Tag Archives: parenting

Parenting my High Needs Toddler

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I had never heard the term high needs baby. It was when my baby turned eight months old and developed separation anxiety that I started googling the term clinginess and separation anxiety. All the websites talked about how it is a phase and it will get better with time, once your child realizes that mama always comes back. Interestingly I hardly ever left my child, the first time I left little H was when she was 3 months old and my husband and I decided that we really need some time for ourselves. So we left her with the very excited and doting grandparents and went to Dolmen City Mall. Now those of you living in Karachi must know that cellphone signals often disappear in Hyperstar. So while we  were happily doing some grocery shopping our darling daughter was causing an uproar and driving her grandparents insane with worry by her incessant crying. Oblivious to all this drama once we exited the mall, both hubby and my phone started ringing madly. And so we returned to a distraught little girl who only stopped crying once she was comfortably snuggled with mama and having a late night snack 😛 After that I only ever left her when she was napping in the afternoon for a quick shopping trip.

The next time me and hubby decided to go out was on our anniversary and again we were rewarded with a repeat performance where little H refused to be consoled by either grandparent. After that we just accepted that we can only leave her if she is sleeping. Little H was around 1.3 years old at that time.

One interesting thing which I observed was that since little H was a baby, if I  had to go somewhere and was trying to make her sleep she would never sleep. She would get the vibes that oh mama has to go so let us pretend to be really fussy and not go to sleep or keep waking up so she is not able to go.

It was not only that H had an issue with me leaving, in fact she had an issue with me doing anything which took away my attention from her! That involved going to the bathroom, showering, cooking or any chores. And she wanted was to be carried ALL THE TIME. From the minute she woke up to the minute she went to sleep, she constantly wanted to be with me. And so I mastered the art of cooking a three course meal, doing laundry, cleaning while balancing a toddler on my hips. Thank God little H was always on the skinny side or I am sure I would have developed a hump on my right hip 😛

Anyway all the websites proclaimed that it is just a phase and will go away on its own usually by the time the child is two years old. So I waited eagerly for her second birthday. She was also starting preschool once she turned 2 so I was hopeful that that will also help make her less clingy. I should have known better. Four months of going to school and although she is well settled in playgroup now but her clinginess at home and when we go out shows no sign of abating.

I of course have been given all sorts of advice, that I should just leave her, should not pick her up, be more assertive with her and blah blah. Her teacher told me to just tell her that mama’s hands are tired and she cannot pick you up. I tried that for a week, but it just ended up with a limp noodle stuck to my legs, howling her head off. And she had the stamina to keep crying for ages, if I removed her from my legs, she would just follow me and hold me tightly. A week of this and I just started wondering what I was doing to her self esteem, as trust in the primary caregiver i.e. mother makes up the foundation of a child’s self esteem. I being a firm proponent of attachment parenting never believed in the crying it out method, but was willing to try anything by that time out of sheer frustration. When that failed I again turned to my best friend, Google. It was then I discovered the high needs child and a great article by Dr. Sears. Here is the link http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/high-need-baby/12-features-high-need-baby.

When I first read that article I felt it was talking about little H. Since birth she has always preferred by arms to anything else, nursed very frequently read every fifteen minutes, wanted to sleep with me and not in her crib, was very difficult to wean from the breast, and still awakens at night at 2.4 years.

To all those moms who have a high needs toddler or baby, I want to tell you there is nothing wrong with your child and neither with your parenting. Most importantly you are not spoiling her by holding her or attending to her needs 24/7. Your job is to encourage her to be independent but at the same time do not push her away from you when she is not ready. Her trust in your ability to meet her needs provides her with a life long sense of security and a strong self esteem. It is only for the first few years of her life that she needs you this intensely and she will soon grow up. Also read this article by Dr. Sears http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/high-need-baby/12-lessons-our-high-need-baby-taught-us. It really sums up my feelings.

Happy Parenting!

Enjoy your child!

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days are long but years are short

It is a beautiful day here in Karachi. Sunny with just the right amount of chill in the weather. Not enough chilly to make you pull out a sweater but enough that you will break out in goosebumps when you do Wudu for Fajr. Little H is finally sleeping after waking up at 5 a.m. and driving me crazy for two solid hours! Little Madam wanted me to sit and pat her to sleep forever and if she caught me closing my eyes or lying down a tantrum will ensue. H’s latest quirk is having me pat her for ages while I sit. I am not allowed to close my eyes or lie down. It does not matter whether it is 12 a.m. or 3 a.m. or whether she has woken up for the zillionth time, the same procedure must be repeated. I am seriously thinking why haven’t a mechanical mommy arm been invented!!! I feel like one of the handmaidens of Mughal times who were supposed to fan their mistresses all night in the hot Indian summers. So here I am rewarding myself with some me time with a huge breakfast, a steaming mug of tea and my laptop. Of course my heart jumps whenever I hear a voice from the bedroom. and that is every few minutes because  being a mommy means hearing an imaginary baby cry all the time. So not good for my poor heart, I tell you.

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Anyway I was ruminating about this quote someone said about motherhood, about how the days are long but the years are short. So true. Sometimes I feel like it was just yesterday that I brought H from the hospital all bundled up in pink. I do not remember much about the first six months. It is a blur of marathon breastfeeding sensations, and never ending poopy diapers. I look at other people’s babies and I wish I could go back to little H’s infant hood and take a moment to just cuddle her and stare at her perfect little hands and feet. As is the tradition here, when all the extended family came to visit me after the baby, the aunties will look wistfully at the baby and say enjoy this time, it is not going to come back. And in my mind I would go like I know it is not going to come back but how am I supposed to enjoy with a baby who refuses to ever sleep, cries incessantly combined with a difficult post partum recovery.

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Once little H turned around eight months, she developed extreme separation anxiety. No one was as good as mama and no place was better than mama’s lap. She wanted to be held all the time. I googled stuff, all the websites said separation anxiety will abate after a few months. I waited and waited but no as she grew older it just got worse. She just wanted and still wants her mama. And not just to be around me, but to be held by me. I grew increasingly frustrated as it was literally impossible for me to do any cooking, cleaning or other chores. I once even burned her while trying to cook while carrying her. Guilt made me miserable for days after that. But still stuff had to be done. I can now cook a three course mean while carrying her. Mommy superpower! I am sad that despite all the useless advice I got on H’s clinginess, nobody ever told me to buy a baby carrier and wear your baby! H has always been a very perceptive baby so the more frustrated I got with her, she would absorb my anxiety and cling to me even more. In retrospect I realize I was unconsciously pushing her away. If I could just have let her be and spent time with her, her clingy phase would probably have ended sooner.

seperation anxiety

After two years, I have realized the chores can wait, everything else can wait but my baby will only be two once. She would be this adorable and cute only once. So now I try to cuddle her longer in the mornings. When she beckons me to come play pretend games with her, instead of a hurried no I am busy now, I try to take two minutes to give her my full attention and do what she wants to. It is amazing how five minutes can make a difference to a child. They will be happy with just the five minutes you sit with them and will often go off to play by themselves after that. You do not have to sit and play for a half hour and let your chores wait. Life has become so fast and filled with never ending to do lists, social commitments and chores that it is very easy to consider your children as a distraction from all that you have to do. I have been guilty of that. But we need to remember children are our greatest priority and they will be young only once. So mamas, sit down, stop what you are doing, look in your child’s eyes, give them a hug and go start a pillow fight. Go create memories!