Being dubbed “sensitive” is often perceived, or proclaimed, as a bad thing. Women and girls who are sensitive are categorized as histrionic or crazy. Boys and men who display similar emotional or physical sensitivity are written off as wimps. But make no mistake, there are truths sensitive children know that the rest of us just don't understand. And honestly, the word would be less of a dumpster fire if we could, collectively, pick up what these sensitive kids are putting down.
Now, let’s back up for a minute. I usually don’t like to do the whole “Webster’s defines whatever as…” trope, but I think taking a look at the dictionary definition for “sensitive” is worth it in this case. So, sensitive is defined as "quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences," and "(of a person or a person's behavior) having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others' feelings."
So, um, how is sensitive a bad thing? I mean, I guess I get it: some people are really sensitive. And if you’re a parent raising a really sensitive kid, things can get challenging because they have all the feels. It’s a lot to manage, and certainly there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s a tough world out there, so sometimes we have to show a bit of grit and toughen up. I’m currently raising a highly sensitive child, so I can understand. But I also have the benefit of having been a sensitive child myself and can, therefore, see where mine is coming from.
Fortunately, most sensitive kids learn appropriate coping skills as they get older and are able to function in daily life without having a meltdown. Case in point: yours truly (though I will admit to crying over at least one internet video a day and, yes, I’m considering starting a Tumblr about it). But we formerly sensitive kids can still remember what it was like as children. And so, in order to facilitate understanding between highly sensitive children and their parents, I would like to share some things these kids know to be true that the adults in their life may not quite grasp.
You Have To Be Nice To Your Toys
Not only do toys have feelings, but they depend on me for their continued happiness. If on the floor, all toys must be face-up, because if they’re face-down they can’t see what’s going on and that will make them anxious. Additionally, my toys will be sad if I don’t spend enough time with them, so I must have a system in place to assure that all my toys get played with and slept with in equal measure.
Toys are never to be consciously given away, and I must fight my parents on this issue with sobbing lamentations the likes of which they have never seen. (OK, they’ve totally seen similar sobs because you’re a sensitive kid and will cry at the drop of a hat, so they get it.) Any toy that is donated or thrown away was done so by my parents when I wasn’t looking. If they’re very, very lucky I won’t notice… but at some point, maybe years from now, I will notice. I always notice eventually, and I will cry and bitterly bring up my parents’ horrible betrayal until sometime after college.
You Have To Be Nice To Plants, Rocks, & Other Inanimate Objects
Just because an object doesn’t have a face, like a doll or teddy bear, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have feelings. My toothbrush, for example. Why, that toothbrush has seen me through a lot! It fought cavities with me for three whole months… and now you just want me to throw it in the garbage? Do you know what kind of rejection that poor toothbrush is going to feel? Do you know what a monster I will be if it can hear me brushing with my new toothbrush as it sits there, alone in the trash, under used feminine hygiene products, waiting to go to the dump?
How could you ask me to do such a thing?
Everyone & Everything Is Too Loud
Why is the world so damn noisy? The vacuum? Deafening and terrifying. Hand dryers in public bathrooms? Why don’t we just have little rocket launches in there going off right next to my head? You yelling at me? I am literally frozen in horror by the sheer volume of your voice, to say nothing of your temper (which I am also sensitive to, because of course I am). If you think this is going to get me to move you’ve got another thing coming. I couldn’t if I tried. You should take a few belly breaths and try again, at which point my sphincter may unclench just enough to get me to engage with you in a constructive way.
The Tag On The Back Of My Shirt Is Trying To Murder Me
It’s like a witch’s claws grasping at the back of my neck! Why are you putting this shirt on me?! This feels like dying! Get it off! Get it off! Stop trying to put it back on! WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU EVEN ON?!
If You Show Me Something I Deem Scary, I Will Wake Up With Nightmares For Years
I don’t care if The Wizard of Oz is a childhood classic, those flying monkeys are the most absolutely terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. Do you know what comes in second place? The murderous witch! Do you know what comes in third place? The scary trees that throw things at Dorothy and the Scarecrow! You know what comes in fourth place? The way the Witch of East’s feet roll up under the house after she’s been literally crushed to death! You know what comes in fifth? The Emerald City gatekeeper’s big fuzzy green hat. I don’t like the look of it. It unsettles me. There’s something up with it.
Look, I get it: I’m a fearful kid, but I have a vivid imagination and it doesn’t take much to set it off. I’m not blaming you for this… but I am asking for you to deal with me in your bed for about six months after something freaks me out until I can get a handle on my emotions.
Presenting Me With A Hypothetical Situation Is Emotionally The Same As Having It Happen To Me
If you try to put me in the shoes of someone or something else, or start a sentence with "Imagine if you..." in order to teach me empathy, please understand that I will empathize and empathize hard. I'm not saying it's the wrong parenting tactic, or that you shouldn't do it: it's actually going to be super effective... but, like, the way an atomic bomb is super-effective. This can hit me with several tons of emotional wallop, so use this method wisely and be prepared for the fallout.
Choices Are Very Hard
Even simple choices, like "chocolate or vanilla" or "playground or library" are rather difficult. Why? Well, because I can see a lot of possible outcomes — I do not lack imagination — and I don't want to miss a thing. As such, I'm thoughtful to the point of paralysis sometimes. Be patient with me: it's tough on you, but it's really tough on me, too.
Change Is Instantly Perceptible & The Worst Thing Ever
Things are meant to be a certain way... which is to say "the way I have come to expect them to be." As such, I will immediately notice any change in my environment and lose my damn mind. Did the applesauce company change the recipe to my favorite applesauce? Freak out. Is Daniel Tiger on at 7:30 p.m. instead of 7:00 p.m. like usual? I will hire a boys choir to sing a particularly tragic requiem mass all day. Did you get a new microwave? I'll be in my room, writing heartbroken poetry with a black crayon.
I know what you're thinking: "What do you even care about the microwave? It's not like you ever use it."
But. It's. Not. The. Old. Microwave.
If you can't understand that intrinsically, in your soul, then I don't know how to explain it to you.
I Have A Lot Of Really Good Feelings, Too
Remember when I started crying a little yesterday? Yesterday afternoon? Late afternoon? It wasn’t because I was scared of something, or sad, or angry, or confused, or tired from my fight against the demonic tag in my shirt. It’s because I was happy. Because I looked out our window and saw that the tree out front had beautiful pink flowers. And that made me think about how much I love Spring and seeing the baby animals and sitting under that blossoming tree with you. And then I thought about how much I loved you and I was so overwhelmed with joy that I had to give you that really big hug that you didn’t seem to see coming.
I Give Amazing Hugs
Because when it comes to the emotional stuff I don’t half-ass any of it.
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