Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Sensitive Child: Nature or Nurture?

I have often wondered how and why Jay is so sensitive. He was born crying and has pretty much cried every day since. I have read just about every book possible on raising sensitive children/sons and have picked up a couple of pointers. Some work others don't. I have combined these pointers and created my own strategy to help him cope with tears.

He was the baby in Gymboree class that was always in tears. He was the toddler in Kindermusik that sulked. He was the preschooler that cried at drop off until April. He is the five year old that tears up when something is not fair.

The Baby Whisperer identified my first born child as "sensitive."

He is.

He is very sensitive.

I have often wondered if perhaps I nurtured him into being sensitive or was is purely nature's call? Sure, I was over protective of my first child and rushed to his every tear. But was it my rushing or our genes?

Example 1
I started to clean up the legos that cover our dinning room table to prepare for this weekend's dinner party we are hosting. I noticed some legos under the table. "Jay! Jay, handsome, pick these up before I vacuum them up." The idea of legos being vacuumed sent him into a fit of tears. We all worked as a "team" to clean up the pieces.

Example 2
A couple of days ago, Lola's constant bratty whining really got to me, and in the heat of the moment I screamed out "I am sooooo tired of this whining! I am going back to work!!!" As an innocent bystander to our argument Jay started quietly whimpering. "But... but... but, Mama. I want you to stay with me all the time." Yup, I felt like the world's worst mother until Lola screamed "Good! When do you start?"

Example 3
Today Jay was admiring my necklace and I explained to him that it was a present from Daddy given to me on the day that he (Jay) was born. I told him that I would pass it on to his wife on the day she delivers a baby. His eyes started to fill up with tears, "Mama? Mama, I want you to have it forever. I will buy the wife something else." I wiped away his tears and smothered him with kisses.

These three examples are just from the last week alone. We continue to practice the secret, my personal strategy, which I think is brilliant and should write a book on. However, there are some days that he just cries. We talk a lot. I encourage him to use his words to talk through a problem or a feeling. It is a constant work in progress. It isn't exhausting work because obviously I am so in love with him and truly pray that my work will result in a confident man in touch with his feelings.

So, was be born sensitive? Or is it my mothering?

Today, I got the answer I have been looking for. Is sensitivity a product of nature or nurture?

My husband came home for lunch to prepare Hunter's belongings for his new loving and childless home. If you are just tunning in, see post below, we no longer have a puppy. His eyes were swollen, red, and filled with tears. Sure my husband teared up at our wedding and the birth of our three children but never have I seen him cry. Ever. He spent the majority of the day dragging his feet and wiping away his tears. Just. Like. Jay. Sensitive and loving.

The two men I love most are extremely loving and sensitive. The apple did not fall far from the tree. I love them both so much it hurts. And so. I think my husband needs a "secret" too. I'm just saying.

76classy comments:

Stacy said...

That is just too sweet! My little dude is pretty sensitive too & I , like you, have read all I can to 'figure him out'. I am sure it will serve him well in life. I mean, you husabnd is obviously a testament to that fact! :)

Don Mills Diva said...

Aww - lucky you to have two sensitive boys!

Jenn said...

I have a sensitive husband, but have yet to see that really come out in our son, but I can see myself and my husband in him in so many other ways. I think it's why we love our kids so much - they're everything we love about our parter, and hopefully a few things we like about ourselves all rolled into one!

renatamic said...

yes. i agree...sesitive jay and sensitive ohdaddy. but, possibly, just POSSIBLY could your children take after the women you choose to be their godmothers?? MAYBE?? fifi...with her it's just too soon to tell. but, lola is the mini-me to your sister kash and maybe jay likes to shed a tear or 20 like his godmother did when trying OH SO TRYING to say her maid of honor speech at your wedding?

i'm just saying...coincidence?? i think not.

krissy said...

My daughter is super sensitive as well. She wears her heart on her sleeve. I have wondered the same things, did I put her in the bubble or is it just her sweet personality. We all know the sweet personality didn't come from her mom!!!!!

Flea said...

I just read the tale of Hunter. Oh, how sad. no, being sensitive isn't a bad thing.

Melissa said...

It's great that you have your answer right there for you!

How sweet that you have not one but two sensitive men living under your roof!

Stella said...

How nice is that, that you have two such sensitive men in your life?!? I think your mothering has allowed something that nature put in Jay to come out and to do so in a very good and special way! Just like your husband!

I LOVE Lola's response to your going back to work!

Kathryn said...

Oh it is nature, baby! I am sure of it. I have three very different personalities in my boys and they were like that from birth. Nature!

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

I'm sure it's nature. He will surely be a wonderful partner one day! I read the other story too, and I love your Secret. Helping him find words to express his emotions will be helpful. This will also help him when he is in school, where others are no so understanding. I'm sorry to bring that up; I'm just saying you're helping him now will help him a LOT later, so keep it up!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

Both of my boys are sensitive too. Especially my oldest.

amanda said...

when i grow up, i want to be just like you - a perfectly understanding, totally get it mommy :) and when i go back to the classroom, i want a class of mommies that just as sweet and truly get it!!

how lovely is your secret and how adorable is lola's comment!!

Wendi said...

I love your little "secret". How precious. You are a smart OHMommy!

I think maybe you are right. Maybe Mr. OHMommy needs to be able to stay up tonight a 1/2 hour later. He needs some OHMommy attention. I'll bet he would agree with my suggestion.
I am just saying.

CC said...

What a sweet, sweet, sweet post!!

just jamie said...

Wait, is it possible that we gave birth to the *same* child?

Seriously, my son was born screaming. He is a twin and his sister was quiet and observant. I tried EVERYthing to calm him ... for months ... and months ... and years now.

So the nature/nurture question gets me all fuddled too. They were literally brought into the world the exact same way. Why is he so darn sensitive? Is it because I TENDED to him to the extreme and now he has *learned* this behavior? Or would it have happened anyway?

He'll make a precious husband one day, your Jay.

Jen said...

My Boy, although the middle of two girls, is the same way and I think it will be a wonderful trait to carry on into marriage, his wife will apprciate it! Unlike Jay, My Boy takes after his mom!

cyndy said...

I agree, your secret is brilliant! And your husband sounds wonderful. Like mine! :o)

tricki_nicki said...

Little Jay's comment about buying the wife something else gave me goosebumps! What a sweetie.

Jeni said...

My son was and still is -at age 34 -sensitive! And I am so thankful for that too as I firmly believe it is that quality in him that makes him a much better, stronger person overall. More men need to learn to accept their softer, gentler side as being a good thing to have, ya know.

Beth said...

I think it is definitely Nature. Although with my sensitive first born son I think I sometimes "encourage" that sensitivity by allowing him to cry at things he is old enought not to be crying and whining about.

I love your "secret"! What a sweet and special way to help him!

Lisa said...

You are such a good, sweet Mommy to your handsome little Jay. If more men were sensitive, our world would be a much better place. So here's to Jay - he'll be a wonderful man and hubby some day, and much of the thanks will go to his loving mama!!!

Irene said...

Oh, I definitely think it is for the most part nature. My oldest is very sensitive, she is exactly like me...crying at the drop of a hat.

Sweet post.

MamaWise said...

I love this post. My oldest cries everyday about something, anything. I still haven't figured out a good way to calm him since he is too young to understand everything I try to explain to him. My youngest however just looks at his brother like he's crazy. :)

XOXO

Happy Days said...

That is a great "secret". We do the same here for my oldest.

GHD said...

OhMommy, this is such a sweet post.

I agree it's nature, and any "nurturing" you try to counter it will only be counterproductive.

What a great mommy you are for being so understanding and supportive!

Kimber said...

I love example #3. I have very special neckalce (diamond cross) that was a birth gift from my hubby for my second child. I ahd not thougth of passing it along to his wife when she delivers ---not sure I could ever part with it. But I love you selfless idea. I also Love Jay's response. I HAVE fleetingly thought of giving it to Kate someday because she clutches it all the time and loves it.

i lvoe that you have a sensitive husband and are raising a son who is in tough with his feelings....they make the BEST men, husbands and fathers!

Crystal said...

When Madeline is 23 I am going to send her to your house to meet Jay (you know when they are home from college on winter break). He is exactly the kind of man I hope she meets someday.

Kelly said...

Jay's comment in Example 2 broke my heart and then when I read Lola's comment I had to LOL!!

My oldest is sensitive too and I have to try and take that into account when I talk to him. He reacts to things differently than the other two. In this case, he got it from me. My hubby is very sweet and sensitive but never cries. The smallest thing can bring tears to my eyes. You have some great guys at your house!

Stephanie said...

Can my baby girl marry your precious son? Such a sweetheart... I love the bit about the necklace!

suchsimplepleasures said...

first of all...i'm so jealous that you no longer have a dog!!

and...nature! my oldest son is exceptionally sensitive, too. he is going to be 12 and hasn't outgrown it. maybe part of it is my mothering. but, part of it is who he is.
xoxo

jimaie.marie said...

what a sweet sweet boy you have there!

LceeL said...

How lucky he is to have you as his mother. How lucky you are to have him as your son.

P said...

Wow! Your "secret" is such an amazing idea. I love it. I'll have to remember that to use in other circumstances, since I don't have a "sensitive" child. Yep, no sensitivity here. We are cold-blooded people. Nah, just kidding. You know what I mean.

Kristen said...

Ok, what are you doing with MY son. Seriously, cries at everything too. Alas, I read about your secret and honestly think it is worth a shot.

I agree that it is totally Nature. But, in our family, I am pretty sure the Nature came from me. Ay yi yi!

Again, you are a genius OHmommy! :-)

Ashlee said...

So, what's your secret plan? My oldest is a sensitive boy too. After 8 years, it's getting old. I love that he has a tender heart, I love that he is so sensitive....but the emotions get exhausting.

Rhea said...

Oh, I love the "secret." I may need to mold that into something that works for me. I have a very sensitive child who gets upset easily also...although he usually throws a temper trantrum. He can't seem to handle his own feelings very well...easily frustrated. Thanks for the idea!

And, super sweet post. I love how you see it comes from your husband.

Sue said...

My son is also very sensitive. My husband is also, but he's also very stubborn, and doesn't show emotions like yours does. He gets quiet and sullen and finds respite in reading privately.

Amy said...

What he said about your necklace is precious! Take care of those sweet sensitive boys of yours. The world could use a few more!

April said...

Oh what a sweetie...I love sensitive little boys...i DO believe they'll grow up to be sweet, sensitive men (like your hubby)!

April said...

Sounds like Jay's going to be just fine.

Tara R. said...

I don't know if being sensative, empathetic and compassionate are necessarily a bad thing. =)

THopgood said...

I have one of those children too...but I can't blame my husband's genetics for it...he got it from me. I cry at sad commercials! I cry if anyone else in the room is crying...I can have no idea why they're crying...but it still makes me cry. I'll be at funerals or weddings of people I hardly know and will cry. I've been that way my entire life and I've learned to just live with it. There's no stopping it. I've tried...very hard... because quite frankly, it's rediculously embarrasing.

jennie said...

my son is sensitive and my daughter is very insensitive, she's only one but already i see where this is headed. we too have a sensitive daddy but he rarely lets it show, i bet sweet boys make better husbands later down the road. at least that is what happened to me. :)

Kash said...

I remember a year in my childhood when I cried every single day of a year. I thought I would cry every day for the rest of my life. Not sure when it stopped but it did. Since it has, I never cry anymore, unless something major happens. As a child, your personality traits are so extreme. I know that they will setlle over time and Jack will become the most attractive bachelors ever with a good heart.

HRH said...

The secret is so genius and #2 had me laughing so hard I lost my lunch. LOVE IT.

Kash said...

Poor OhDaddy! I feel his pain.

Traceytreasure said...

Very touching and sweet! My son is too, very sensitive. Don't tell anyone because he's 16 years old. He'd deny it anyway! I cry when I see someone crying. I've been known to cry during a commercial! So, don't get me started, I'm trying to put on my makeup! I'm thankful for you and your sweet site! Hugs to you and your sweet family!

Cecily R said...

Isaac is super sensitive too. Sometimes I get nervous about it. Sometimes the world is hard on sensitive boys. But then I read stuff about men like your husband and look at my own (who isn't a crier anymore but was a kid just like Isaac) and realize he's following in some nice footsteps.

:)

Lisa said...

My son is sensitive too. I am HORRIFIED of sending him to school with 'rough' kids.
You need to read 'Real Boys'--it talks about how boys are actually much more sensitive than girls but conditioned to not show it (the boy code).

carrie said...

I know what you mean. Wyatt was born with more empathy and sensitivity than the rest of us, combined. While there are definitely things that "encourage" this behavior, there are also a lot of things that we shouldn't say to boys to "discourage" it as well, and I'm sure you know what I mean.

I've always just tried to let him be himself. He wasn't so much of a crier, he would hold things in. But a mom is always accutely aware and it made me so sad to see him hurting.

Talking about things helps so much, and learning that you can't control other people's pain (Wyatt would be so upset when bad things would happen to his friends, or if they were hurt, etc.) He is encouraged to talk about his feelings, and yet still maintains that sweet, sweet personality and caring spirit. I think give Jay a little time, and he'll too grow into a boy who can feel sensitivity and manage his feelings all at the same time.

You're doing a great job! :)

Shirley said...

You sound like a great mommy.

MCmommy said...

Talk about being sensitive!! I teared up at the part where you told Jay you are going to give your necklace to his wife when they have their first baby......awww!! That just melts my heart!

Autumn said...

I needed to read this today. I just blogged about my sensitive boy last week. I am at a loss at how to help him. He is exactly like your Jay.
Thank you for giving me another mothers perspective. None of my friends with boys have this issue.
I'll have to try your secret method and see if it helps.

Stephanie said...

How wonderful! I think you have an excellent "secret". While you don't want a "cry baby", it's great that he's learning to use his words. That's probably part of why he cries, because he doesn't understand yet how to communicate his feelings since he's young. You're such a great mom! And yes, he will make a wonderful husband. I think I've only seen my hubby cry MAYBE 3 times in almost 7 years. Sometimes, I pray for him to let go and use HIS "words" and talk to me. you're teaching him a great thing, OhMommy! Love it!

Motherhood for Dummies said...

wow! That neckalce story actually got my a little choked up! Seriously! What a sweetie! Um...with a boy that sweet I wouldn't mind setting my lucy up for an arranged marriage! eh? ha ha :)

The Immoral Matriarch said...

Awww! That's just too cute!

Angie said...

Very sweet. I love seeing emotion in my man. I hate seeing whining in my boys, but I like emotion. My 6 year old Gavin gets SO excited at life and is not at all embarrassed or shy to show it. I LOVE IT because so many kids today are so busy trying to be cool, you wonder if they are alive!

KEEP BELIEVING

Kellan said...

Oh, I almost cried at the thought of your hubby getting emotional over the puppy!! I love a senstive boy/man - they are rare!!!

Sorry about the puppy situation - I hope it all works out.

Have a good evening - see you soon. Kellan

anglophilefootballfanatic said...

Oh, poor hubby. Baby Whisperer said mine was highly sensitive, too. I wonder if it is partially being the first born?

Amy said...

I get gifts that are intended to be heirlooms when each of my children are born too. I doubt my daughters are going to insist I keep their rings like your sweet Jay did with the necklace.

Rob said...

My boy wanted to play football. He was the crier. He would tackle ANOTHER kid and then cry-not because he was he hurt but because he thought he had hurt the OTHER KID. I was always conflicted over that! :)

momof3crazykids said...

What a sweet post! I think that men should be more sensitive. He will make a wonderful husband someday.

Karen said...

I love example #3! How sweet!

penelope said...

It is definitely nature, but so great that you recognize and value the trait, and that's where the nurture comes in. Have you read "The Highly Sensitive Child" by Dr. Elaine Aron? Her books have been an invaluable resource to me as a highly sensitive person. She talks about the trait as just that, a trait--not a good or a bad thing, but definitely something to be acknowledged and handled in a certain way. I'm reading the book on children now, and it's great, provides many things to think about from your child's perspective. My kids are so little yet and I'm not quite sure if either one or both are sensitive, but I'm looking out for it. Either way, it's been really helpful in my parenting. Thanks for writing this post!

Kelly said...

Sweetie, that big gorgeous heart of your son's also comes from the fact that he has a mother who is a poet, who sees the human condition and cries, and laughs, and bleeds along with the people she touches. Yup. Jay is you, too. I think. His sensitivity, and your guiding arms, will lead him to true greatness someday. Of that, I'm sure.

Karen MEG said...

Sensitivity is a good thing, especially in men. Your hubs is lucky to have you; and your boy will make some lady very lucky someday too!

Sandy C. said...

Oh that is the sweetest thing ever! You are so blessed to have 2 sensitive boys. I've never seen my hubby cry. But I do have the daughter that says "Good, when do you start?" *sigh*

andrea j said...

My oldest is also sensitive. I'm so glad you posted this. I wish I knew how to help my son share his feelings better. He has gotten in trouble at school a couple of times and he could have just explained what happened to the teacher, it wasn't his fault.

Sounds like your son's love language is quality time! That's great you figured out something that worked.

Jen said...

Sensitive men/boys are the best! Your little man will make a lady very happy someday :)

Lizzy in the Burbs said...

Your little boy sounds like an incredible kiddo to me! We need more children like him, empathy is a wonderful trait! I personally think that kids are born into this world with their personalities already in working order. Of course, how they are raised, where they are raised, etc., play into it all, but I think if a child is shy, or outgoing, sensitive or not, it's part of who they are. Great post OhMommy!

Lizzy

mamatulip said...

Oh my goodness, this post brought tears to my eyes!

Julia is very, very sensitive - she sounds SO MUCH like Jay. I know she gets it from me but I have spent many a night worrying about it, wondering if I am showing too much, if I'm doing something wrong. It's so nice to read about your family, and that sometimes, people are more sensitive than others.

secret agent mama said...

I don't think it's bad that he's sensitive. Not bad at all. Boys don't always need to be rough and hard, right?

LunaNik said...

Nature...definately. I was a sensitive kid. Way too sensitive. Embarassingly sensitive. Thank goodness I've managed to turn into a cranky bitch in my old age ;)

Becoming Mommy said...

I think "sensitive" is nature. After all, if it were simply a matter of parenting, I wouldn't have seen the sensitivity in my son as a newborn. It'd have waited till later.

But the little parts of his personality he was born with? Those showed up right away. And I don't think it's bad. We're just trying to help him learn coping skills, which for his age means self-soothing (blankies, finger sucking, etc.). When he's older it'll mean something different.

Courtney's World said...

I would just like to say that I am the 1st born in my family, and your son Jay reminds me of me. I am 27 and still sensitive to this day. It will be great for him when he becomes married. Very sweet sounding boy.

Courtney

Courtney's World said...

I would just like to say that I am the 1st born in my family, and your son Jay reminds me of me. I am 27 and still sensitive to this day. It will be great for him when he becomes married. Very sweet sounding boy.

Courtney

 

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