It’s Not All Mary Poppins

She’s back!

Monday was too soon to tell you. It might have been a fluke. Tuesday I was still waiting to see if there’d be regression. But today? Today I think it’s safe to tell you: Poppy’s back!

My cheerful, chipper, happy, decisively enthusiastic little dumpling is back, back, back!

Remember 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 put some of the ideas in that book to use?

Well!

It took two weeks of consistent, diligent effort. I was tired at the end of every day. It’s hard work, particularly for an introvert like me, to pour out all that positivity all day long. But we did it!

Okay, not 100%. But enough that I have hope. Enough that she spends most of her days in her usual happy way.

It’s not that NBG still doesn’t make Poppy nervous. She does. But Poppy can now come into the house with her usual verve. She trots straight to the kitchen so we can make snack together. She doesn’t ask for a nap — until after lunch, which is a real nap, a nap for genuine sleep requirement, not an avoidance strategy.

We’ve even begun to work on the empathy thing. NBG (I really need a name for this child) cries, and Poppy will now hand her her bottle. Now, she essentially drops the bottle in NBG’s lap and backs away fast, but given that her response a mere two weeks ago was to burst into a storm of noisy tears herself and beg for a nap, this is progress. Significant progress.

It could be that a baby crying will always make Poppy uncomfortable, but she is learning — by doing — that she can cope with it. She is learning that anxiety may be uncomfortable, but that she can see it through, that it won’t harm her.

I can now talk about NBG’s tears directly. “I don’t really like that noise, either, Poppy, but poor NBG. She cries because she needs help!” Or, and more commonly, “It’s very loud, sweetie, but it’s just noise. Noise can’t hurt you.” Sometimes, “When NBG is sad and cries, that makes you feel sad, but you know what? You are not sad. Only NBG.” (Which is not precisely true: NBG’s tears make Poppy genuinely sad, but what I’m trying to express in super-simple terms is that Poppy doesn’t own the sadness, it’s NBG’s.)

I can warn her when a distressed noise might be about to happen. “When I put NBG in the stroller, she might fuss a bit, because she will want to start moving RIGHT AWAY, and we won’t be ready to go right away.” Then we’ll talk about what Poppy might do if NBG fusses — stand behind the stroller where it won’t be so loud, say, or even do something kind for NBG. Napping or running entirely away is no longer an option. Even better, Poppy no longer asks for a nap.

What prompted me to tell you this, though, is twofold.

1. Poppy is beginning to take pride in her new confidence. “I didn’t ask a nap today!!” she declared to her mother yesterday evening, with evident pride. Whee!

2. Today, apropos of absolutely nothing, Poppy stopped as she passed NBG, patted her on her wee red head, and announced, “NBG is my friend!”

Wow.

Now, she’s a sorta scary friend bytimes, but … friend! How about that?

We’re not out of the woods yet. Keeping her calm and stable still requires pretty consistent monitoring on my part, though I’m low-key about it, and am giving her more and more space to sort things out on her own. I’m steadily raising the bar: less matter-of-fact comfort and more “you can do it, kid, away you go and get on with it”. It’s still a struggle for her. Without support, she’d probably slip right back into panic and avoidance. She can’t quite manage on her own, yet.

And realistically, she’s only two! She may need support (and the occasional push) for years yet. So, yes, she still struggles.

BUT! It’s a struggle that she is steadily winning. Even more significantly, it’s a struggle which she now understands is worth fighting and which has rewards for her: confidence, competence, and pride of achievement.

I am so proud of her.

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September 26, 2012 - Posted by | books, individuality, Poppy, socializing | , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. I hope you’re proud of You, too. You also learned something new and put it into practice.

    Comment by My Kids Mom | September 26, 2012 | Reply

  2. Amazing work!! Poppy is lucky to have you as her carer. Imagine if she was in a group centre with 20+ other kids where her anxiety could have been largely ignored or missed and her avoidance behaviour would most likely have been encouraged or misunderstood. Great work Poppy, Great work Mary!!

    Comment by Tammy | September 26, 2012 | Reply

  3. Way to go Poppy! Way to go Mary!! Yes, she’ll probably need support and help to build her defenses so she doesn’t get overwhelmed if she has to be around very negative people when she is older. If she tunes in that easily people will dump their feelings on her especially if she develops compassion to match her empathy! But right now she sounds like she is doing amazing for a little girl!

    Comment by anabels | September 27, 2012 | Reply

  4. That is just wonderful! What a gift to you and Poppy!

    I loved these posts as I and a friend have high anxiety children. I’m on a waiting list at our local library for that book and if it as helpful as I suspect, I will be buying it. your step by step insights were VERY helpful! Thanks for your insight and willingness to share, it has helped me out immensely! 🙂

    Comment by Chelsea | September 27, 2012 | Reply

  5. I’m so impressed with Poppy, and with you. I tried some of the steps you laid out with Luna and her anxieties were under better control this week, just from making a few simple changes. So thank you. 🙂

    Comment by Hannah | September 28, 2012 | Reply

  6. bravo!

    Comment by katkins | September 28, 2012 | Reply

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

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

  8. […] have some small hope that the lessons she’s learned so far will help Poppy weather this new source of stress more smoothly than the last, but that hope is […]

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

  9. […] 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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