I have a sensitive child. She has always been this way from the minute she was born. But she’s also resilient. You can see her working it all out in her head, trying not to lose it in situations that for other kids are easy or at least bearable, but for her take all the strength she has to get through them.
Today was Delilah’s third day of school but her first day of drop off where I didn’t walk her to where all the kids congregate before they head into school with the rest of their class. She was brave but scared as hell. She didn’t want to do it. But she did. I watched her walk slowly by herself and my heart ached for her as we drove away. I wanted to bust out of the car, run over to her and hold her tightly and tell her everything was going to be okay. But I didn’t. Instead I stayed in the car weeping, as Homer patted my leg and reassured me that both Delilah and I will be just fine.
In Glennon Melton’s TEDx talk, and often on her blog, she talks about sensitivity and how when she was growing up, sensitivity was something to suppress and to hide. Because we’ve all been taught to keep our issues and anxieties to ourselves, to be outwardly courageous, even when on the inside we’re climbing out of our skin, our sensitivity shows itself in different ways whether we like it or not. For Glennon, it with drugs and alcohol and through binging and purging. For others, it’s through cutting, sex or other risky behaviors.
I don’t want my daughter to have to go through years of suppressing her feelings because she thinks she has to in order to survive in this world. So I’m working on balancing my messaging to her. She can be brave while she’s outwardly crying, she can tell me and others she’s scared, she can let people know that she’s not into large crowds and loud noises, that she’s slow to warm up, that it takes her a little longer to let people in and that she doesn’t like letting go before she’s ready, but she’ll do so anyway because being sensitive doesn’t mean she’s not capable.
Glennon says that all these years later, she is still the same sensitive person that she was when she was eight, she has all the same fears and anxieties, the only difference now is that she doesn’t hide it or run from it. She feels her bad days and her good days, her highs and her lows and she speaks that truth every day.
I want this for my five year old. I want her to be able to feel her own pain, to experience her vulnerability, and rather than have shame about it, to own it wholeheartedly and with compassion for herself and for others. I want this for her right now. Today.