My seven-year-old pours some vinegar into a mixing bowl, follows with a good squeeze of ketchup, some cracker crumbs, a few tablespoons of flour, and a sprinkle of dried thyme. Adds a dash of vanilla, some leftover canned beans and the discarded crust from his breakfast sandwich still lying around on the counter. Mixes it all with a spatula with the confidence of a seasoned cook. Pauses to smell the mixture, then adds a glass of water and mixes some more.
“I’m ready. Can we bake it now?”
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Figure out the length of the pause. That was my main challenge in the first couple of months. The pause between the moment somebody asked my son a question and the second I began to answer it for him. Wait too long and it could mean risking him unnecessary embarrassment (as well as putting the asker in an awkward position). Respond too soon and it might deny him the possibility to answer for himself, narrowing the chance that at some point I might hear his voice in social situations.
Read full essay on Motherwell
He went on that ride with his Dad. At first I was sure he wouldn’t go. I stood behind the fence and watched them get seated and strapped in, watched the guard lower the safety restraint on them for extra security.
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I don’t limit screen time. I don’t give out stickers for good screen time habits or take them away for bad ones. I don’t impose rules like you must do 10 push-ups, 25 minutes of physical activity, 15 minutes of creative work, and 20 minutes of educational activities before using any digital devices. My son, at 7, uses his tablet on his own terms and on his own schedule.
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I wake up to a steady and dull thump-thump-thump outside. I look out of the window: grey sky and a heavy wall of rain. It’s Saturday morning. I breath a sigh of relief.
I put my head back on the pillow, close my eyes and take in the comforting sound of pouring rain for a few more minutes. Saturday indoors? No pressure to get dressed, get organized, and go “do” things? The complete guilt-free permission to stay inside and let the day spontaneously unfold, guided only by our minute to minute desires? What could be better than that? I know, just as I lay there listening, that somebody else in my house is relieved too. Martin, my 7-year-old son, like me, is delighted at an opportunity to spend a weekend indoors.
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“One… two… thrrr…” — He slams his tablet cover closed before I finish saying “three” and throws himself onto the floor, screaming. I sigh with exhaustion. We’re in the midst of another battle over screen time. This scenario repeats itself daily for many months: My 6-year-old son Martin reaches the end of his allotted screen time for the day but has trouble switching his tablet off, and after several attempts to get him off the device in a nicer way, I resort to angry counting.
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I’m always on the look out for books about and for highly sensitive children, or books whose characters I know Martin could relate to at this point. This book, All Too Much for Oliver is one that many sensitive kids would find a very comforting read. It is written by Leila Boukarim, and is inspired by her own experience growing up as a sensitive person, and as a parent to a highly sensitive child. You can learn more about this book and her other project on her website.