Miss A (almost 4) is a happy girl. As a baby she was content and calm, she avoided the “Terrible Two’s” and as a toddler she is bright and bubbly. There are no tantrums. From the moment she wakes up until she shuts her eyes at night she is generally happy. She aims to please and is a very easy child to parent. She’s also emotionally sensitive and feels things very deeply.
Last night, she happened to see an ad on TV portraying a character that was ‘breaking up’ with someone. The person on the receiving end of the rejection was crying. I didn’t pay it any notice as we were in the midst of the bed/bath/books routine and the TV was on in the background. Aside from Angelina Ballerina and Play School she doesn’t watch a lot of TV. She gets frightened easily and even innocent Shaun the Sheep can upset her! She’s a sensitive thing.
As we were preparing for bed Miss A asked Miss J (2) for a cuddle and told her she loved her. This is something she does often. Miss J, whose default setting is defiance, rejected her affection and ran away. Miss J is not a ‘cuddler’. What ensued was a game of cat and mouse. Miss A chased Miss J around the house imploring her for a cuddle. Miss J, obstinately avoided her embrace and Miss A dissolved into floods of tears.
When I tucked her into bed, I asked her why she needed a cuddle so much and through sad eyes she said, “Because I love her so much and I don’t think she loves me”. My heart sank. Miss J had a cheeky glint in her eyes as though she thought the situation was rather amusing. She eventually gave in and cuddled her sister t but it wasn’t enough. By this point Miss A was genuinely sad. Later, I wondered if it had something to do with the ad she had seen on TV.
It has been estimated that 15 per cent of children are born with a more sensitive temperament. That is, a temperament that makes them particularly aware of their surroundings and of any changes that may occur. Sensitive kids are like mood detectives with their antennae up trying to detect subtle changes in the moods of those around them. In some ways this is healthy as emotionally intelligent people are observant and perceptive. However typically sensitive kids often read too much into what others say or do.
Miss A is a sensitive soul and needs a lot of positive reinforcement and affection. She tells me she loves me many times a day and enjoys holding hands and frequent cuddles. It’s lovely to be on the receiving end of such pure love. She draws pictures of us and hangs them all over the house. She makes jewellery for Miss J of her own initiative and presents it to her with great joy. And she protects her younger sibling like a lioness protecting her cub. Each day she scours the carpet for potential choking hazards and places them on higher ground so Miss H doesn’t swallow them. She smothers her baby sister with affection and she shows a maturity and empathy beyond her years.
As much as I love her sensitive side, I worry that she might be overly sensitive. Sensitive kids take matters to heart. They have a tendency to think too much and read too much into simple situations. Sensitive kids can be shy, inhibited, and fearful. The flipside is that sensitive kids generally have kind hearts; are empathetic, intuitive and usually possess a creative streak. These are wonderful attributes to have.
She is only four but this episode gave me hint of what to expect in later years when someone she loves doesn’t love her back. Be that in the playground, at school when girls turn on each other for no reason, or when she falls ‘in love’ with a boy who doesn’t feel the same way.
I will remember my mum’s words when I cried to her in this very situation and she said, “When you’re a mother, you’ll understand how painful it is to see your daughter so upset and not be able to do anything to alleviate it.”
I will feel every bit of her pain.
Do you have a sensitive child? How do you parent them? If you have any insights or comments I’d love to hear from you.