Saoirse is–how do you say?–a sensitive child. She is funny, and sharp, and doesn’t miss a trick, as my grandmother would’ve said. But she also internalizes most of what she witnesses: interactions between other family members. Body language. The way she is treated in comparison to the way another is treated. She is, by all appearances, constantly weighing and measuring what goes on around her, deciding what is fair and what is decidedly not fair. The smallest slight will send her crumbling. She will focus on one tiny misstep–hers or or someone else’s–and be destroyed about it for hours.
She tends to cry.
I love this child more than I love the sun that shines on her face when she comes down for breakfast in the morning, all mussed hair and stuffy nose and sleepy smiles. And I love her intelligence, I love her insight. I love that she feels so much so deeply. But I don’t know how to tolerate this part of her, don’t know how to shape it, don’t know how to stop it when it reaches the edge and teeters before going overboard. I learned long ago–am still learning, really–that we can’t change the people we love. We either accept a person or change ourselves, right? And I just realized last week that SK’s sensitivity isn’t something I can change–it’s not a behavior I can alter. This is her personality. This is who she’s been since she was 18 months old and dissolved into tears because I told her she couldn’t have a piece of candy and she just couldn’t understand why not, because I swear that child does a mathematical analysis in her head to come up with a rationale for any grown-up decision. She never threw tantrums (well, one, but it was enough of a whopper to eradicate the need for any more for a solid decade). But cry, yes. Argue, yes. Justify and demanded reasons, yep.
She is her father’s daughter. And most definitely her mother’s. We are sca-rewed.
I say all this with the knowledge that our firstborn–all of our children, really–is happy most of the time. I mean, really happy: content to read a book on the couch, or play with her cars, or skip through the dining room until I holler at her to keep it down, already. She’s a happy little person–happiest when she’s learning, or when she’s discovering, or, basically, when we leave her alone and let her do her own thing, whether it’s write entire letters to her pet dolphins, or dump her clothes all over the floor. But she is sensitive, and I worry for her. I worry what the teenage years will be like, the transitions to college, to adulthood. Life is not easy for those who feel too easily. So I need to love her, still. I need to let her be Saoirse. But I also have to figure out how to guide her without indulging her. Take her hand without telling her which way she should go. Give her strength, even if she doesn’t yet know how to use it.
I just don’t know how. Not yet.
She is my daughter. And I need to raise her in spite of that.