Lily is going through a rough patch.
Consequently, so am I.
Lily had a rough transition to daycare initially. It wasn’t drawn out, it took the fairly standard three weeks, but it was loud. No, it was GLASS-SHATTERING, eardrum-piercing PAINFUL. Not for the entire three weeks. By the end of the third week, she was fine. But while she was in transition? Ugh.
When she’d finished the transition? She was delightful. There was no more delightful child than Lily. Cute, cuddly, her default was glee. She took ‘adorable’ to a whole new level. Catching her eye in mid-grin always made you laugh. Always.
Note how all that is in the past tense?
Eight months later, she regressed. No more happy drop-offs. No more cheery waves. Now she entered wailing. And, for the most part, she stayed wailing. Well, whining or fragile. All day. Ugh.
What caused it initially? The theories abound… a change in the routine at home, a new kid in daycare, an ear infection, gramma visiting… all possible, but who knows? After a few weeks, whatever started it was no longer relevant, anyway.
I tried all the standard things. A new entry routine, more cuddling, ignoring the tears, being positive, tweaking her naptimes…
I talked to the parents about sleep patterns, because I certainly noticed it was worst on Mondays. Mom says they could be more consistent; Dad says they are. Hm.
So I provided them a sleep log. I charted daytime hours, they charted evenings and weekends. Separate charts. After three weeks, I collated them, and we discussed the results over tea in their dining room one evening.
Mom was right. (I thought she was.) Bedtimes varied by up to 90 minutes. Nap-times on weekends were essentially non-existent. Moreover, total sleep in twenty-four hours varied by 4 hours, anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. My nap-times were not consistent enough, either. Drop-offs varied by as much as two and a half hours. We all had some work to do.
Dad is still saying “It’s not so bad.” Mom points out the 90-minute bedtime variation, which he shrugs off until I say, “In order to be considered ‘consistent’, her bedtime should vary by no more than 15 minutes. Twenty at the very most.”
“Oh.” They both look startled at that.
I suggest that for a child experiencing transitional difficulties, consistency is very important. Predictability and routine are good, they provide a sense of stability. They give her certainty which she appears to very much need.
We leave the table with some strategies. They will choose a drop-off time and stick with it. Similarly bed-times. I will give her no more than 40 minutes nap after drop-off, and ensure that her afternoon nap starts at precisely the same time each day. I will employ a strategy they’ve use with good results, of giving her a positive word to strive for. Instead of “Calm and quiet”, I will try “Let’s giggle, Lily!” (It’s been working, not to make her instantly happy, but to shake her from the Misery Groove when she gets stuck, so you can shift her in a more positive direction.) We will continue with the charting.
And, after a week of our new regime?
I can see progress. She still comes in wailing, but it’s low-level. In fact, I’d call this morning’s entry more ‘whining’ than ‘crying’. Her mornings are still unsettled, but after lunch and nap, her afternoons are much better.
And yesterday? Yesterday afternoon I saw the Old Lily! The cheery, smiley, how-can-you-not-squooze-the-child happy Lily.
I am so relieved. Because really, I was beginning to think this was one of those children for whom daycare is not the best option. “It could be that Lily would be best off with a nanny at home,” I had told them, a thought which they said hadn’t yet crossed their minds. After a week of consistent improvement, I’m not thinking that any more.
But, lordy, I’m tired. My mornings are intense. Lily is always in my mind. I’m constantly monitoring her emotional state, ready to divert, to intervene, to distract. I am pouring out a steady stream of cheerful narration of our activities and doings.
And I’m seeing results. A concrete example: Mary needs to pee.
On Monday, I took her to the bathroom with me. On Tuesday, I told her I was going to go up to pee, and when the lower lip started trembling, I told her I would only be a minute! And then we would read a book!!! Which worked, if I was very quick. On Wednesday, I didn’t have to be so manically quick. On Thursday, I could tell her (and all the children), “I’m going upstairs for a sec,” and there wasn’t even a quiver to the lip. Progress.
But, goodness, I’m tired.
See, all week I have been upbeat! and happy! soooo happy!! ALL. THE. TIME!!! And you know? I am not that kind of person. I am a quiet sort. Low-key. Calm, not perky. Cheerful enough, but not bubbly. My forte is peace. And all this pouring out and pouring out and pouring out of positive energy, though it is rewarding in that it is moving the girl from her funk to a more positive state of mind, is exhausting.
I won’t do it long-term. I can’t do it long-term. I am seeing enough improvement already that I don’t think I’ll have to.
If it turns out, though, that when I return to my normal, low-key peaceful self (instead of the Manic-Peppy EverReady Bunny I’ve been this week) that she goes all Mr. Hyde on me again? Then it will be time for her parents to seek other care. Because if that’s what she truly needs, well, I can’t deliver.
Sometimes that happens. I will regret it, because Lily at her best is way beyond delightful! But I won’t feel guilty or inadequate, because I’ll know that we all gave it our absolute best, and, bottom line, we want what is best for Lily.
At this point, I still think that’s here with me. I’m hopeful this will work out.
We’ll see, won’t we?