It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Poppy Gets Brave, part 2

On Friday, I told you about Poppy and her Huge Anxiety re: New Baby Girl. It started when NBG cried those first few days, and Poppy, little empathy crier that she is, globallized that into a full-on fear of being anywhere near NBG.

She’d enter my house wailing and demanding an immediate nap, cry whenever she looked in NBG’s direction, and point-blank refuse to eat with us.

What to do? I’ve already explained how I’ve dealt with the refusal to eat.

Following a strategy in Growing Up Brave, I created a Bravery Ladder for the mornings for Poppy. The goal is that she come in happy, and join in the normal routines, without the need for her avoidance-behaviour ‘nap’.

1. Poppy comes in and asks politely for a nap, without tears. As soon as she manages that, she gets a nap. [Yes, I know. I am rewarding the behaviour I want to extinguish with the behaviour I want to extinguish. Ironic, no?]

2. Poppy asks for a nap politely, without tears, but before she gets a nap, we prepare the morning snack together. (Thus, the nap is deferred at least 5 minutes.)

This was what we’d achieved by the end of the first week. She was doing well. She would ask for her nap, yes, but I would cheerfully tell her that “First we have to make snack,” and she was fine with that. We’d proceed to the kitchen, pull a chair to the counter, and Poppy would chatter at me as I sliced fruit and put it in containers, fill water bottles, and tuck it all in our snack bag. She’d count pieces with me, she’d drop things in containers. Some days we were alone while doing this — Poppy is often the first to arrive — but some days NBG, who’s often second to arrive, would be there, too, sitting in a high chair while Poppy and I worked at the counter. By the end of her second week, the nap was being deferred a good half hour, and had shortened to ten minutes.

My focus in this Bravery Ladder is Poppy’s arrival, because it’s been so fraught with anxiety. Of course, sometimes NBG does cry at other, random times during a day (she’s a year old, after all) and Poppy will immediately leap to her avoidance strategy: “I want to go a nap! I tired!” At these times I have begun responding with compassionate empathy, “You’re not tired, sweetie. You’re feeling nervous because NBG is crying. But crying is just noise. It can’t hurt you.” I give her a hug, then I give NBG a hug, and then we move on. And there is no nap.

This is sooooo much better than two weeks ago! I am SO DAMNED GRATEFUL for that book!

Now, this week, we’ve moved on. To stage 3:

3. Poppy asks for a nap politely, but first helps me prepare morning snack, and then help me greet NBG and give her her first bottle of the morning.

This is where we are now. Poppy is coming into my home, and in a happy, cheerful, so-chipper voice, saying, “May I have a nap, PLEASE, Mary!” And I am saying, equally chipper, “FIRST we have to make SNACK!” Because this is now expected, Poppy is all, “Okay, Mary!”, and off we go to the kitchen.

If NBG arrives during this time, Poppy becomes somewhat solemn, but does NOT break into immediate storms of tears. She does start asking for a nap, but I tell her, “Not yet! We’re not done making snack, remember?” and she copes just fine.

I pop NBG into a high chair and draw her in so she can see what’s going on. (NBG, thank GOD!, is no longer crying when she enters my home, so she sits there and happily oversees our so-interesting activity.)

Sometimes I have Poppy give NBG a taste of whatever’s being prepared. We cheer if she eats it, and we laugh if she spits it out. (NBG is so FUNNY!!!)

When snack is done, we move to the living room, where Mary will sit down in the comfy armchair to give NBG her first morning bottle. Last week, I was putting Poppy down for her nap first. Now, Poppy is part of this. Now, Poppy will carry the bottle from fridge to living room, stand beside me as I settle myself and NBG into the chair, and then hand me the bottle. I get her to hold the end of the bottle, while I cradle NBG.

Of course, NBG is a year old. She does not strictly need anyone to hold her bottle, but it’s nice for her to get a cuddle first thing in a still-a-little-stressful morning, and it’s definitely nice for Poppy to be the one to 1) have a job to do to defer that damned nap, and 2) offer NBG some comfort and nurturing, so that she can feel compassion and competence instead of fear and revulsion.

It’s all good!

Next up? Step four, which has not yet happened. At this point, though I’m sure Poppy will still be asking for a morning nap, my response will be different.

4. Poppy will help with snack, help give NBG her bottle, and help get ready to go on our morning outing.

And there will BE. NO. NAP.


My response will be to say, lightly, cheerful, and just BRIMMING with confidence!!!!, “Oh, no. You don’t need a nap. First we make snack, then we give NBG her bottle, then we have to get ready to go out. There is no time for a nap. Get your shoes on, please!”

You see? Outline her successes thus far, and then, whoosh, on to the next thing.

She’ll be a little anxious, but I’m confident that with three weeks of steadily-increasing comfort/exposure to NBG under her belt, she’ll be able to deal with it.

That’s on for next week. I’ll keep you posted.

After a few such mornings, I am reasonably confident the nap request will diminish in intensity, from a desperate need to a mildly worried question and eventually she’ll … just forget she ever wanted one.


Yes, indeed. Daniel, with the advent of his baby sister, has dropped to two days a week, and so, starting after Thanksgiving (which, in these parts, is mid-October), we will be introducing New Baby Boy, for three days a week.

Poor, poor little Poppy.

Life is just so unkind…

September 18, 2012 - Posted by | behavioural stuff, health and safety, Poppy, socializing | , , ,


  1. Reading along and cheering for you and Poppy, because YAY! SUCCESS! It’s awesome and wonderful (and you can bet I’ll be keeping these strategies in mind when we get a new baby girl of our own next month).

    Then I read about the new baby boy and my heart sank into my shoes. Poor Poppy. Hoping the transition next time will be a little easier…

    I would like to hope that, but I don’t, not really. First, NBG had such an eeeeeasy transition. Hardly any crying at all. Second, it’s so hard on the heels of NBG. She’ll barely have had time to stabilize. Third, I’ve been warned by New Baby Boy’s mother that her son is “quite the crier”. [shudder]

    Comment by Hannah | September 18, 2012 | Reply

    • “Quite the crier”? OH GOD NO. Cringing in sympathy. At least our NBG is an easy-going little monkey who’s been here for visits a few times *and* has a soother perpetually corked in her chubby little mouth.

      Comment by Hannah | September 19, 2012 | Reply

  2. Remind me how old Poppy is? I think I need to buy this book! 🙂

    Poppy is 2 years, 4 months. The book is aimed at older children, school-age and teens, but the principles, as I discovered, can be simplified and applied to much younger children.

    Comment by daycaregirl | September 18, 2012 | Reply

  3. Oh, poor Poppy, two new babies so close together.

    As I was reading your posts (and cheering your success) I was thinking about how you should get Poppy to help with NBG. To be the BIG GIRL who has a really important job to help NBG because Poppy is such a BIG GIRL now. Then I see that’s exactly what you did this week.

    FIngers crossed for the introduction of NBB! Maybe get Poppy some ear plugs for those first few weeks 🙂

    I have to play that big girl card carefully. Poppy has decided that ‘big’ too often equates with losing something. She’s recently lost soothers and her crib because she’s a ‘big girl’. Now she declares, “I not big! I little!” if she thinks it’s one of those kinds of ‘big’. Poor little mite!

    Comment by Tammy | September 18, 2012 | Reply

    • Oh no, how terrible for her. Being a big boy is always the prized thing in our house. It’s a reward, poor Poppy might start feeling like being a big girl is a punishment.

      Comment by Tammy | September 21, 2012 | Reply

  4. Well done brave little Poppy! At least with New Baby Boy you know it is coming and can get in to heading it off faster before Poppy can work herself up to such a pitch. Also: I agree with Poppy – being big is way over-rated!

    I wish I could ward it off: Poppy’s response to NBG’s tears was pretty much instantaneous. Baby cried, Poppy cried, too, and demanded a nap. It was her very first reaction. The next morning, she was telling mum she wanted a nap as she arrived, and so it went…

    There are perks to being older, but it has its downsides, too, and unfortunately, hers all seem to be happening at once!

    Comment by anabels | September 19, 2012 | Reply

  5. […] how once-happy Poppy had vanished into a quivering, tentative, anxiety-stricken wobble at the advent of New Baby Girl (NBG)? And remember how, coincidentally, I was reading Growing Up Brave right then, and decided to […]

    Pingback by She’s back! « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | September 26, 2012 | Reply

  6. […] you haven’t read the other posts, the context for all this celebration is here, here, and […]

    Pingback by Give-away: Growing Up Brave « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | October 3, 2012 | Reply

  7. […] Poor Poppy. Poor empathetic, anxiety-prone Poppy. […]

    Pingback by Fingers Crossed « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | October 9, 2012 | Reply

  8. […] re-discovering her brave, Poppy has blossomed right back into the pre-anxiety girl I’d loved so […]

    Pingback by Sunshine Poppy « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | November 6, 2012 | Reply

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