Thursday, October 25, 2012

Instead of "Please say Thank you." I think: "I trust you."

When I go and pick up Leander from the creche he comes running towards me and cannot wait to go. Well at least out to the front garden where the bigger children play. He does not turn back. He does not say „Good bye.“ I know that this is something I can not force him to do. But the teachers are making a real effort in meeting and greeting all the children by their names. Every day they say „Good bye Leander, see you tomorrow.“ Sometimes I ask him if he wants to say Good bye. Sometimes he does. Sometimes not.

I know that teaching a child when to say Hello, Thank you or Sorry is not necessary. And I don‘t. Yet there is this tiny bit of „Good behaviour“ that I have learned from my parents and the society‘s critical look sitting in my neck.

Then I remember how my mom used to tell me to say Thank you to my granny for my birthday or Christmas presents. And although I obviously had done it already I did so again and when we left the house I did again. And still wasn‘t sure if that was enough. When I grew older and Christmas presents resulted in a money transfer to my bank account my mom would call me to ask if I had called my granny. Again I wasn‘t sure how often I should call her to make sure she knew that I indeed was grateful. It was awful and even today I am sometimes not sure how to thank people. Is it enough to say it? Do I have to give something back? How often can one say „I‘m sorry“ so the other one really believes that I AM sorry indeed? How often do we say sorry, although we aren‘t really?

Alfie Kohn has made it quite clear: ‘Thinking a child is going to feel sorry just because you make him say he’s sorry? The only thing that’s going to do is teach the child to lie about his feelings!’

So no. No matter how much society expects my son to be well behaved. I am not teaching him to say „Hello.“ to somebody stretching out his hand towards him. Because I trust him that he can learn that himself. He watches us. Watches society. Carefully and closely. You might think is a little out of space, sitting in his stroller, sucking his thumb. Instead he is trying hard to get to know the world around him.

The other night I was lying next to him in his bed waiting for him to go to sleep. He suddenly sat up and asked: „Mommy, where are you?“ I said „I‘m right here.“ But it was so dark, he couldn‘t see me. So he startet crawling around to find me and he accidentally kicked his knee on my head. It didn‘t hurt much and I didn‘t say anything. Suddenly I felt a tiny warm hand stroking my forehad and Leander whispering: „I‘m sorry mommy.“
That‘s how I know that I can trust him.

Monday, October 22, 2012


When I was about 7 or 8 years old I told my mom that I couldn't eat the bread because it tasted like the dentist - the smell that is in the air and the after-taste of a dental procedure. She got really angry with me. I could not understand how she could NOT taste it. But obviously she was just annoyed that she had food and dinner prepared and then I came along with a silly sentence like that. I still feel how badly out of space I felt back then.
A few months ago I read an article on highly sensitive children and the title was "This tastes like energy!" and when I read that I felt so peacefully gliding back to Earth.

So I started wondering if I am a highly sensitive person. Since this isn't something you can quickly answer I am not sure if I am but many many situations in my life would suddenly make A LOT of sense. When I read that High Sensitivity is genetic I was very carefully observing Leander. So far I would say - he is sensitive. Yes. But not HIGH sensitive. And in the end - does it matter ?

If a child is wild, loud and active he has written ADHD on his forehead before he can actually spell those letters. If he is quiet, observing and easily hurt - he is highly sensitive. What does normal mean in our society? And - is it really desirable to be normal? Do I want my child to be normal ?

When I lived in Britain for almost 5 years I was struggling a lot with who I am and what I am. And what normal was. Coming from another country and a slightly different culture I did dare to question a few things including binge drinking, all sorts of food abnormalities, meaningless small talk, forbidden to use but perfectly neat front gardens, separate water taps... You name it, I questioned it. I felt like an Alien for not just accepting the things the way they were (and surely still are) but instead in a German and very direct kind of way asking questions that felt no one had ever asked before me. (Fortunately I met people who indeed had too, phew).

It might sound hard but one of the best British people I met was my therapist. He took me back to the right path. The one that lead to myself. I finally realized who I was and most importantly: that I was OK the way I was. So all fears of suffering depressions, anxiety or any other mental disease he shook off me and instead stood me right back up. Of course this was his job and not something he did the first and one and only time. But he did it so well that I didn't feel that before I failed and afterwards was fine but instead was fine all the way through just never realized it. I am still very grateful to have found him.

So it doesn't actually matter if I am a highly sensitive person or not. It matters that I have discovered that all the things that seemed so abnormal ALL MY LIFE are just part of me. They have formed me and if others have a problem with that I shouldn't worry.

And I shouldn't worry if others now tell me that my son is a little more sensitive than other kids and that there are "various possibilities" I could do in order to help him... yeah well... help him do what actually ? All I know is that what he needs right now are parents who accept him this way. And who support him in this by helping him figure out his feelings and emotions so eventually he will be able to name them and find ways to deal with them. If he does not want his rice because it tastes like glue than he can have something else. If he decides that he will not go to a kid's birthday party I will not (unlike my mom did with me) force him to at least go over there and apologize for being so rude. I will do all I can to make him feel confident about himself and to stand up for himself and all his weirdest thoughts and emotions. Possibly (and hopefully) without him having to visit a therapist or by reading an article at the age of 33 when he has kids himself.

Somehow I have got the strange feeling that through parenting along the RIE principles I am actually doing all this already. At least a bit. And maybe (as my dear friend Anna from Every moment is right pointed out) children who are raised respectfully, whose actions and emotions are taken care of instead of thrown into boxes and drawers with tags like "terrible two", "stubborn", "shy" or "another phase" etc. might turn out to be more sensitive. Well with only having one child so far and him being only 2,5 years old all I know is that he might have taken his time to enjoy sliding, climbing, playing with sand, sitting in the bath tub etc. - but enjoys those things so much NOW, is so careful and observing that I won't dare "doing anything about his sensitivity".