Do Parents of High Needs Babies Harbor Resentment?

high-needs-baby-mainDo parents treat their high needs babies differently when they are older? Do the early years with a difficult baby affect how you see or treat them moving forward? Do parents grow to resent their high needs child?

We recently returned from a trip where my parents graciously agreed to watch our two young kids (Rocco is 23 months, Giada is 8 months) for almost a week. The day we got back, my parents were physically drained, they looked exhausted. Rocco is in the middle of his “terrible twos”, but he’s manageable. Gigi, on the other hand, is a wild card—she’s completely unpredictable. For example, we have witnessed her cry with blood curdling intensity while simultaneously smiling and playing with a toy.

My mom joked that she finally understood what I have been saying this whole time — that if Gigi wasn’t so darn cute, we would have probably killed her. We get it mom, we’ve been there.

It was a relief that someone else finally understands what we go through with Gigi. By at least one account, she is a high needs baby. That means, our eight-month-old daughter is unusually high maintenance: had colic, is hyperactive, demanding, awakens frequently, intense, hyper-sensitive etc.

Even before Gigi was born, I knew she was strong willed. She just wasn’t happy in there. She had to come out early, at thirty-six and a half weeks. I would describe Gigi just as this other mom described hers—Gigi isn’t high needs, she’s vivacious.

I hate to compare, but at this age, Rocco had long since been sleeping through the night and we had hit a sweet spot with him where he wasn’t constantly demanding our undivided attention.

Given how difficult Gigi has been the last 8 months, with only the slightest improvement in her behavior lately, Jade and I got to thinking: is this just Gigi’s personality, or will it change as she gets older? If this is really who she is going to be (high maintenance, hyperactive, intense, demanding) is that someone we will like? Essentially, we are crossing our fingers in hopes that her behavior improves.

No matter what your parents told you, I bet they had a favorite. It’s human nature to choose favorites, right? I’ve taught kids from kindergarten through college age, and I’ve always had my favorites. I tried to treat them the same, but inevitably, I am sure I showed some favoritism.

Will Gigi’s challenging behavior affect how we treat her later on, especially if her behavior continues to be as difficult? Is it possible that we will be resentful and remind her of what a difficult baby she was?

I am sure you’ve heard of mothers that remind their grown children of the difficult labor they put them through, almost like the kid owes them something for the parents’ decision to bring them into the world. Will we use Gigi’s colic and high needs behavior against her when she’s older? These are all questions Jade and I have talked about, with no real answers at this point.

But, I’m not that concerned.

Gigi’s emotional self doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it bothers Jade. I’ve gotten (mostly) used to her sleepless nights and irrational infant behavior. Her ear-to-ear smile, accented by two tiny bottom teeth showing and a cute little dimple on the right cheek, makes up for my frustrated moments.

I’ve always been the type of person who quickly gets over a fight, who forgets when someone wrongs me, who hardly ever holds a grudge. So for me, her difficult behavior is just a minor inconvenience and I can move on. But my husband is another story.

Jade holds grudges and he never forgets. He readily admits it’s a weakness, but this is one character flaw that is difficult to change. He does his best to avoid people that give him displeasure and, although he loves his daughter, she has been unpleasant much of the time so far. He is concerned he might not be able to forget that, and maybe unconsciously hold it against her later.

Per usual, I scoured the internet to see if I could find an answer. Googling “do parents resent their difficult babies when they are older” felt really funny. But more than that, I couldn’t find many answers to my questions. I found this article about getting over resentment somewhat helpful, as well as these 20 tips for parents with a high-needs baby.

What I did find, is other parents’ experiences with colicky and difficult babies. Although everyone’s experiences are unique, it is always helpful to see that we aren’t alone, that other parents have gone (or are going through) something similar, having difficult babies. It is also helpful to see other parents aren’t afraid to voice their frustrations and resentments.

Jade may worry that he will resent her later on, but I know he won’t. I know because I see the way he (and she) lights up when they make eye contact and she smiles her beaming, dimpled grin. I also see the love in his eyes when we sing her special Gigi song (Jade’s rift on the horns of this Jay-Z song), and she giggles right along. Sure, we will both have many moments throughout their lives where we might not like our children at that moment, but we will always love them and we will like them most days.

I will try not to dwell on the negative, and see Gigi’s high needs personality for the positives. She is full of life, she is persistent, she is spirited, and she is determined. She is also sweet, happy, and very observant. I want to do everything I can to nurture who she is, even if that means 3 am snuggle sessions for as long as it takes and dealing with her roller coaster of emotions. Her cuteness and sweet side are too irresistible to deny.


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