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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Learning to Love My Difficult Child

Written by Melissa Robertson

As she stood holding my newest baby basking in the winter’s morning sunlight time stood still.

“Her heart is skipping a beat,” my midwife explained as she tried to count the rhythmic sounds over the soundtrack of my kitchen.

My heart jumped to my throat as I involuntarily held my breath. After a traumatic first birth that included the NICU for my first daughter, a relatively normal birth for my newest babe had been an answered prayer; yet now I am hearing my perfect daughter may be imperfect after all.

In those tense moments in my kitchen I tried to recall every moment of my pregnancy and wondering where I had made this misstep, what did I do wrong to cause this?

A habit I have carried with me through the last three years of the ups and downs of raising my middle child.

It turned out Hannah’s heart was ok and it was something she would grow out of with time, but I will never forget that moment. Raising Hannah has been a challenge from the moment she entered this world. A challenge that changes and shapes your life, for better or worse, and I can either view it as a blessing or cross to bear, with my viewpoint changing depending on the day.

When Hannah was born she refused to sleep anywhere other than in my arms. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it. She still does. She was a happy baby who loved to give lots of affection and would always reach for hugs and kisses. As she turned the baby corner towards toddlerhood, her personality began to change.

Hannah became very fussy, easily upset and angered. Relatives noticed and began showing preference for my older ‘easy’ daughter and would avoid holding or spending time with my ‘difficult’ child. After time, I took Hannah to my family doctor who said she had a severe ear infection. I felt instantly guilty for obviously neglecting my daughter’s health and blaming her  behaviour on her being ‘difficult’ rather than an obvious medical condition. With antibiotics her demeanor improved, but then slowly reverted back.

Hannah began screaming. It was often and shrill. By now I had a newborn at home and it was an added stress. She was and still is extremely unsteady on her feet. She will fall an average of 10 to 15 times a day, more often when she is younger. She began lashing out in anger, often with violence. I asked the doctor again about her ears, but this time there was no medical explanation.

I began to seek the advice of those around me, but I was assured she would grow out of it.

Somehow my mother’s instinct was squashed with the exhaustion of three kids under three. I waited for her to grow out of it. She didn’t.

Her behaviour really peaked at about two and a half. At that age Hannah would have constant meltdowns and it was hard to get her to leave the house. My husband and I would try to bribe her to spend time alone with us (we called them ‘dates’) with promises of ice cream and trips to the toy store, but we would not be able to get her to willingly leave the house. I couldn’t take her to any playgroups as she would erupt in violence against another child and with an infant in tow, I began to choose isolation over constant apologies. At this time, we also enrolled Hannah in swimming lessons. Her inability to maintain her balance resulted in a few close calls where she would lose her balance and go underwater. She refused to participate in the activities requested by her teacher. In a moment of total humiliation I had to remove her from the class in front of an audience of stunned parents. This was one of our lowest points.

As time marched on, I was able to better manage Hannah’s behaviour. My oldest daughter got enrolled in preschool and I began attending the local Early Years faithfully with Hannah which we call her ‘special classroom’.  She developed a wonderful relationship with her teacher, and 18 months later, has began willingly playing with the other children in her program. Her anger is a little more manageable, but she still erupts in anger often. At three years old, she still constantly eats everything from paper to dirt, a behaviour her younger sister has long grown out of.  I still worry about Hannah constantly. I took her to a behaviour management professional who advised me it would take six months for her to be looked at and she would likely grow out of her behaviour. Six months later I am kicking myself and writing down symptoms to take to my family doctor.

Hannah is not a perfect child, but neither are my other two. I am certainly not a perfect parent to any degree.

At the end of the day, I am her advocate.

My prayers are for her and her prayers and for me. She is my daughter. She has blessed me, she has changed me. For better or for worse.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.