Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Hard Ones: Parenting an Emotionally Intense Child

Let's talk about something no one really talks about: the hard kids. The ones people say are badly behaved, poorly disciplined, overly demanding, etc., etc.

The kids who don't offer a constant stream of easygoing smiles, giving hugs to any newcomer who asks, and who certainly won't just sit there and go with the flo in new situations.

No, they won't eat the new brand of pizza you bought, and no, they probably don't want to go to that new camp you've signed them up for. They have bad dreams, big worries, they yell and cry easily, they are often anxious or appear angry.

Intense is the best word to describe them.

I have two kids. One is hard, just like that. Yes, yes, people always say, "oh mine is hard too! They're all hard!" Well, sure, okay, to some extent, all children add complexity and challenge to our lives. Of course. But only parents with a child like mine really know what I mean.

Parents like me understand the heartbreak of watching their child's personality fall flat of a relative's or friend's expectations:

"Why wouldn't he give me a high five right off the bat?"
"Why won't she eat anything but crackers today?"
"There's something really wrong with that kid."
"Why did he yell at me when I won the race?"
"Why doesn't she want to run along and play with the dollhouse?"
"The kid just needs a slap on the butt; that's what he needs."

I know these sorts of things have been whispered about my son-- sometimes to my face, sometimes when they don't think I hear-- who is just 6 years old. It's exhausting, lonely, and hurtful.

Yes, I know these kids are intense. Trust me-- I KNOW. Not "tantrum every once in a while" intense. Not "oh, she gets fussy when she's hungry." Children like my son are constantly emotionally intense, almost right from the womb, if not before (I still remember the ultrasound technician chuckling at my roly-poly baby rocking out in my uterus).

Children like my son can be demanding, hard to please, anxious. The list goes on.

But here's the thing: they are still children, and if you take the time to peel back their crunchy exterior, they are sweet and have good hearts. Honestly, they haven't been spoiled rotten or ignored or overly-praised.

I don't think I did anything to "make" my son harder than your typical kid (though surely I've made my fair share of mistakes). On a good day, I call him my "grumpy old man," and find him quite charming and funny. In fact, anyone who makes the effort (which I know can be hard) to sit down with him for more than 3 minutes and tries to get to know him will find him to be just that-- a great little guy. A sharp-as-a-tack, interesting, affectionate, funny little person.

To the majority of the world who don't have an intense child, please consider taking a few extra minutes to embrace the quirks of children like mine. Please resist judgment. Resist thinking there's something wrong with them (or their parents). Try not to take their initial outer shell of protection personally; they've had to build that.

You might find they will surprise you. Most of all, please know your patience will not go unnoticed by the child or the parent. I can promise you that.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

P.S. For further reading on emotional intensity and high sensitivity in children, I recommend: 

Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students by Christine Fonseca. Prufrock Press, Inc.

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron.
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Monday, August 1, 2016

I'm on YouTube!

Yes, it's true: I decided to create my own YouTube Channel. It's about all things Frantic Mama.

You can find it here.

We'll see how it goes... I love to learn new things and to be creative, and making videos is another way to do that. I'm curious to learn more and see if people enjoy it.

If  you subscribe, you'll get updates when I add new videos.

Thank you!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is it so bad...

I'm realizing something more than ever this summer. Okay, it's something I've known for a while but haven't admitted to many.

Are you ready?

Are you really, really ready, and willing to withhold judgement?

Here it is: One of my favorite activities to do with my kids is watch shows.

It's out there. I said it.

This is our living room. Just kidding!

Why does that seem taboo to admit? I think it's because of all the "shoulds" I constantly feel. I should be stimulating their brains with puzzles. I should be organizing playdates and social outings for them. I should be working with them to create that impossible-looking Lego set someone gave us. I should...

And I do those things when I can.

But oh, how nice it is after a rushed morning, a difficult mealtime, or a harried trip to the grocery to to sit peacefully with my kids, often on the couch next to my son and with my little daughter on my lap?

It's one of my only my chances during the day to get off my feet. It gives me a chance to hold or lean into them. It's a time with little to no arguing (for a lovely 15 minutes). Are you starting to get it? It's nice.

So here I am readers-- I admit it. Watching a show (or two) with my kids helps keep me sane, especially this summer, as we have had oh so much time together. I urge you to find what keeps you sane too.

P.S. Curious to know what we've been watching this summer? A 1980's favorite of mine, the original Thundercats! It's weird and insane (the characters are half-person half-feline), but also kind of awesome. Add it to your watchlist if you dare!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Getting Older

I have a summer birthday-- June 9th-- so aging is on my mind. I never wanted to be someone who pretends to be another age (younger), or who hates her birthday and pretends it doesn't exist. Why not own who you are and all that you've accomplished?

Now that I'm in my mid-30's, I look at people who lie about their age less critically. Because I get it. There are hard parts of getting older-- physically and emotionally. It's kind of Pollyanna to act like you ABSOLUTELY LOVE getting older every year, isn't it?

I don't think most of us can honestly deny that we wouldn't mind getting rid of a wrinkle here or a sun spot there. I don't think many of us choose to let our hair go totally gray at age 30, do we? And I still flinch when the checkout guy calls me "ma'am."

A photo from my 33rd or 34th birthday (I honestly don't remember! Ha!)

In my 20's, I could pluck out those frizzly stray grays now and then (I started getting them early!) with a satisfying pull of the tweezers, but now if I don't add a bit of color in my hair, there's a definite gray cast around the temples and hairline. I'm not ready to go gray.

So while I own up to how old I am-- 35-- I don't think it's unforgivable to add a little color here, a little extra SPF there. We have to do what feels right to us as we get...older...yes, I said it.

All that said, when I reflect on my current stage of life, there are plenty of challenges (I won't go into those right now), but it's also pretty fantastic. I feel good. Happy. I have a lot of life left in me.

On Parent.co, I share 10 Reasons Being in Your 30's Doesn't Suck. I think my reasoning could expand to your 40's and 50's and beyond. I hope you agree!

Happy Birthday to all of you this upcoming year ;).

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Friendly Collaboration

Hello friends!

How is summer (here in the U.S.) treating you?

As you can see from the absence of recent blog posts on my site, summer is keeping me...busy.

Mostly busy in a good way. I love the warmer weather and the chance to spend time outdoors with my kids.

But there's also a lack of structure that my son especially craves, so that's a challenge. (Not to mention, my lack of alone time!)

However, I did have a chance to write and publish an essay, Life Imitates Art, for Mamalode recently.

I worked on it with my artist and writer friend, Swati, who you can find over at Mammabugbitme.

Swati's one-of-a-kind paintings inspired me to write about the experiences so many of us share in Motherhood-- whether we live next door to each other or across the world.

Mamalode's June theme was "You are Not Alone," and I think Swati's artwork exquisitely conveys that message.

See what I mean? Who CAN'T relate to this beautiful art by Swati?

I would love it if you headed over to Mamalode to read it and share it with any of your fellow mom friends who need support and encouragement.

P.S. And if you are in the mood for even more Frantic Mama fun, head over to Parent.co to read my essay, "All the Monsters My Kids Don't Know."

Happy Summer, everyone!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama