Dear Children, Okay,…

Dear Children,

Okay, I just have to ask this. What is up with the clinginess and the weeping and the hurling yourselves to the floor in tears (sometimes flailing and arching your backs first, despite all efforts to snuggle you into calmness)? We can handle one or the other of you doing this -- but both of you? Thank the gods you don't usually do it at the same time, or we would really melt down -- and in fact, it's pretty charming, Kavi, how you come over and try to make Anand feel better, with loud laughing, nonsense words (sometimes screamed into his face, but the intent is good and even sometimes works), and fierce hugs (which, sadly, he mostly hates, but you doesn't really understand that). I just don't get what's causing all the emotional angst.

For most of the last year, we've had a lot of chaos, but really, things have been very calm (for us) for a few months now. No major trips, changes in schedule, changes in domicile, etc. But you both just seem fragile -- at school today, for example, while all the other kids were running around like lunatics getting ready for the Halloween parade, Kavi, you insisted on climbing into my lap, and once again, wept when I left. Is it just too much pre-school time? Not enough mama-time? But if that's it, why are the other kids okay? You've been at this school for almost three months now, so I'd think there would be enough time to adjust. And Kevin does say that when he comes for pick-up, you're happily playing, and often you don't want to leave. And the teachers say that you're fine a few minutes after I leave, and I think I believe them. But every morning, you tell me you don't like school, that you don't want to go. Do I believe you in the morning, or do I believe you in the afternoon?

Miss Ann says that you are a sensitive child, Kavya, and the truth is, I don't know what to do with a sensitive child. I was emphatically not a sensitive child, and most of the time that I can remember, I wanted very little to do with my parents. I was busy doing my own thing -- nose in a book, wandering outside, etc. Of course, I don't really remember being three. Maybe I was just as clingy then. I should ask my mother.

And Anand. Anand! Enough with the waking up at 10 p.m., and waking up at 4 a.m., okay? You are thirteen months old, which is old enough to be sleeping through the night, please. You wake, you scream for us, you won't be soothed down again, you want to get up and play and will scream until we let you do that -- and then, half an hour to an hour later, you realize you're exhausted, and scream until we put you back to bed. We are seriously tired of all the screaming, Anandan. Amma and daddy are really rather quiet people. Relatively speaking, at least.

At least you seem to like school. That's something.

There are all sorts of charming and delightful things I should probably be chronicling about you two. Anand, the way you've learned to say hi! bye! Ellie! and uh-oh! (the last very often and reliably, every time you drop or throw something to the floor) is seriously cute. Kavya, the way when you get mad, you say, "Don't talk to me!" You're having a hard time making decisions these days -- any given decision may throw you into frustrated confusion, even if it is as simple as red shirt versus blue. You both still love outside, but Kavi, you're now scared of the dark, and don't like taking walks when it's not light out. You love to draw and color -- last week I put up a line to display your artworks, and amma is impressed (even if no one else is). My current favorites are the technicolor portrait of the broken house (yes, that's what we call it around here, and no, we are not going to paint it in the colors you chose), the tissue-paper flowers, and the sunflower. Amma likes flowers, and yours are especially pretty.

You're close to potty-trained, although night-time is still hard -- Anand, you not so much. Not that we've started trying with you yet -- frankly, diapers seem a lot easier than the endless accidents and associated laundry. (With the two bouts of vomiting illness (hooray, pre-school) + potty training, I think I have done more laundry in the last three months than in the entire previous year.) Anand, you eat absolutely everything, and a lot of it too, while Kavi, you have reduced your menu to oatmeal, pasta, cheese, bananas, cheddar bunnies, and chocolate. And not necessarily any given one of those at any given moment. Someday you'll eat a vegetable again.

I'm sorry I'm better at recording the frustrations than the pleasures. There are many, many pleasures. I did love dressing you two up for Halloween this year -- you looked insanely cute. Kavi, I love singing you to sleep. Anand, I love tickling you and making you laugh like a banshee (much better than screaming like one). In general, I think you are beautiful, sweet, affectionate children. The various sitters and teachers tell us that you are very smart. You're finally starting to play together, although sharing is not so much in Miss Kavya's skill set yet -- apparently, all the toys in the house are hers. Which, to be honest, they mostly are. Or were. And of course, Anand, you don't make it easier when you insist on coming over and fiercely grabbing whatever toy Kavi is currently playing with. I can't really blame her for getting mad, but I am tired of having to referee your disputes, especially when taking the toy away from you, Anand, results in the aforementioned screaming fit and hurling self to floor. And there we are -- back to the difficulties.

Honestly, we're still pretty exhausted by you two. Glad we had you, but oh, we will be happy when you are just a little more self-sufficient, and a little less needy. Until you leave us, and then we will miss you desperately, and wish you needed us again.

Yes, you can bring your laundry home from college. Of course you can.


10 thoughts on “Dear Children, Okay,…”

  1. Oh I ache that you apologized for being exhausted. You are just you, and they are two people with relatively few social skills as yet. I am grateful that you are honest about it, because really? All the cutsey happy parenting posts in the world don’t ring true without these parts.

    I don’t know that I would have the courage to have kids. But if anything would give it to me, it would be this, your honest gratitude for having them wrapped in your honest fatigue.

    and that last line about laundry? Just about made me cry. Do you know how much that will mean? Probably not. Probably they won’t, either. It means a lot. Your love is strong and real. thank you.

  2. I also remember myself as a pretty independent kid, but apparently once I didn’t hear my mother say goodbye and when she came to pick me up, I sullenly presented her with a picture of “mommy in jail.” Bars over her face and everything.

    Last Sunday, after four straight days of all mommy all the time, I went out climbing with a friend. As I walked out the door Violet burst into tears and T. tells me she cried for AN HOUR. All of which is to say: lord, children are baffling.

  3. A Sensitive Child-Now-Adult

    If you don’t know what to do with a sensitive child, why not learn? If you have one, you have one, and it does neither of you much good to compare her to other kids and note the differences, yet do little to understand and accommodate her and her needs. There are many books on the subject, and Miss Ann could probably recommend one. You’d learn what it is that makes her who she is, and this understanding would help you both. It would be a very loving thing to do.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Did you seriously just suggest that I put in *more* effort into raising my children?

    I am biting back my actual response, as it would be obscene.

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Okay, I’ve calmed down a little. I will just note that Kavi doesn’t have any of the symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder — I feel for parents and children who have to deal with that; it sounds very hard.

    She is generally a cheerful, happy child, and does great in some groups — she had a terrific time with my little cousins at my sister’s wedding, for example, and ran around like a little maniac.

    She has generally been outgoing and fairly extroverted, and it’s only in the last year that she’s started any behaviors that could be called ‘sensitive’. So I’m pretty doubtful that she actually fits into that category — it would mean a radical personality shift. Which is possible, but seems unlikely.

    I think this is much more likely to just be a combination of lots of change + being three years old. I do expect this all to smooth out quite a bit in the next few months. If it doesn’t, we’ll revisit the issue then.

  6. Highly sensitive is not Sensory Processing is not socially introverted is not Aspergers. I think the idea is that if you understand your child, you might be able to spend less time battling her innate personality and more time using it. Work smarter, not harder? If you’re up at 3am and you feel like it, hit up Preview Elaine Aron’s book on google books. She has a few, with a checklist and everything. To me it sounds a lot like the artistic personality – creative, deep thinker, empathic. One of the hallmarks of highly sensitive is a lower threshold for “too much change”.

  7. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I did glance at the HSP checklist — almost none of it applies to her. Really, just because one teacher calls her ‘sensitive’ doesn’t mean she actually is.

  8. I have to agree with the previous posters on this. From what you have told us about your daughter (and granted, that is only a small part and not the whole) she does sound like she could be HSP. Extroversion/introversion is not really a consideration: 30% of HSP folks are extroverts.

    I agree with AnotherHSP: she sounds like the artistic personality, and you’ve written a few times about her struggles with change (preschool, housing). It would do little harm to have a followup conversation with her teacher, who cares for her but has a wider base of comparison (a classroom of kids, plus years of similar classroom experience) than you do. Why does she think Kavya is sensitive?

    Again, HSP is not a bad thing. It is just a different thing. You’d take care of an African violet a little differently than a rose; it’s just figuring out what kind of nurturing is best for each.

  9. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I’ll ask Kevin to look into the HSP thing. He’s already read several fairly serious child psychology books, so he’s the expert in the family.

    That said, I admit it seems sort of weird to me to diagnose something as a condition when the author notes that a really large percentage of the population would fall into it. That just seems to be part of the range of typical human variation.

    Plus, the way we already raise our kids seems to be very much in line with what she’s recommending for HSP’s. It’s not as if anyone’s telling Kavi to ‘just buck up’ around here. 🙂 Honestly, if anything, I kind of think we should be firmer with her than we are. Ah well…

  10. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Although I should note that I did think the African violet vs. rose comparison was pretty funny, because I’ve always treated my plants pretty much the same as each other — the ones that adapt, survive. The rest get replaced with hardier varieties. It’s all very Darwinian around here on the gardening front.

    Not that I’d advocate the same philosophy for raising children. 🙂

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