to be or not to be brave, that is the question

ok so i’m on a roll…i want to talk about some other things that bug me…

there are some people out there…probably even more than i’m aware of because not everyone has made it obvious to me, i’m sure…who think that my daughter is way too sensitive.

these people think i should be doing something to toughen her up. i couldn’t disagree more. well, i guess there are times i might agree, when i’m at whit’s end, but then i go back to not agreeing, because i know my child and i know what she needs.

first, for those that don’t know my daughter…she’s hyper-sensitive. she is 5 and a half and has greatly improved in this area but its still there…perhaps will always be there…she’s always been this way to some extent.

what i mean by hyper-sensitive is that if she perceives something to be scary or hard or sad or infuriating, she feels it to the nth degree…and often pitches a mondo fit about it, because she has a difficult time dealing with the emotions. like i said, not so much now that she’s going on 6…but man oh man its been an issue for years. the biggest issue has always been fear–if she thinks something is scary she FREAKS out if she thinks i’m going to make her watch it. she doesn’t trust me to not read or put on a scary movie. i DON’T know where this comes from because i never have tricked her or picked bad things for her…but i’ve talked to her about it repeatedly and she still freaks out even when i tell her that she can trust me to not trick her or pick something inappropriate. (i do think its more about her not trusting herself to be able to handle it though.) i know how sensitive she is…its only recently she’s been able to handle the nu-nu on teletubbies…for some reason he really frightened her for years.

we don’t do disney movies for several reasons…the first being i think they are way too violent for my children…but it was always easy to keep her from them because i explained they would be scary for her, which they would, because anything dramatic (especially with the dramatic music) is freakishly scary to her…when she was about 3 we tried watching the veggie tale jonah movie and she freaked out when they were careening out of control down the hill in the van near the beginning of the movie because of the intensity of that scene and from then until just recently REFUSED to watch any veggie tale show. before that she had enjoyed the videos tremendously. that ruined it for her. that’s just how she is. she always has been.

another example…we made the mistake of trying to watch elmo in grouchland a few years back and as soon as elmo lost his blanket maeven was sobbing uncontrollably and we had to turn it off. we didn’t even get to the part where the bad guy got it and refused to give it back (i watched the rest by myself later)…thank god cuz that would have probably traumatized her for life. 🙁

anything with dramatic music, or if someone’s feelings get hurt…she just cannot handle. oh here’s another example…she used to SCREAM “turn it off! turn it off!!!” whenever there was a crab on clifford…her favorite show…because the crab pinched one of the dogs and that freaked her out…so anytime she saw the crab or thought that they were going to show the crab on the beach, she’d scream that at me and i’d have to turn it off. there were times when i would try to talk her through it and show her its ok, that everything is ok. but she just cannot handle it. she just gets so incredibly overwhelmed with emotion. and that scares her.

after watching the clifford movie she cried, no kidding, FOR 2 HOURS STRAIGHT!! (this is AFTER the movie ended) …this because clifford was being held captive at this mean guy’s mansion and they wouldn’t let him go back to emily elizabeth. anything dramatic freaks her out. i made her sit with me and watch that through to the end because i knew that it would all work out and my thinking was that if she saw that it worked out happy in the end that she might relax and start to see that things always work out on movies and tv…but it backfired on me and she was soooooo tense through much of that movie that once there was a resolution that she just was exhausted from being tense and the anticipation of what was going to happen that she cried continuously for 2 hours afterwards! i learned my lesson.

she’s just an intense little girl. always has been. and things just scare her that wouldn’t scare other children. that’s just who she is. i think its the emotions that scare her. intense emotions. and all her emotions are intense. she’s like me in so many ways…i was always like this too, although not to the degree she is.

but there are those that imply…or downright tell me…that its because of something i’m doing that she is this way. that i coddle her. that’s i’m sheltering her too much. i beg to differ. first of all, i think children NEED to be sheltered from the world…not to an extreme, of course, but to a degree. i don’t think its good for kids to be aware of all that’s out there at an early age. maeven doesn’t need to be up on current affairs or aware of world issues. she doesn’t need to know about child abductions and murders and molestations and other scary things like that. its my job to keep her safe and i do that. she doesn’t need to have the troubles of the world on her shoulders. she doesn’t need to know that people hit each other and hurt each other, at least not to the extent that they do…she is slowly learning some of this…slowly…as its relevant, as it comes up…i don’t lie to her…i do explain things to her. we talk about how some people are full of pain and hurt from bad things that happened to them when they were kids and so they say and do hurtful things. but she doesn’t need to know the specifics of all the hurtful things that people are capable of…not yet. there’s plenty of time for her to learn about the world’s horrors when she’s older and able to process it better…right now she needs to be a child.

that’s one of the beauties of childhood, i think…being oblivious to all that’s wrong in the world and instead focusing on the joys. she needs that. honestly i think every child needs that. i’m sad for the kids that are exposed to the drama and trauma early through family issues and whatnot…but sometimes that can’t be helped. in our family, it can be helped. in our family there is no family violence and there isn’t a mommy and daddy yelling and cursing and name calling…there isn’t a divided family…there isn’t disrespect and hatefulness…and there isn’t any violent tv shows being played and there isn’t drug or alcohol abuse, etc….this just is how our family is. she doesn’t need to be exposed to things that aren’t relevant to her immediate world. not now.

yes i do shelter her as much as i can…but not to a fault. and as she gets older i’m slowly letting her be aware of more things. we talk about images we see (sometimes things seen accidentally, sometimes intentionally) and we slowly process things. she’s a very bright child. she has been doing very very well lately. lately it seems the freak outs tend to only happen regarding things related to her little brother and when she’s low on blood sugar because she hasn’t eaten in awhile. but i’ve noticed remarkable changes in her lately as she gets closer to 6. she’s able to handle things more. and she’s proud of herself for that. so am i.

i even took her to her first movie. i fully researched it first (would have watched it first if it would have been out on video)…there are websites that tell parents every potentially scary thing in a movie…and i felt she could handle the curious george movie. they were playing it at a local theater during their summer free family movies festival. she LOVED it! there were a few scenes that got a bit rough for her, but she handled it. we talked about it ahead of time that the movie theaters are loud and that there are scenes that could have intense music and perhaps might start to feel a little scary to her. we talked ahead of time about what to do when she felt scared…close her eyes, plug her ears, snuggle with mommy…and that if she was really feeling freaked out we could leave. that i would leave it up to her to decide if we needed to leave. there were a couple scenes that were a bit touch and go, but i talked her through them and she made it through it and really loved the movie experience! i knew she would, when she was ready. and with the right movie. i picked the right movie. curious george was really cute.

so i can tell that i’m doing something right because she is working through this slowly and she is growing out of this super sensitivity. like i said, probably she’ll never completely grow out of it…but she is slowly getting braver and dealing with her emotions a little better.

what i resent is people that imply that i’m the one that is creating this in her and that what i’m doing is making it continue. this is just my little girl. i know there are other children out there that are equally sensitive because i’ve met them. this is just something that is innate in her. i did NOT create this.

and i don’t agree that i should be encouraging her to be brave when she doesn’t feel brave. there have been incidents where she will get hurt in public and i can see her work so very hard to act brave and hold in the emotions i know she is feeling (at home when she’s physically hurt she just lets loose and screams her head off…she holds back in public)…and that just breaks my heart. i mean, yes, she shouldn’t shriek her head off in public because that’s disturbing for others to hear (disturbs me at home!) …but she doesn’t need to pretend to be brave when she’s not feeling it. if she feels like crying, she should cry and get it out. now granted, i’ve been quite tired of all the crying over the years…i even consulted with dr larry cohen of playful parenting awhile back about how maeven cries about everything (he’s a child psychologist and a fantastic author), and here’s part of what he said:

“I understand your fears about her being rejected as a crybaby, but any efforts to pressure her to hold back the tears will certainly backfire–both with more tears or with all the problems people have from suppression of feelings. So, the question is how to really get them all out, in a time and place that won’t get her targeted, which means at home with you…But I hear you say, she is crying over nothing. No, never. Children often cry over something tiny and not worth crying over, but that is just a pretext, the tears are always really about something real. We don’t like to think of kids having so much to cry about, but they all do. (and now, she has tears about people calling her a crybaby!).”

i had written to him after having a frustrating week of endless crying (frustrating first 5 years!) and there had been an incident at a playground where a new friend didn’t want to be around her because she was crying so much…long story…anyway…it was very hard for me to read his response because essentially he was saying to encourage her to cry more…that she needed to get it all out and then perhaps she will cry less because she will have gotten it all out. not really what i wanted to hear, but it has been stuck in my mind ever since.

so when i saw maeven pushing back tears recently after getting physically hurt, i immediately went to her, away from the situation and encouraged her to express her feelings and she did and she cried and she got it out and she was fine. but the thing is that i was told that she was “so brave” in dealing with that situation (not seeing the tears that she had in private)…but she wasn’t, that was fake…and i don’t want her to be acting brave when she’s not feeling it. and in order to encourage her to be brave, i would be essentially asking her to stuff her feelings and suck it up. i won’t do that. that just doesn’t seem healthy to me. no matter how much others think i should be encouraging her to be brave and suck it up, i won’t do that to my child because i know that wouldn’t be good for her. i know her and i know what she needs and she needs to get those intense feelings out. so i will be patient with her and i will allow her to have at least me (and daddy) as her outlet for those intense feelings that overwhelm her daily. and as time goes on, i hope and pray she will grow to be brave because she’s been allowed to feel what she feels and sort through it all in her own time and way.

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