There comes a point when a child realises they react and behave differently in various situations than their friends do. When that happens it’s a good idea to be ready with a list of positives to counteract the list of negatives that they will invariably reel off about themselves.
One of the most heartbreaking conversations I have had with my HSC was centered around the questions,
“Why can’t I just be normal? Why don’t my friends get full? How can they go straight out to play after school without feeling full from school?”
What do you think normal is anyway? I asked him. Normal is overrated. Who want’s to be like everyone else? Everyone is different. And different is not right or wrong, it’s just different. But the conviction is in the detail.
It wasn’t a one-off conversation. It’s one we have every now and then when he’s feeling down on himself: when he’s had a meltdown he couldn’t control, when he needs time out alone instead of being out playing with his friends. But he now knows that for all the downsides of being highly sensitive, there’s a long list of wonderful things about being highly sensitive.
He’s the first to notice someone is upset and to try and comfort them.
He sees the beauty in a robin red breast landing in the garden to feed from a fat ball he helped make.
He shows empathy beyond his years. He can imagine how it would feel in someone else’s shoes.
He’s incredibly creative and can amuse himself for hours with nothing more than paper, pens, scissors and glue. He loves making things. He loves drawing. These are the people who bring beauty to the world, the artists, the designers, the architects, the creators.
He hears things that other children tune out. He was the first to spot a deer running in the dunes a few days after he asked why he was different to his friends for the first time. He heard a rustling in the trees that the rest of us didn’t hear. He glowed with pride for a week afterwards, and still, months later, refers to that day and his ‘super ears’.
He notices the details. He knows when someone is wearing a new top. He sees a new haircut. He comments on it, gives compliments. He knows when something has moved or been removed in our home. He’s observant, a great skill for later in life.
He questions how things work, he thinks about things in more depth than others his age. These are characteristics of the engineers, the scientists and the inventors of the future.
He has a desire to make the world a better place. He takes the misery that some live in to heart. He asks how we can help those in need. These are the healers and the carers of the future.
He’s touched by music. Last week he lay in the relax tent we created for the boys with headphones on listening to classical music after a busy morning of school. He was in a world of his own, lying on a big cushion with his eyes closed, his penguin hat on to keep his head warm and I’m sure he could have stayed there all afternoon had he not been hungry, and been required to return to school……. These are the musicians of the future, brightening our world with beautiful sound, energising or calming us in a way only music can.
He’s cautious. He thinks before he acts. He weighs up his actions before he commits. He considers options and outcomes. For one thing, it means zero trips so far to the emergency room with him – touch wood.
He has an amazing sense of smell, which makes life richer. He’s also the boy to have around if a fire breaks out – he’d be an early warning system for sure.
There is no fobbing him off. He reads emotions, he feels beyond the words that are said. He notices the nuances. He notices when a mouth smiles but the eyes don’t. He demands openness in those around him.
He wears his heart on his sleeve. His emotions are there for all to see. It makes him vulnerable, but it also ensures he reaches out when he needs our support. He shows his affection and comes regularly in search for cuddles and hugs.
And that is something, as his mother, that I see as the most wonderful of all his highly sensitive traits. Long may it remain.