and tags, now she wears fabrics that even I find uncomfortable. She has overcome issues that others told me that she would never overcome without therapy and medication. I was fed lies based on fear, yet despite all of the pressure, I never gave in. I loved and supported her through it all and today she is a whole person, body, mind and soul.

Now that she has grown older, she is able to control her emotions more and let me know when she is starting to feel overwhelmed. I help her by giving her coping tools and she trusts me and listens to my advice. She sees me as a leader and her best friend in life. She has taken up modeling and her inner beauty shines through all that she does. She is a success in life, already! She has had her own pet sitting business and helps others find joy in their lives in any way that she can.

Last night Tiffany took her first hip hop class taught by a beautiful, loving teacher who she trusts. As I watched my daughter dance among the other girls, I began to cry. Memories of my sweet daughter flooded my mind. I remembered the worries, the fear and the pain that I felt for her for so many years as I helped her navigate her world. As tears streamed down my face, I couldn't take my eyes off of her as I watched her in her perfection, dancing across the dance floor, smiling with her head held high.


The Alt Mommy said...

Thank you for sharing this Dayna. My daughter is four and highly sensitive. It gets so hard hearing others claim that she needs medication or that there is something "wrong" with her. I really appreciate you sharing this story and reminding others in our situation that we are not alone.

Liripoop said...

I have a highly sensitive child. Please tell me what I need to do to stop him sniffing, licking and touching people. We medicate him because it is the only thing we have found in four years (including one of various therapies) that reduces such behaviour. And unfortunately most people don't like being sniffed and licked, in some cases they get violent with him. We medicate him to keep him safe. You're saying medication is not necessary and we can desensitise without medication or therapies. Please tell me how.

Dayna Martin said...

Liripoop, I see from your page that your child has autism. Is this correct? I would say that you aren't just dealing with a highly sensitive child. I do not have experience with healing a child who has autism, so I don't feel comfortable making recommendations to you. I do think that many autistic children do extremely well with freedom-based living, Unschooling and peaceful parenting.
I am happy to connect you with other Unschooling parents with autistic children if you'd like to send me an email.

~Peace & Love, Dayna

Me said...

Incredible article!!

anissa ljanta said...

Hi Dayna, thanks for this post. In many ways you might have been writing about our experiences...right down to the pet sitting business! Sometimes I had to pull back and ask myself what the issue really was...often I realised it was my or societies expectations that were not being fulfilled, there was actually nothing 'wrong'. So glad I followed my heart and guidance from my son...who has always been incredibly in tune with what he needed. So grateful for the journey we have been on. I have learnt so much about myself and the world we live in. The world is so much richer for this boy walking his path alongside me. My hope is for more kids to have their needs met and not be shaped and squished to fit into structures like care and schooling by coercion and medication. Viva freedom...the world needs more free thinkers!

Alexandra Grace said...

I have 4 beautiful autistic children. I completely empathise with your worries for your daughter's difficulties. I also want to add that "labels" for who we are aren't intrinsically bad. You can take explanations for who you are and for why you experience the world differently, without taking therapies or medications or professional advice or behavioral management. I am a proud autistic woman and have much greater happiness since discovering this clue to myself and my life. My children are proud autistics and we have never had "treatment" or the like. We are who we are and autism is intrinsically tied to our personhood and ourselves and all that we do. I'm so glad that your girl in her different ways of experiencing life has found her niche :)

mill said...

I've often heard this idea of a sensitive child/one who handles uncertainty badly as a case for a rigid schedule, and I've heard parents rave about how their sensitive child needs to know that at exactly 7:30 they will brush their teeth, etc. I don't have kids yet, but we're thinking about starting a family soon and are trying to learn about different parenting philosophies, so I'm trying to figure out what sort of parent I want to be. How would you say that unschooling in particular/lax parenting/child-led parenting has helped Tiff mature as opposed to scheduling her, if you know what I mean? How do you think she would be different today if she had been raised by a heavy scheduler/parent who believed in structured days?

saturnrings said...

I just wanted to thank you for posting this beautiful blog about your daughter. My son too is highly sensitive to sensory things. feelings and change(enviroment change) and with reading you describe her it was like you were describing my 3.5 year old son. He isn't the only one struggling and with me and his determination, which he has A LOT of will succeed!

J Kaplun said...

WOW, it sounds like myself. I can read people like a book and often wonder if people are mad at me. It is a gift because of my empathy and love, but my emotions are so super strong almost all of the time and I cry and worry alot. I don't like being around a lot of people when I am senstive (often) because it overwhelms me, and I am scared to go into neighborhoods I dont know. I am 29 now and moving from Long Island -- VT. Dayna, I actually met you for a brief 5 minutes in VT. You were stuck in a ditch on a dirt road, and a guy came to pull you out. You were on your way to a raw party for my friends. I was headed to my boyfriends. Ive been following you ever since. You sound like a fantastic mother and woman. I have found yoga (tiff might enjoy the benefits of yoga).

Anonymous said...

I feel you were writing about my experience with one of my daughters! My Maddy was exactly how you explained when she was younger. Unfortunately, I wish I often had a more loving response and not been so scared and frustrated. Luckily I knew enough about attachment parenting styles to try and meet her needs as best as I could. Now at 19 she is a beautiful, caring, empathetic, loving, extremely talented, HAPPY young lady. I cry too when I think about how far she (WE) have come. Home schooling was for sure the best choice, and relaxed home schooling being the best. I loved this article and hope that others who are in the thick of it now receive hope that this season really isn't that long when you get to the other side, and the skills you gain and the choices you make relationally will equal an incredible relationship down the road. I remember when I was explaining how "needy" my daughter was when she was young, a wise friend told me that this will lead to one of the best relationships I'll have....and she was right.