Parenting while highly sensitive

Deeeeeeeeeep cleansing breath.

Fires in wood burning stoves

Sleepy little girls in pajamas

Chunky quilts

White farmhouses

The smell of dirt

Sidewalk chalk

Butter-yellow tulips

Glowing sunsets

Gravel roads

Evening runs

The sound of the wind

Baseball gloves

Red beans and rice

I love me the weeks of March, but it is just the beginning of yet another one of our busy seasons–perhaps our busiest, with school coming to a close and both of the older kids playing ball. Sometimes (multiple times, everyday) I have to take a meditative breathing break in a quiet room (which doesn’t exist) just to make it until dinner time without totally losing my

um, cool.

…which has been known to happen.

If you’ve spent any time around me you might have picked up on my tendencies to flip the junk out. I’m a major freaker-outer. It’s taken me a long time to learn keep my emotions from getting the best of me–I always thought I just had a hot temper (I do) or that I’m over-dramatic (I am).

But I’m also physically affected by all the things–sounds. Smells. Lights. Movement. Touch. Pain. Activity. SOUNDS.

  • Dishes clatter in the kitchen and the dogs trot back and forth across the floor: my heartbeat quickens.
  • Kids shuffling around with backpacks, shoes left where they shouldn’t be, homework and mail strewn across a formerly cleared surface: I unintentionally contort my face and stare and focus on nothing else but the mess.
  • Waking up at 5:30 or 8:15 rather than 6:50 a.m.: my entire day is out of sync.
  • A sharp shrill sudden noise–a dog bark or a child shrieking: my heart leaps into my throat and stays there.
  • Someone comes home smelling like warm vanilla sugar body spray or fantabulous freesia nightmare lotion: instant migraine complete with visual disturbances.
  • Breastfeeding babies while cuddling one kid while another kid climbs on my back and then they all break out into recreational screaming: I can feel my pulse in my ears.
  • Caleb’s need to process all the thoughts in his head by relaying them to me vocally: my stomach knots up (because car dealers and bank executives and math).
  • Mia’s need to process all the thoughts in her head by relaying them to me vocally: my brain freezes up like a computer with a virus.
  • Crowds and traffic: my chest tightens.
  • Company for more than two days and my routine is disrupted and things are shuffled out of place and clutter is everywhere and activity is nonstop: I’m actually nauseous just thinking about it. (But I do love my company.)
  • Errands to run on any given day: full-blown panic attack the night before.
  • Silverware clanging, glaring overhead lights, kids jumping running squealing talking asking asking asking, tv blaring, shirt scratching, breeze blowing, phone ringing, piles of folded laundry existing. By the end of the day (and sometimes the beginning of the day), I’ve got my noise-cancelling headphones on and I’m trying not to cry. Scratch that, I am crying.

I’m on sensory overload. I’m easily over-stimulated

and it shows.

This makes for quite the suckish hell-on-earth when you’re a parent, period, much less the parent of several small children, one of whom seems to share your inability to handle a full-blown assault on the senses. (not naming any names, but:)

I’ve had to make some adjustments in how our family runs for my well-being and for the survival of my children.

It’s why I try to get enough sleep at night.

It’s why I make my kids go to bed by 7:00 p.m.

It’s why we read books and do puzzles and paint and turn on calming movies with subtitles on silent, rather than play video games or watch obnoxious kids’ tv shows.

It’s why I play gentle music and ocean sounds in the babies’ room.

It’s why we buy unscented everything and it’s why I forbid my daughters perfumes and lotions and it’s why I regift stuff from Bath & Body Works. (Sorryyyyy…)

It’s why I sometimes literally cry when Arbor screams and I’m doing everything I can to keep myself from screaming right back.

It’s why basketball games are just the worst. (Squeaky shoes, banging ball, shouting parents, uncomfortable bleachers, horrible whistles, hot and stuffy old-smelling gymnasium, loud crowds, and buzzers? Kill me.)

It’s why we take our kids to the mountains instead of Disney World.

It’s why I abused alcohol and destroyed my health and sanity in my second round of parenting littles.

It’s why I have a cow when plans change last minute.

It’s why I need advanced notice of everything and I don’t love surprises, like at all, ever.

It’s why I avoid loosely-coordinated group activities in crowded places.

It’s why I stopped volunteering for Wednesday night children’s church. (I will not back down from this no matter who asks my pastor to gripe me out: fifty hyped-up grade-school children yelling and running around in a orange room with fluorescent lighting at the end of a long day in the middle of a long week turned me and my kids into legit monsters every Wednesday night at 7:45 p.m., and it took us until Saturday to un-psycho ourselves; some folks can take it but this clan of McNuggets cannot.)

It’s why I wear my headphones and drink my ice water and draw and consciously try not to hyperventilate when it’s 8:00 at night and I’ve been touched and talked to all day and I can feel my head and my heart being so tightly wound up…

At the end of the day I am physically and emotionally drained; frazzled; fried to the point that I feel absolutely shell-shocked; sometimes even regular days with kids being regular kids is just hard.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Today was better.

About Toni

Mom. Wife. Artist. I take care of the kids and pretend to clean sometimes. I can cook spagetti and I have never been arrested. View all posts by Toni

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