Raising a High Needs Child
From as early as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom. Being a mom was something I dreamed of even as a child. As someone who has been around children my whole life, I just imagined being a mom would be “easy” & I assumed motherhood would be a walk in the park! I quickly learned it was a walk in the park… Jurassic Park!
On July 25th, 2014 I was blessed with my first baby, Bennett. He was the most beautiful baby, with a full head of dark hair & the sweetest little features. He immediately changed my life for the better & it has been a fun, wild ride ever since. When he was around two weeks old, I started to recognize some of his “high need” behaviors. He was a happy guy, but he had to be constantly moving & entertained to keep a happy face. I was always on edge wondering what I would need to do next to keep my baby happy. Since he was my only child, I was able to fully dedicate myself into being the best mom I could be.
Bennett wouldn’t just “sleep” on his own. He needed the fastest swing, the loudest sound machines, & the darkest room. I can remember constantly shushing, rocking, & bouncing just to get him to fall asleep. Some days & nights were just mentally & physically exhausting. Sometimes I felt so alone, even when I had so much help. I felt like a failure. How were other people around me having an “easy” time with their new baby? What did I do wrong or what did I do to make him this way were constant questions that went through my head.
Bennett wasn’t “easy.” He didn’t go to sleep easily, he constantly nursed, & he hated the car seat with a passion! Just a simple drive to target for the essentials was daunting. I was envious of the moms that would take the baby on a car ride to get a starbucks so the baby could nap. I bought every toy for the car & googled all the “tricks.” I bought a mirror, a car seat rattle toy, a seat vibrator, a portable shusher, & so much more. Some of things would work for a while, but never permanently. I purchased every swing, bouncer, & latest gadget just to try & keep up.
Fast-forward almost four years now… I have had so much time to reflect on my parenting, my motherhood journey raising two babes. There is one thing I would like to say to myself four years ago: YOU are an amazing mother. YOU are doing everything right. YOU are doing nothing wrong. YOUR child loves you unconditionally. YOU are going to be okay. YOU are strong.
At almost four years old, being “high-needs” looks different than as a baby of course. Yes, it gets easier in ways & harder in others. It’s just different.I still have to lay with him to fall asleep at night, he rarely takes a nap without a fight still, he would rather not sit still, listening can be a battle, & he struggles with meltdowns- the kind that just take over & are harder to snap out of. Not tantrums. They are very different. I’m starting to learn though that he doesn’t want to have these meltdowns as much as I don’t want to experience them. We are learning together on how to calm his emotions & avoid the triggers. I’m learning to listen more & truly hear him.
When I reflect back on the struggles I’ve had raising a high needs child, I can simply say that it isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding. My children are my absolute everything. Raising a high needs child is in fact a blessing. As hard as some days were and are… I would NOT change anything about my son. Bennett is so full of life. He is enthusiastic, energetic, charismatic, entertaining, curious, creative, & strong. He lives life to the fullest & puts a smile on everyone’s face that he meets. I call him my “darling dragon.” A “dragon” is a child that is high-needs & strong willed & “darling” because well… he is darling! I always tell him he’s lucky he’s so cute! Basically, a “dragon” child or “dragony” behavior is what some would nickname a “high-needs” child. The following quote from Raising Your Spirited Child explains my darling dragon perfectly.
“The spirited child— often called “difficult” or “strong willed” — possesses traits we value in adults, yet find challenging in children. Research shows that spirited children are wired to be “more”; by temperament, they are more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and more uncomfortable with change than the average child.”
No one prepared me to have a high needs child, yet I’ve began to appreciate my sweet boy for who he is & all that he has to offer this world. He is incredibly sweet & loves me more than anyone in this world. He tells me he “loves me as tall as a t-rex” and as “wide as a blue whale.” I used to think parents whose children had “dragony” behaviors were “bad” parents, and now I know that is definitely NOT the case. Having a high-needs child has taught me so much patience & empathy for parents all around me. Some kids are just harder. Spirited children have some challenging qualities, yet they have some of the absolute best. They are incredibly loving and have such a sweet side that tends to melt our hearts just when they know we need it.
I LOVE my darling dragon boy more than anything in the world. Bennett’s spirit is contagious. My adventures with him are endless. I will always appreciate his creative soul, love for people, & excitement for living life to the fullest. My spirited boy is deeply loved and I know he will do great things. Our connection & love for one another runs so deep. Our bond has been inseparable since the day he was born. Yes, he is hard. Some days are so hard I want to cry, and many days I have. But, this does not mean that my love for him is any less. Parenting a dragon is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of work, patience, trial & error, and more patience.
The good moments are so incredibly great, so hold on to those moments. Don’t dwell in the meltdowns, the whining, the lack of sleep. It’s hard not to. I get it. Write down all the moments that make you laugh, smile, and those that warm your heart. Those are the moments that will encourage you on those darker days. Remember that motherhood is beautiful, exciting, & a bit messy! If you are parenting a high-needs child, you are NOT alone. YOU are doing an amazing job. The harder days will become less, and the easier days will become more. I am having such a fun time with Bennett right now watching him catch lizards, paint masterpieces, play soccer for the first time, catch bugs, play with his friends, & so much more. He is such a beautiful soul & I am incredibly thankful that I was chosen to be his mom.
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