One of our friends always says: "You are only as happy as your unhappiest child."
Last week Tallulah, nine, was up all night with violent stomach pains. This wasn't the first time - in the past the pains have become so bad we have taken her to ER. She said didn't want to wake up the next day, didn't want to go to school and when I eventually dropped her off, her face was ashen, completely drained.
Last night Kevin and I went to watch her perform in a sweet little singing group and took her out for dinner. At dinner I heard a sound and wondered what it was. Tallulah had chuckled. That deep sweet chuckle only a child possesses. I've not heard that chuckle in months and maybe a year. I had forgotten what it sounded like. And for just those few hours last night she was a nine year-old girl again.
About two years ago it became clear that Tallulah was struggling with reading. In this she confounded everyone who's worked with her and knows her. She finds it impossible to read quickly and fully comprehend what she's just read. But she writes poetry, songs and stories for hours on end. We have spent countless hours trying to figure this out: sitting with her over homework, driving her to every kind of test a child can undergo, trying every tutoring technique I hear of. After 20 months of this, two experts are confirming that it doesn't make sense. They are suggesting that Tallulah is so consumed and stressed by comprehending her social world, she can't concentrate at school.
Now I am seeing how your every move can be paralysed by an unrestful mind. For the past two weeks I have absorbed all her hurt and more; I can barely sit for a few minutes, I feel tearful much of the time. I don't want to go out, I can't stay in. I am thinking, thinking, thinking, and knowing I cannot think my way out of this.
Tallulah spends hours puzzled and pained by the unfairness of what someone said to her at school, analysing why they would say that, why that person doesn't like her, what she could have said to make it right and better. She is a straightforward person and her head is spinning with the circulatory moves, the linguistic ducking and diving. She can't come up with a clever come-back and she can't shake it off.
Blubber, a book they are reading in school describes a scene in the girls' toilets where bullies attempt to strip a classmate. The scene is unimaginably cruel. But as another book Odd Girl Out points out, much pain also comes from the subtle, the almost imperceptible, the sometimes undefinable. That eye-rolling lip-curling look that passes between two girls over another girl's head, the "Let's run away from her". The replies that make it your problem: "I'm just trying to help you", "Just kidding" and "Why are you so sensitive?" Finding weakness: "You're so far behind, you'll never catch up now" The many, many small comments in a day that strip everything from you.
The truth is I am an imperfect parent of imperfect children. In a past year it emerged that one of my other children was hurting the feelings of a classmate. It was very tempting to take the defensive. Not our child! What did that other child say first? But we realised that a child can do and say things at school that they would never do and say at home. We took it on fully; there were consequences, talks and constant checking in.
The honest questions are too: is Tallulah more sensitive... "overly" sensitive? Will she have a difficult passage through life being so deeply wounded by others? How can we help her shrug things off?
I find myself longing for the days when she was a baby and I knew I could make her smile and laugh and keep her safe.
Tallulah's teachers have been amazing and I just love our little school which has been so right for our three sons. My friends have been so kind in listening. One friend who is going through a different harrowing time says: "We have to believe: This Too Will Pass." Is it time to move Tallulah on? Whatever happens, I cannot rest until she becomes a nine-year-old girl again.
Dream and Hopes, song by Tallulah, age nine.
I see hugs and I see tears
Everyone hopes and everyone fears
There was a time when everyone would dream and pray
And the monsters go away, come back a different day
If there's no breathing in the world for one special girl
Please don't leave her there, don't stop and stare
Dreams and Hopes means everything, Hopes and Dreams means nothing
Why does it go that way, please don't cry but please don't stay.
That was a beautiful post Jody. Having spent 15 years agonizing over my "poet" I completely understand. Tallulah's song is beautiful.ReplyDelete
i cant begin to say that i understand what you are going through because i am only at the beginning of my journey in parenthood, but my heart goes out to you... i too live by the motto "this too shall pass," although that doesn't necessarily make it easier to move forward.....you are a truly amazing mother who shows everyday that you will take on the world for your family and each one of your beautiful children can feel and see that - you truly love unconditionally and it shows . . . your daughter writes beautifully; and her smile is radiant ; i can almost hear her chuckle thru those photos . . . keep talking with her and with others, I think it helps so much to know we are not alone in this world ...xoxox EReplyDelete
Oh, Jody...This was just utterly heartbreaking and beautiful....Tallulah is so fortunate to have such a wonderful person as her mother and I am blessed to count you as a friend...We will never hurt more than we do for our children...my mom always told me this (after one of the many, many eye rolls I suffered from a particular classmate) and now I see she was right as I help my children navigate the often rough waters of school and friendships...T is a remarkable girl and her gifts to this world will be plentiful...ReplyDelete
As a teenager I suffered from debilitating depression for about 3 years. Now as a parent myself I can see how awful that must have been for my mother to endure. Tallulah is a special girl and lucky to have such a concerned, thoughtful parent.ReplyDelete
Yea, it's always tough when kids are having a hard time. I see a similar problem with my younger brother.ReplyDelete
And I am the same way in social situations but I'm starting to get over it. I used to always wonder what people would think or say about me but now that I've started my blog I'm getting more confident. So things will get better for her!
It's so hard seeing a child struggle, especially yours. There's a lot about what Tallulah's going through that I could relate to when I was young. Everyone thought I was overly sensitive too (I hated when my mother called me that), but I was eventually able to turn that into empathy and sympathy. I used that emotion in my acting. Sometimes what we think are weaknesses become strengths. Give her support and time and she will absolutely blossom.ReplyDelete
Have just read loads of your posts and have come back here to say thank you for popping over my place.ReplyDelete
I have a boy who is ever so sensitive and finding it hard at school as he is different due to his epilepsy and today we had a huge rampage when we got home about how he hated himself and his life and why did he have to have epilepsy and the was nothing I could do except be there to hold him.
As parents we are ferequently helpless, we have to remember we are here to teach them to endure and grow strong not to clear the paths so life is easy because it never will be.
I still wish I could wave a magic wand...
Talulah (what a beautiful name to match a beautiful girl) is very talented. She will do well.
With the kind of support you are obviously adept at providing to her, this deep sensitivity that is causing her so much pain now will likely serve her well in the future. It is that kind of sensitivity that is the foundation for some of this worlds most breathtaking works of art, compassion and positive change. It's unfortunate the side effects she is suffering, as well as the pain you are feeling as you watch her experience it... but I pray that you are able to take some solace in the notion that her struggle is not in vain.ReplyDelete
What a gifted writer she is.
My best to you, Tellulah, and to the rest of your family.
Tallulah is beautiful. Tell her that.ReplyDelete
I've been reading a book - sporadically - that seems to address things that make sense about my son. It's called "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It's not just about kids who have boundless energy, but who don't fit the mold on a variety of points. There is nothing wrong with my son, but I've found I need to approach him in a different manner to get results. It doesn't sound like there's anything wrong with Tallulah. She's sensitive. Too sensitive? I was "too sensitive" as a child. Now I'm a counselor and photographer. I also used to write poetry, feeling like I would go crazy if I couldn't write my feelings out in that way. It's too bad the rest of the world can't see how these things affect her, and cut her some slack. You know, I was similar... straightforward, not understanding the convoluted crap that infests some relationships and interactions. She's fine without getting involved in that anyway. And in time, she'll learn just fine how to navigate these rough waters... with your support and love and understanding, of course. ;)
(Sorry about the novel I just wrote.)
I just want to reach out and hug her and you. I know you're doing all you can to help Tallulah and she is fortunate to have you. Keep talking to her. By the way, I love her self-portrait and the song. She needs to know she is very beautiful inside and out!!! Charming, beautiful, smart girl.ReplyDelete
My thoughts are with you. I can't imagine what it must feel like for you at the moment as I have yet to experience that with my own child. You seem like a strong loving mother who definitely will do what's right for your family.ReplyDelete
Those photos are beautiful (I really like how they capture the moment!) and I do hope things will come right soon.
That song is wonderful! Clever and thoughtful.
Sorry, I had to come back to this. Just kept thinking about Tallulah this morning. As much as we try (as mothers) to protect our little ones, we can't. My son (who is a first-grader) told me one of his class mates got slapped on his face on the bus by a nine-year old. I drive my children to and from school, but next school year they will be riding a bus. They'll see, hear and experience things I want to protect them from... I'm not sure why I'm writhing this to you, except to tell you Tellulah's story touched me. I have not had to experience that yet, but I know it's coming Well, at least not to that degree. Nina (5 1/2) cried at her ballet class last week, she said one girl told her she did not like her... I told her not to say anything hurtful back, and that it really was little girl's problem, not Nina's. I think Nina is sensitive, and will be one of those girls who pleases everybody and wants to be liked and loved by everyone.ReplyDelete
Someone told me the other day (and it really sunk in with me) that we only are as unhappy (hurt, angry) as we let others to make us be. I know it's is easier said than done, but we need to know we are in control. Precious Tallulah, it's not worth her happiness. and yes, this too shall pass. She is in control of her life!
what a beautiful post. thanks for sharing so much! Tallulah's song was lovely and heart-breaking and amazing for a 9 year old!! I had a hard time growing up, perhaps we all did. I remember those days of feeling lesser than the other kids, of feeling a little different. For me, it passed in time. I was ahead of the game, but a late bloomer in many ways as well. Tallulah's spirit sounds similar, just remember than in time the hard stuff will pass. And, hold on to those fun moments (like at dinner) when life is easy and fun.ReplyDelete
i don't have experience in this area but it's a very thoughtful post! i hope things get better :)ReplyDelete
Tallulah's so beautiful!ReplyDelete
I have to read very slowly too! I was diagnosed with ADD and am VERY sensitive. I'm also a writer. Being artsy helps. Have you thought of sending her to camp in the summer? Traveling abroad, living abroad and going away to camp gave me a lot of confidence. You are a great MummyReplyDelete
Hi Jody, thanks for visiting my blog. I felt so sad reading this. My daughter has a lot in common with Talullah. She's very black and white in her outlook, things are good or bad and she struggles with the grey areas especially where friends are concerned. The saying 'not a nasty bone in her body' could have been written for her. She has a profound sense of justice and how people should treat each other. Sadly others don't always share her beliefs which has, at times, left her feeling stranded in a world who's nuances she doesn't quite understand. She was badly bullied when we lived in France by a group of girls who, up until that point, had been her best friends. She simply couldn't understand why or how they would act like that as it wouldn't even occur to her. She doesn't know how to be bitchy or unpleasant and had never even fallen out with a friend. It was heartbreaking to watch it all happen, especially in a school that had no policy for or interest in dealing with the problem. Two years later, we've moved back to England, her school has zero tolerance policy for bullying of any sort and in a more caring environment she is a changed child. Tallulah WILL come through this, especially with such caring, concerned parents. Sorry this has been such a long first comment but it struck such a chord with me. Take care xReplyDelete
Tallulah is a beautiful girl with such an artistic gift. My heart is with you... while I have no children of my own yet, I remember my mother saying to me when I was injured once that "when you hurt, I hurt." With a mother like you, Jody, I know that Tallulah has something very special to get her through her hard days. xoxoReplyDelete
This made me teary because I just love her so much. The truth is that this world is a far greater place because because T is in it.ReplyDelete
Have you ever thought of having a hardbound book made of her drawings and poems?
I need a warning before a post like this to grab a kleenex! Sniff!! I have a 9 year old as well. It's so hard to watch our little ones work things out in a big, big world. I know...I know. I can relate to her....I was and still am much the same. You are blessed to have her, she is blessed to have you and she was made that way for a reason. We all have strengths and I think hers will greatly outweigh the bad overtime. XO, KellyReplyDelete
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I have so much to say, and I don't know where to start or how to streamline (on this particular topic)... but I'll try.ReplyDelete
I've alluded to the fact in a very tiny way that I have had a difficult time with my son (13 years)- but I will share more specifically here. Last year (upon entering middle school) we had an extremely difficult time. He can be very sensitive, worried, anxious... He has always been this way to an extent, but in the past few years, it gradually got worse. His worries were extreme and debilitating. I'd pick him up from school and see a glazed over sad look in his eyes for the remainder of the day. He expressed constant worries about "big topics" in life... religion, death, sex... He worried about worrying. He went on a summer camp, and had an extremely difficult time coping- with being away, with the 'thoughts in his head'...
I too, longed for the days when he was my happy little boy. It caused me an indescribable sense of sadness, and anxiety. At the same time, I became a laser-focused "machine" trying to deal with this issue in multi-faceted ways.
And it did in fact pass. This year, he is back to his normal self. Your friend is right, and I promise, it will pass. I suffered from major depression and anxiety over various periods of my childhood (and one period during adulthood), and I understand what she is going through (and what my son was experiencing as well)- firsthand. The debilitating thinking, worrying, thinking...
One book that helped was called The Highly Sensitive Child (http://www.hsperson.com/pages/child.htm). Not so much in how to treat him, (since when I read this, he appeared to be coming out of this awful period), but more as an understanding- and appreciation- of his (and my own) "sensitive" nature... in a way that I've never heard it put before. It discusses the term "sensitive"- and what it really means... how it can not only effect how you react to others, but to sound, light, etc.
The fact that you are so in touch with your daughter, and will do whatever it takes to support her during this time, is the most profound thing that you can do as a parent. Again, it will pass. Thank you for sharing this story- for your honesty. With the exception of one friend, we felt extremely alone during our situation, and for many reasons- we couldn't turn to our family for support. It made it that much more challenging. The fact that you are able to share and have friends to talk with is extremely powerful.
Your daughter sounds like a wonderfully thoughtful and expressive person. I really feel for you, and for her: being bright and sensitive is certainly not always easy. My boys are only little so I've not had to face so much of this sort of thing, but even with my three year old starting nursery school, watching him (also a sensitive soul)make his first tentative steps into the world can be painful. It sounds to me like you're doing a great job as a parent.ReplyDelete
So very sweet. I love her little song. She sounds a little like my stepdaughter who is very sensitive and becomes very emotional when people say things to her. In middle school it was very bad for her, but in high school she has found new friends, a boyfriend and has joined drama and choir. So to say she is doing much better. I hope your beautiful girl passes through this soon. <3 As parents sometimes it hurts so much because there is little we can do.ReplyDelete
I think the thing that matters most is that she has a loving mom that will guide her in the right direction! Thanks for sharing this story with us, and I wish you both all the best.ReplyDelete
Thank you for writing this. I have a very sensitive daughter as well (she's only just a bit younger) and it is so heartbreaking as a mom not to be able to instantly fix everything for her. The poor girl is sandwiched between two outgoing siblings, so she often compares herself to them and gets stressed. Little by little, she is feeling more comfortable at school and in social situations. We just keep on keepin' on trying to help her feel more confident, and it's nice to hear that other families do, too...ReplyDelete
Gosh, this has made me all teary and I can only just about begin to understand how you must feel. I have been a very very very sensitive girl when I was little. And it did pass. Don't despair!ReplyDelete
Poor kid. Your little girl is extremely pretty and talented it seems to me. Did she do that art work too? She seems very creative and that, for some reason, seems to go hand in hand with being sensitive. It's hard to see the world logically and ignore cruelty when you're little. You just don't understand it at all I guess. I hope everything works out and she realizes everything will be fine. I mean she has you, that's a great start, right?ReplyDelete
I haven't stopped thinking about this post since you published it. It breaks my heart and even now reading it again my eyes well with tears for you and your sweet little girl. I wanted to write something inspirational or insightful, but i just can't find the right thing to say. But I too experienced it and know how much it hurts to be so sensitive and always feel like you are on the outside. I think this is what makes great artists and very unique self aware individuals. It doesn't take away the pain, but I'm sure she'll find herself and will prosper for having gone through this suffering. Hang in there!
What a talented girl. I believe that I can feel your pain. There are so many days when I long to go back to the easier stage. Two of my children struggle with Executive Functioning and ADHD and one has Dyslexia two are still too young to tell. One of my daughters cries at the drop of a hat. She cries when someone else gets in trouble.ReplyDelete
Have you had a psyco-educational evaluation done?
I would like to thank every one of you for your poignant, heart-felt, insightful, supportive and incredibly helpful comments and emails. I really agonised over whether to write about Tallulah's struggles. But I have been overwhelmed - not only by your generosity in spirit - but also by the amazing amount of information and research conveyed to us. To be honest, because of this, the cloud has finally lifted for me and I have been more able to act on your advice and organise more testing. And to simply be there and be stronger. Thank you all and I welcome all your ongoing advice. Arohanui, JodyReplyDelete
I remember reading this when you first posted it. My 7 year old son has been through testing this year, and they've found a similar situation with him. High intelligence, but he gets so worked up he can't focus or remember anything. He is also overly sensitive to the comments and behaviors of the other boys. I just don't know how to deal with the emotion of it all.ReplyDelete