It happens during most bedtimes. Birthday parties. Holidays. In the middle of the night after a bad dream, in the middle of the afternoon during a storm, in the middle of a movie that was a little too emotionally intense. It happens during times of stress. It happens sometimes with no apparent warning. Sometimes my kids have a hard time, and they need me. Not just need me, need me.
I am my kids’ person – their safe space, their sounding board, their human comfort object. I’m equal parts Mom and blankie, someone they’re drawn to when they need to regroup, hide, fall apart, or be reassured. It sounds like an honor – and truly, it is – a compliment to be the person they each turn to in times of distress, to be so trusted and needed and relied upon. It’s a privilege to serve my children in this way, a humbling reminder of just how important I am to them and just how fragile they still are… and it’s really freaking exhausting.
It may have been Grey’s Anatomy that first brought the term “my person” into pop culture awareness, when Dr. Yang needed help and knew she could count on Meredith – her person. It’s a fairly recent addition to common vernacular, but it’s always been a necessity, especially among the highly-sensitive. David had Jonathan, Alexander the Great had Aristotle, Oprah has Gayle, and our kids have us.
We are where they run when the feelings overwhelm.
We are where they turn when anxiety spikes.
We are who they test when their irritability is unchecked.
We are who they cling to when they can’t feel the solid ground beneath them.
We are who they call to, cry for, and sit upon. We are their anchor, their sounding board, their punching bag, their safe place. We are our children’s person, and we take it all.
We take the tears, the fears, the questions, the worries.
We take the rages, the growth spurts, the hangry rants and the hormonal tirades.
We ride the waves of joy and excitement and cling tight when overwhelm crashes down around them.
We explain and advocate for them publicly and yearn for a break privately.
We spend hours rubbing backs in the dark, researching by the light of a smart phone, reassuring, calming, holding, patting, drying tears, containing rages.
Related: What is an Intense Child?
We, our child’s person, are an extension of support, a calming presence they know will always be there in times of distress, someone who won’t run away when they feel the need to take frustrations out.
They reach out. They lash out. And we, our child’s person, get worn out.
When they need help, we’re the first responders, the first line, the first choice… and the last to rest.
When they need comfort, we’re expected, needed, called to, reached for… and exhausted.
We must always be available. We must always be willing. We must always be ready to pour from ourselves, hold tight to ourselves, no matter how empty or touched out we are.
Getting a sitter often means spending more time recovering afterward as your child clings to you until their sense of normalcy returns. Getaways get pushed. Date nights get crashed. Netflix binges are interrupted, alone time is nonexistent, tears are shed, guilt is crushing.
We, our child’s person, are exhausted. Drained. Desperate. Lonely. Somehow being so very close to someone at all times has resulted in a very specific kind of isolation. Sometimes we approach a fit with rolled sleeves and cracked knuckles, fully aware of our role and importance, fully capable to rescue and help and comfort our child. Sometimes, though… sometimes we just want someone else to handle it. Sometimes we just want them to self soothe. Sometimes we want the option of sitting alone, going out with friends, doing whatever the heck we want without being so very needed. We, our child’s person, must always carry with us the weight of their needs, ready to drop whatever else we’re carrying in case the load becomes too much for them to bear.
We, our child’s person, are worn, broken in, comfortable. We are responsive by way of muscle memory, the muscle being our heart. We have a space carved out in our selves in the exact shape of our child. Some days it’s a bunker built just for them. Our child in crisis fits right in and finds safety and solace. Some days it’s a callous formed from being the safe sounding board, the punching bag, the bearer of the brunt. Our child in crisis needs a place to unload and knows just where to drop the feelings they can no longer contain.
It’s hard being your child’s person. Very hard. It will exhaust and isolate you, discourage and depress you. It’s a lot to carry, a lot to bear. It’s an honor being your child’s person. Someone they know and trust and love enough to find and burrow into even in the midst of the most unbearable emotions. Someone they can find their way to, someone who makes sense even when nothing else does. It’s a privilege, a profound one. It is both heavy and heartening to be so very needed. It can take a toll on you – it will take a toll. You can’t farm this position out, and all the fatigue won’t earn you any awards. And all you can do is know that you, your child’s person, are making a difference, a world of difference, to someone who views you as their world.