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The Mirror in My Child’s Hand

Someone older and wiser than me warned me that my son would teach me more than I would teach him; that through my experience as his parent, he would, in his innocence, show me more truths than anyone or anything else ever would. I didn’t deny what my friend told me, I just wasn’t sure how it would manifest. It has begun and it is amazing.

My child cries a lot. Now, I know babies cry, a lot, every day, all the time, over everything—but even experienced parents have mentioned that he cries more than what is considered usual. I think he is what is considered a high-maintenance baby. He isn’t very good at playing by himself for very long and he requires a lot of interaction. Toys get boring quickly and he’s easily frustrated. He demands to be held constantly. He cries at the slightest injustice. I realized that out of the box, so to speak, my child is quite emotionally fragile.

Through most of my life, I’ve had similar characteristics. I require a lot of sharing of my emotions to feel like I’ve conquered them, much to the dismay of some of my friends. I am easily bored by things that I’ve mastered quickly; I like constant interaction with other people with random spurts of isolation thrown in for good measure. And, like my son, I don’t really want to be held when I’m upset. I’ve got too much “upsettedness energy” to be contained in a hug of compassion. (I’d rather be held or hugged after I’ve calmed down.) I have often wondered which of the nature vs. nurture argument would explain my personality. I think its nature. I, too, came out of the box like he has. I guess I can’t blame my parents anymore!

My son has held a mirror up to me in the scant thirteen months he’s been alive. I see how the constant demand for emotional attention can be draining on others to the point of them not caring anymore about the same old stuff. “Enough already,” I heard myself say to him as he whined and cried at my legs while pulling on my pants to be picked up. “Can you stay occupied for three minutes while I change my clothes and put on shoes?” No, he cried back in complaint of my putting him down to play. The trick for me will be to teach him the tools that I didn’t get. Tools that will help him manage his emotions without isolating himself from the companionship he so desires. I didn’t get these skills taught to me, I had to learn them from the School of Hard Knocks. I don’t want my son to feel misunderstood growing up in a world that may not care how he feels … and how he feels so deeply. I want to be able to let him know, really know, that I do truly understand how he feels.

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