Life with a “Difficult” Child: What You Don’t See


“She’s just not a happy baby, is she?” I still recall the slap of these words as we visited with a family member when our daughter was about 6 months old. She fussed. And cried. And then, for her grand finale, she screamed.

At the time, I was in full Mama Bear mode, wanting to be protective of our precious first-born. The audacity of anyone to make a negative comment about our bundle of joy!

But you know what? She really wasn’t a happy baby – or at least not most of the time – and definitely not in public. 

You see, I have what you may call a “difficult” child.  If you’re into jargon, then the official parenting term is “high needs.” While I hate to box my child into a restrictive label, she does indeed fit many of the characteristics.

  • Sensitive – girlfriend could be president of the drama club
  • Intense – the emotions (good and bad) are BIG
  • Active – never stops moving…like ever
  • Draining – see above
  • Unpredictable – if toddler mood swings are any indication, we are in for a real treat during the teenage years
  • Separation Anxiety – child loses her ever-loving mind if Mommy or Daddy aren’t in sight
  • Low Adaptably – there is zero going with the flow – routine is the name of the game
  • Self-Directed – “I can do it myself!” is one of the most popular phrases heard around our house

But here’s the thing  – the biggest thing of all –

There is so much you don’t see when you look at my “difficult” daughter.

You see my child throwing herself on the floor in a tantrum when something doesn’t go her way.

You don’t see her cuddling against us, proclaiming, “I love you so much”. You don’t see her come into the bedroom when I’m sick and say, “Hi Mommy, are you okay, Mommy?” You don’t see her run into our arms for a hug and a kiss before we go to work each day.

You see my child clinging fiercely to me while repeating, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” anytime you get just a little too close for comfort.

You don’t see her laughing with reckless abandon when we’re playing hide and go seek. You don’t see her jumping in puddles after the rain declaring, “This is fun!”  You don’t see her dancing like no one is watching every time the “Shimmer and Shine” theme song comes on.

You see my child shake her head and say, “No,” anytime you ask her a question.

You don’t see how expressive she is as she has animated conversations between her Minnie and Daisy toys. You don’t see her imagination bursting at the seams as a simple fabric swatch can become a blanket, an umbrella, or a hat. You don’t see her devour book after book, speaking enthusiastically through the parts she’s memorized.

Truly, she is a joy. The amount of laughter and fun in our home far outweigh the challenging moments.  My husband and I are better people because of her. So, don’t feel sorry for us when she doesn’t cooperate at a restaurant. Don’t give us that look of pity when we have to carry her to the car kicking and screaming because she doesn’t want to leave the park. Don’t tell us it will get better with time when we have to leave a family function early.

We love our girl just as she is – for everything that she is.

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Hello! My name is Mallory, and I am a Troy native. I now live in Beavercreek with my husband, our daughter, Greer (May 2016) and son, Smith (Feb. 2019). The first few years of parenthood have taught me that I still have so much to learn! I’m trying to figure it out with a little bit of humor and a lot of humility. I believe that we are our best selves when we are on vacation, that life should be more like a Hallmark movie, that local restaurants are far superior to chains, that birthdays should be week long celebrations, and that you can never have too many library cards.


    • Thank you, Cheryl!! Sometimes we wish our girl would show all the wonderful parts of her personality to everyone, but we are so grateful for all the joy she brings us!

  1. You described my third child/son. I have hopes of trying one more time for a girl, but this challenge is likely my last.

    • She is our first, so we have no frame of reference… we do joke that we can likely handle any kind of temperament now, which is a good thing because #2 is coming in just a few weeks! Thanks for reading!!

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