The Watchful Buddha Boy

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him…
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.”

-Pearl S. Buck

I remember being seven months pregnant and worried that my unborn son might be deaf. I had been to a drumming workshop, and rather than leaping around to the rhythm, as all the books said he should, my normally active baby was deathly still.

Three months later I learnt why. I had a highly sensitive, watchful baby. He did not react or respond to new sounds or sights, but watched, intently, Buddha-like in his serenity, until he was sure he had the measure of them, then smiles and gurgles a plenty.

In his toddler years this little boy commented every time the fridge or boiler clicked on or off, or a plane flew overhead. Whilst the rest of the children in toddler group raced and banged and whooped, he stood aside and observed the madness, noting the tiny wind propeller on the top of the boat’s mast outside the hall window.

His modus operandi was always the same: watch, wait and then quietly, gently make his move, carefully, with intent focus. For a while I worried that he was autistic, or something more than just shy or quiet.

I watched him watching the world. Learning his cues, his interests, his fears. There was nothing “wrong” with him in any way. Though the world seemed intent on telling me so. “How will he manage at school?” a friend asked. Wait and see, was my reply. We have to let him unfurl in his own time.

And that’s exactly what we did, with gentleness and patience, quietly being with him, helping him learn to challenge himself, but within his limits. Not pushing or forcing, but helping him to ease his way into the world as himself.

The reason we had absolute faith is that he has always been so affectionate, lively and responsive at home. He was quick to walk and learnt to talk “on time”. He is a real little performer who loves interaction: with people he knows.

But in public we have a different child. In England he is classed as shy, a term I dislike. In Ireland, with a term I have always hated: “strange”. Strange means shy with strangers; for babies it means unwilling to be handed from person to person without making a fuss. For a baby to go off with a strangers as happily as with its own mother, that for me is strange. Strange means not smiling at anyone who pokes their face into yours, or their finger into your belly – I wouldn’t giggle if a random person did that to me. But then I’m a little “strange” too!

Having read the Highly Sensitive Person book when I was in university, and found it helpful in explaining many of my “differences”, my mother suggested I have a look at the Highly Sensitive Child. According to author Elaine Aron, 15-20% of children are HS, pointers include children who are labeled shy, fussy, faddy, colicky (tick), startle easily (tick), hate loud noises (tick), are hesitant in new situations (tick, tick), have issues with food (tick) amongst many others. The tone of this book is very much aimed at helping you to understand your child, not solve a “problem.” Aron is careful to stress the many positive characteristics of a sensitive individual.

Our culture is not set up for sensitivity: we are bombarded with noises, smells and visuals from birth; we are constantly over-stimulated in our consumer-driven society. Our society does not prize quietness and reflection, but action; not thought, but speech. It demands that our children endlessly socialise from the minute that they are born. We are encouraged to stimulate their senses endlessly to raise their IQs from birth, with flashing lights and noisy toys.

I am so happy that we trusted ourselves and learnt about him by watching him and listening to his very real and slightly different needs, rather than the nay-sayers voices which surrounded us with doubt and worry. I am so grateful for the guidance and wisdom from Aron’s book, which I recommend whole-heartedly to other parents. We have the most wonderful, sensitive, thriving boy we could wish for: our precious Buddha boy.

The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them (Paperback)
by Elaine N. Aron


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)

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  1. Amy Phoenix
    Amy Phoenix01-12-2011

    Thank you for this insightful post 🙂 A friend recently suggested the Highly Sensitive Child for my son, who may be entering the public school system again. It is right on.

    Thank you for demonstrating patience, trust, and faith with your child – it shines through.

  2. Anonymous

    fabulous and so true Lucy, i love those books
    m-c x

  3. mamapoekie

    Great post! Using for sunday Surf. You are very correct that our society is very eager to label children as strange. I shared the new list of mental disorders in children in one of my previous posts and it is clear that it is only getting worse. Everything that deviates from the norm needs to be labelled, sedated and/or put away…

  4. I'm a full-time mummy
    I'm a full-time mummy01-13-2011

    Greetings from Malaysia!

    My son is kinda like yours. He will observe his surroundings quietly, keeping to himself until he’s sure he got all his perimeter checked and that it’s alright to venture on his own. He is shy around strangers (which is what I like cos I don’t want him going around being playful and open to strangers anyway)

    Do not let what other people says get to you. Our child is unique in their own special way.

    Btw, thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting! 🙂

  5. Dreamingaloudnet

    Thank you for all the comments. I am delighted it touched so many.