I held my new born crying baby in my arms like she was the most fragile piece of china worried she would break in my arms just by being held. She didn’t break, of course, and many people told me ‘babies bounce’ and ‘they are much hardier than you think’.
Except my baby isn’t resistant.
Only it wasn’t her little bones that were precious and fragile, it was her mind.
How do you protect a child’s little mind from breaking?
She was always nervous. So scared to crawl that she eventually just shuffled on her bottom instead. So terrified to take her first steps I thought it would never happen. Scared of other people, frightened of noisy toys, crying if she was separated from me.
‘Some kids are shy’ they would say.
‘She’ll get there in her own time.’
‘She’s picking up on your anxiety’
‘You are an over protective mother.’
I knew my child though. I saw the fear in her little eyes. It’s more than how I parent and I was right. Eventually she was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. I was told she was anxious. I knew that already. She was different from all the other children. So much younger emotionally and socially. She was terrified of other people. A little perfectionist.
I watched on as what little confidence she had fell off her like leaves falling from a tree in the autumn wind.
Her mental health much more of a worry with each birthday she marked.
My daughter isn’t resilient. She can’t ‘shake things off’ or ‘let things go’. She can’t ‘brush things away’ or ‘just forget them’. Little things are major to her. Anxiety rules her life.
If she comes home from school and a toy has been moved she breaks down. If she wants something from a shop and it’s sold out she can’t sleep that night. If she gets a sum wrong or spells a word wrong her anxiety builds up to the point she won’t eat. She can’t cope with being wrong. That’s not my parenting that is severe anxiety, autism and mental health difficulties.
They told me children are not fragile. But my child is. Her bones are strong, her body healthy but her little mind is fragile.
I was right to hold my baby gently worried she would break. I could feed her, teach her, hold her, encourage her but I can’t make her mind any different to what it is.
My child’s mental health concerns me. I worry for her future.