I blog about a variety of topics, often about cool/happy/pretty/fun things I’ve seen or done. Perhaps my most favourite thing to blog about is my daughter, Littlelish. She is after all the coolest/happiest/prettiest/funniest thing in my world. She IS my world. I am so proud of her and the little person she is.

Fast approaching 3 I keep finding myself stopping in my tracks, looking at her, how grown up she is. I can hardly take it in. I’ve had so much fun watching her grow from a tiny (well 10 llb) new born to the amazing ‘big girl’ she is today. We’ve had so many good times together. But the journey hasn’t always always been easy. I’ve never really shared our struggles with you because I am not a person who dwells on negativity. I love to focus on positivity and optimism wherever and whenever I can. But I’ve wanted to share this for a while now because hopefully this may help someone somewhere understand their child better and perhaps make their life a little easier.

During the past 3 years we have learnt a lot about being parents, who we are and also a lot about this beautiful little human being and how amazing and unique she is. She isn’t a carbon copy of me (or her dad), although she does look a lot like me. She has her own individual personality, her own traits and quirks that sometimes we’ve struggled to understand.

There were times I worried about Littlelish, quite a few times if I’m honest. I think every mother has a tendency to do it, we want to know they are doing fine, hitting their milestones on time, that they are ‘normal’… and Littlelish seemed different, different to other children around her. But what is so great about normal and why do we aspire to it?

nor·mal/ˈnôrməl/

Adjective: Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

Littlelish as I have learnt is anything but normal :) but she is truly an amazing, enchanting child who has taught us about human nature, love, patience and understanding.

As a small baby she was alert, ridiculously alert and wanting stimulation and interaction all . the . time. She was a happy and content baby, she hardly ever cried which in itself I now know to be totally abnormal! She had (has) these big intense eyes which would and still do absorb every tiny detail of the world around her. She’d sleep at most 40 mins in the daytime when other children were sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. At night time our angelic little girl was a nightmare at going to sleep and again not just a bit difficult like all babies but really, really difficult. Abnormally so. While other parents were putting their babies down in their cot and they were sleeping through the night she was taking ages to get off to sleep (sometimes hours) and waking up all through the night. She started sleeping through the night at about 1 years old but it didn’t always last and she has been through several phases where she would wake up in the middle of the night again, even more recently.

She wouldn’t drink from a bottle until about 7 or 8 months old, before that she just refused. In addition to this she could not settle in a nursery environment (I’m talking refusing to eat or sleep and turning a nice shade of purple with all the crying she did) which meant one thing, I could not go back to work. So I quit my job in marketing to be a stay at home mum. I loved it but one thing is for sure, all this curiosity meant Littlelish was demanding. She needed constant stimulation which was quite exhausting for me. I tried teaching her how to play on her own, leaving her to get on with things for a little while so I could breathe but it often wasn’t successful. If mummy was there to play with, talk to, learn from well that came above everything else and she was like my little shadow. It  meant I didn’t really get much done in the form of work or cleaning but her happiness came first and she was happy and so was I :)

She was advanced in every single area of her development and we noticed this more and more the older she grew. This was not really a worry though, she was bright, happy and loving. It’s just sometimes we would be surprised or taken a back by just how bright she was, the kind of things she could do or questions she would ask. It was noticeably unusual and at age 2.5 she was already asking existential questions about life and death, things that I did not know how to answer to a 2 year old. She also had an amazing eye for detail noticing things that most adults wouldn’t even notice. Now at nearly 3 she has an amazing vocabulary beyond her years, is reading phonetically and has a thirst for learning about the world around her which makes me very proud.

I know what you are thinking “a baby who is demanding, doesn’t sleep well, doesn’t want to go to nursery but is happy and bright?” well that sounds a lot like plenty of babies you know! But there were other things, things that had me worried.

Although extremely chatty and sociable she went through phases of being super quiet and aloof when we were out and about and playing with other children. While the other children were busy with parallel play she was busy observing them, watching their every move. I used to wish she would just sit down and get on with playing in her own world like the rest of them but she couldn’t. It was the same at soft play, she didn’t just dive in like the other children she observed sometimes trying to interact with the children by initiating games when all they were interested in was running around screaming. Sometimes she looked hurt they wouldn’t join in and this made me sad.

She also went through phases of being incredibly particular, everything had to be done in a certain way or she would be very upset. Part of it was her exerting her independence but part of it was verging on OCD. She had weeks when she would re-walk our corridor at home because she had not done it how she wanted to, getting increasingly frustrated with herself for not doing it perfectly. I tried not to panic but it did have me freaking out slightly.

She has always been cautious and has a high awareness for danger which meant we had relatively few accidents but also that she would often not climb up onto play apparatus because she was afraid of heights. Her high awareness for danger has always been apparent when she meets a stranger, particularly men. She is always very frightened of men for some unknown reason. She once told me she couldn’t talk to another man because she only loved her daddy (so sweet!). She would go through phases of being scared of more than just people. We always encouraged her to be brave and never pushed her to do anything she didn’t want to do. Despite this she is for example still unable to watch a television show without one of us sitting with her to watch it. I think it is the high level of stimulation that she just cannot handle on her own. She also holds her breath while watching and I’m talking about cbeebies here, not Jaws!

She was very sensitive about other things too, change being one, moving house shook her up for more than a month and she continued to talk about it for another 6 months! But also smaller things like the fact that the gardener came to mow the lawn (and also the daisies) really upset her. In her mind this was like murdering the daisies.

People would comment on how intelligent she was but I could also feel sometimes that people found her behaviour weird. Perhaps it was just my own insecurities but I used to feel like I needed to defend her. She was totally normal, just shy or sensitive or aloof? But sometimes I did doubt her behaviour myself. I’d often google Asperges, Autism, OCD, Gifted children… I felt like I needed some answers but I wasn’t sure what my questions was. Why? Why did she do this? Why wouldn’t she do that? Looking with hindsight I don’t know what I was really looking for I guess reassurance that it was all ok.

One day I found information about Highly sensitive children and then everything clicked into place for me. Reading through the article I immediately recognised the traits, all the quirky little traits that I’d never connected before. Could they all be put down to the same thing? Was she was highly sensitive?

A highly sensitive child is one of the fifteen to twenty percent of children born with a nervous system that is highly aware and quick to react to everything. This makes them quick to grasp subtle changes, prefer to reflect deeply before acting, and generally behave conscientiously. They are also easily overwhelmed by high levels of stimulation, sudden changes, and the emotional distress of others. Because children are a blend of a number of temperament traits, some HSCs are fairly difficult–active, emotionally intense, demanding, and persistent–while others are calm, turned inward, and almost too easy to raise except when they are expected to join a group of children they do not know. But outspoken and fussy or reserved and obedient, all HSCs are sensitive to their emotional and physical environment.

Is my child highly sensitive?
One way to know is to complete the online questionnaire ‘Is Your Child Highly Sensitive?’, which also provides a good sense of what is meant by a “highly sensitive child.” The items come from a longer list given to over a hundred parents and then statistically selected to best identify HSCs. It is one way to know if a child is highly sensitive, but not always accurate for a given child. Another way to know is to read more about the trait and decide for yourself.

So, what now?
First, appreciate that this is a wonderful trait. It is no illness or syndrome. Nor is it something new I made up or “just discovered.” It is an inborn temperament or style that is found in about twenty percent of children and of nearly all animals. Anything so persistent is not abnormal. It represents a strategy of taking everything into account before acting (the other, more common innate strategy is to act quickly and be first, then think later). The trait serves an important purpose for the individual sensitive person and for the larger society–for example, sensitive persons sense danger and see the consequences of an action before others do.

A quick read through this website  and I was sure this was what we were dealing with here. I ordered the suggested book immediately ‘A highly sensitive child‘ , desperate to find out more and it didn’t disappoint. It is a great resource full of practical parenting advice from newborn up to young adult especially for the highly sensitive child. I was lucky in that our parenting approach has always really been to explain things to Littlelish and not just correct her with strong punishment. Words and actions can really deeply affect a sensitive child so you have to be very careful what you say. Still there was an enormous amount of advice and ideas that I gained and will continue to gain from reading and rereading the book.

Interestingly the more aware I am, the more I understand, about her but also about myself as I discovered that I too have this personality trait. Almost immediately after finding this information my mind was set at ease… literally from one day to the next. There was nothing to worry about, I understood she is a perfectly ‘normal’ child with her own unique character. She may seem different to children around her but that is because she is different, we are ALL different. She isn’t a copy of me or her dad nor what we envisage a “typical” child to be. We don’t need to worry about making her “normal”. She is an amazing, exceptional child with many special gifts that we need to nurture :)

I’ve written most of this post in the past tense as many of these things were  phases that she seems to have grown out of now but she is still highly sensitive and as every phase passes another one arrives. The difference is now there is no worrying, only acceptance and gratitude of the beautiful character that is our daughter.