My daughter Erinn turns 5 today. She entered the world kicking and screaming and has kept our whole family on our toes since day one.
I stumbled upon the term “high needs” in the early months with baby Erinn when I hoped for a “cure” for my always-fussy, never-happy newborn who refused to be set down or held by anyone other than mom. I didn’t find a cure; but I found a post from child rearing expert Dr. Sears that explained the complicated, intense personality traits of what he has coined a “high needs” child. He and his wife researched this specific type of infant/kid when their fourth baby was significantly more difficult than the three prior and there were no apparent physical or neurological reasons. High needs babies:
- Do not respond immediately, or at all, to typically comforting things like nursing, rocking, drives in the car, pacifiers, swings or bouncey seats.
- Startle easily when sleeping during the day and have trouble falling asleep at night.
- Need constant movement – not simply to be held.
- Do not accept “substitute” care like babysitters or even other family members well.
There’s nothing wrong with high needs kids and it’s not a disorder; it’s simply personality-based and something that parents fare better to accept than to try to change.
If you’re a parent rocking what you believe to be a high needs infant, or trying to keep your shit together while dealing with a high needs toddler, I want to tell you something: there’s a bright side. Either high needs babies get easier, or parents adapt to their shenanigans (or both), but as these big-personality little ones get older, life with them gets pretty sweet. Here’s what I’ve learned about my own high needs darling Erinn in the past 5 years of parenting her.
The Intensity Goes Both Ways
When Erinn cries, everything gets wet. When she screams, her voice goes hoarse. When she’s angry, you should probably get out of the way. But you know what? When Erinn laughs, it comes from somewhere deep in her belly and bellows out, across the house. When she’s excited, it’s electric. When she’s happy, it’s contagious. Erinn is intense and when you experience those good moments with her, it reminds you what it really feels like to be alive. She pushes every button, from warm to frigid, and often within the same hour. I tried to get her to take a much-needed nap earlier today and she cried, and cried, and cried (and never fell asleep) saying “Mom! Why are you ruining my life?” When she got her wits (and happiness) back, she told me “Mom, you are the most beautiful, smart mom in the whole world and if I had glitter, I would make you a big crown that said ‘Best Mom’.” She’s all in, always, and it makes for some pretty incredible moments when you are along for the ride.
Loyalty is Fierce
In Erinn’s sky, her dad and I are her only stars. I realize that’s the case with a lot of 4 year olds – but she loves and admires us in a way none of my others ever have. Some days when she needs a little more attention, Erinn will ignore whatever her parents are trying to accomplish and plop herself right on our laps, or in our way. “I just want to be with you, Mom,” she’ll say. When my older kids complain, Erinn is the first to tell them all how great her dad and I are and why they are all wrong. She screamed at a toddler once on the playground who pushed her little sister and after I diffused the situation, Erinn stomped back over to finish giving the kid a piece of her mind. She loves her parents, her siblings, her grandparents, her teachers and a few friends she’s cozied up to at preschool. She knows who is good for her, even if she doesn’t realize that intuition gift, and doesn’t have much use for everyone else.
There’s No People Pleasing
Erinn has an internal compass with a true north that points directly back to her own self interests. She does what she wants. This makes parenting difficult sometimes but I find myself admiring this trait more and more as she gets older. Erinn is kind but unwavering. She’s sympathetic but impossible to persuade. She doesn’t budge – and if she changes her mind about something, it’s because SHE has changed her mind about it.
As Erinn continues to gain independence as she grows, I look forward to what her high needs traits will translate to in her life. May she always be the intense, loyal, strong woman she is today – and may I continue to witness it all for many, many years to come.
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Tags: 5 year birthday