This was a letter I wrote when my high need baby turned one to encourage other parents of high need little ones. I’m not exactly sure why I never published it, but it finally felt right to share for the “What I Wish I Knew” topic for this month’s Carnival of Natural Mothering.
Dear exhausted mama of that amazing little one who needs so much,
I can no more tie a pretty bow on this topic now than when I first discovered I was parenting a high need baby. There are at least a few things I’m pretty sure I know after one year parenting a high need baby. I mean, I haven’t slept more then ninety minutes at a time for over a year. Someone told me I would qualify for protection under international anti-torture laws for such sleep deprivation! I don’t know much I haven’t slept in a year after all.
I don’t have it all figured out. I have gotten frustrated and impatient. I am exhausted. I am pretty sure I’ve permanently injured my shoulder from hefting this big baby around so much. I’m pretty sure I’ve aged at least five years in the last twelve months.
You will suspect that people are looking at you like you are crazy when you tell them how fussy and difficult your baby is at home because he is so smiley and charming in public. You will probably start to think you are crazy. By this point I’m pretty sure I’m not and you aren’t either. I’m pretty sure these babies are born with these particular personality traits. We haven’t created them I’m sure. Most of them were even wild when they were in the womb. Others may tell you it’s your fault for spoiling them. You will mostly certainly have days when you blame yourself. It’s not true.
Those same people you are talking to will then probably start to give you advice, whether or not you really asked for it. Try to remember they are most likely well-meaning and not get mad when they give you ideas that clearly will not work for your baby. They have probably never experienced a high need baby before, and it is an experience isn’t it? “Just let him cry it out.” “Just lay him down once he’s asleep.” “If you weaned, he’d probably sleep.” They are wrong. Just smile, nod, and then completely ignore them. Trust yourself. You know better than anyone what your baby needs.
Get outside. The thought of leaving the house with your crazy little one will be so terrifying at times, I know. There’s something about being outside in nature that seems to soothe these little ones though. I’ve spent hours and hours wandering the streets of my neighborhood this year. Sometimes when it’s been a really tough day, I just take BabyE to the playground and camp out, refusing to go home until DH is home to help. Going outside isn’t always an option, so going out into any public space is a second choice. It is a great distraction for both of you. These babes seem to love being in public and will charm the socks off of most anyone they meet. The benefit of this for you is that their mood is often better when you get them out and about. The drawback is that their energy and excitement can be exhausting to harness.
We are parenting the future movers and shakers. They will be leaders. Passionate artists. Educators. Entrepreneurs. They will change the world because they have never known how to take no for an answer. They are not monsters trying to manipulate us parents or make our lives miserable. They simply have a lot of needs as the term high need baby might suggest. The best way, I believe, to approach such a child is to meet their needs as best we can. As I’m sure you’ve realized already, it’s the only option they really give us. There is simply no changing them. So we must just try and go along for the ride, and it’s hard, but it’s so worth it.
…little did I know that it was the second year with BabyE that would challenge me even more than the first, but it was these same attitudes and behaviors mentioned above that got me through, along with strength and endurance on two years of no sleep that could only have come from Above.
What parenting strategies got you through the challenging times with your little one?