The first year with our eldest is no party for us and this is an understatement. She is angry all the time, doesn’t laugh, is very demanding and she doesn’t seem to enjoy anything at all. ‘Raising kids is hard to do, but it is hugely rewarding’, they say: utter nonsense. I’m starting to think I’m just not suited to being a parent during the first year. Let’s just say it is not my nature to nurture.
She is less than an hour old and the nurse says: ‘This child is special, she looks straight at you, doesn’t she?’ She sure does. This little girl looks at me so intensely with those deep, dark eyes, fixing her gaze at me, and penetrating my soul. If she were not a child, the look would scare me. ‘An old soul’, a friend of mine says and while she is merely five weeks old, this tiny baby looks suspiciously like an old man. There she is, on my mother-in-law’s lap, looking up at her and I wonder: ‘Who is teaching whom?’ When she is only seven months old, she is pulling herself up and walking along ridges and edges. From that moment on people repeatedly ask me: ‘Shouldn’t you have her tested?’
I genuinely ask myself: why should I? Because she’s advanced for her age? Isn’t that a blessing, rather than a problem? How would a label be of help? Or am I being stubborn?
And like this we continue for a couple of years and intuitively we find our way with this child, which now belongs with us. We search for ways to live together that suit everyone. It is not the smoothest path, but we gradually understand that bringing up children is not all about happiness and roses. And then, one day, following a long period of time of surviving rather than living together, I look back upon our battlefield and I have to admit, I have done all I can, but it is not enough.
I need to know what we have to do to help this little girl find her peace. Being the loving parents we are, offering her structure, apparently it isn’t enough. It’s hard for me to accept that seeking help does not equal failure. With the greatest of hesitation – because surely there are many children worse off – I decide to seek professional help. But how should I tell my child?
Days after she is sick, she has a nasty cough that keeps her awake. She is scared to vomit as ‘it looks so grose’ and bitterly she complains ‘I am never going to get weee-eell again.’ She asks me to lie next to her and I do so. I ask her to think of nice things, such as the sun on her skin, eating ice-cream, going down the big waterslide at the swimming pool. ‘The waterslide is not very big’, she says indignantly.
And then, after a short silence: ‘I am always scared of losing you.’
It hits me like a sledgehammer, but I try to make it a lesson in ‘how to think of solutions’.
‘Yes I know, and then what would you do?’
‘I would walk home and wait and wait until you come home.’
‘That is a wonderful solution, as we will eventually always come home.’
‘Or I would ask someone to help me find my father, maybe I would ask dad, or you, or my sister, but then I cannot see…’
‘That you do not recognize us?’ I try to add, as she seems very serious about this.
‘Yes, because my head is always full.’ I tell her that I understand her head being full when she’s scared and we even laugh about it and then she suddenly says: ‘I feel like a scareme-cat, I am always scared.’
‘And do you mind being a scareme-cat?’ I ask her, as I wonder whether I am making a bigger deal of this then necessary.
‘Because I shouldn’t be’, she says quickly and then suddenly stops. She tries again ‘Because other children make fun of you.’ I think she doesn’t know how to express the feeling being different from other kids.
I know what I need to know, I already decided to seek help, now I know that eventually she will appreciate this.