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.

September 26, 2012 Posted by | books, individuality, Poppy, socializing | , , , | 9 Comments

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.

Ba-dum-pum.

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.

RIGHT ABOUT THE TIME NEW BABY BOY WILL START!!!!!!!

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 | , , , | 10 Comments