Parenting a sparkler

20130822-180346.jpg 20130904-225559.jpgBefore I had Jacob, I didn’t believe in colic. I thought it was a made-up word for a fussy baby, and that “fussy” meant a baby’s needs were not being met. I know a lot of people who still feel that way.
Until I had one of those babies.
Jacob was the most calm, quiet baby in the first few weeks. I actually recall (I am cringing as I type this) wondering aloud why other parents made such a big deal about this whole newborn thing. It’s so easy! [Go ahead, throw something at the monitor. It will make you feel better, and it’s not my monitor.]
Of course, my baby was a jaundiced baby. He was lethargic, sick. Once he woke up, he was a very different baby. He screamed. A lot. Thankfully for me, there was a solution, and that solution was never putting him down. Now, before you decide that never putting him down is a mommy problem, let me assure you that I looked into EVERY OTHER THING. Maybe it was his tender little belly, and so maybe he felt better upright, cradled against me. Thankfully I discovered babywearing, which allowed me to do semi-normal things like a semi-normal person. Maybe it was the fourth trimester, and therefore my job to make his life as womblike as possible. Or maybe, just maybe, I have a sparkler.
From The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, La Leche League International:
Maybe you’ve got a sparkler–an intense, sensitive baby who needs input, input, input! His only settings are high and off. That’s the downside. The upside is how truly bright and curious he is likely to become. You’ll work hard as a mother to this baby. Look for other mothers of sparklers, to share notes with. Keep your sense of humor and try not to compare your busy days with those of your placid-baby friends. And keep your little sparkler close to you–your presence and touch will often go a long way toward calming him.
I read this at a time that I figured our sparkly days were at an end; after all, he was quickly approaching toddlerhood and could no longer be considered any kind of baby! I was confused when, at 21 months (that’s a year and three-quarters for those of you who aren’t so great with math) he is still intense. INTENSE. And sleeping poorly. Picky about napping. When he is sick I get the ultimate show of his worldview: it’s all “mama” all the time. I mean, I can’t even go to the bathroom without him. Well, folks, sparklers can develop into what Dr. Sears calls “high-need children.” I don’t like this title as much because: 1. yuck on labels 2. sparkler was cute, sparkler was like sparkles, and who doesn’t like sparkles? 3. it sounds like “special-needs” and I feel that this is confusing. So read this article about the 12 features of a high-need baby.
In case you didn’t feel like doing that, I’ll summarize: it’s not special needs, just a more sensitive, exacting baby. He is intense, driven, and smart. As a small baby he was not easy to soothe, and needed to be held a lot. He cried, and there were times that I just didn’t know why. As a toddler, he knows what he wants and he has to have it. He is also curious and helpful. He makes connections between things he sees in a very sophisticated way for his age. He is very determined. He is also really in tune to the people around him. He is sad when they are sad. He tries to comfort other children when they cry. I hope this is the beginning of empathy, which is my main parenting goal at this stage. I believe that raising a generation of more empathetic children will actually make the world a better place.

Because these children are so sensitive, they develop great discernment and are able to consider the effects of their behavior on the feelings of others. They are able to achieve one of the ultimate qualities of self-discipline: the ability to think through what they’re about to do.

(From the Dr. Sears article linked above)
I believe that these qualities will work out well for Jacob, but he is a lot of work now. I also believe that it is no coincidence that he was given to a stay-at-home mom. A high-needs child would have a difficult time in day care, or dealing with frequent schedule changes. I know that in his first six months he really needed a lot of “touch time” with me, and there would have been no substitute.
He knows more words than I can count, he understands everything, he kisses my boo-boos and hugs me when I am sad. Sometimes I make him so happy that he grabs on to me with all the strength in his body and even rips out some of my hair. He is amazing.
But he is not easy.
There are times that I gaze over at the “easy” baby and I wish for a minute that my days were spent having fun and doing solo crafts during naptime, but that is just not in the cards for me. He is an “over-the-top” baby. Everything he does is an accelerated version of what other babies do. Of course, I believe that someday this will all pay off for Jacob, and I’ll be doing something incredible with my incredible sparkler.
I wouldn’t change him, given the option. But I might add some hours to my day and sleep through them.
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One Response to Parenting a sparkler

  1. michele says:

    My Dear sounds like you have a Genius on your hands…. his little brain is on overload looking for more and more knowledge which is good but unfortunately will wear you out ..Sue’s son was the same way and Veronica was too but in a slightly different way.Daniel is excelling in everything he touches now in his second year at ASU he Amazes me with his attitude and need for more knowledge….I mean he carries a 4.0 or higher in engineering which blows my mind completely.My wishes for you are patience and lots of rest.

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