The Separation Anxiety of Lord B, and how we helped him overcome it OR Part One of the biography of Lord B (it’s kinda long)

I was going to wait till this was complete before publishing it, but it’s already almost 2500 words, and who’d read it if it were any longer? And all the readers close the window. Anyway, here’s part 1, and hopefully the subsequent parts will be riddled with Success and Independent Children.

10/08/12

Lord B has never been a particularly adventurous child – normal toddler stuff, I suppose, but certainly not as outgoing and fearless as many of his contemporaries. As time has progressed, he’s become even more intolerant of strangers and mere acquaintances, and even more attached to us, Daddy in particular. He’s also very attached to Nanny and Granpa (sometimes he likes them better) and greatly enjoys time with his godfather, and has a few good friends such as Cousin Rowan. But he’s suspicious of most people, doesn’t like lots of children being boisterous, and flat out refuses to join in group activities like Mainly Music.

This is all fine. It’s him. He’ll get better at people and groups with time and encouragement. I usually feel the same way about them, so it’s not hard to not push. The only real problem is that, at around 2 3/4, he suddenly developed an acute case of separation anxiety.

At first he was just being cheeky, not wanting to stay in his room at sleep times. We let him do things his way for a wee while, on the offchance that he knew best, but realised it wasn’t working and he really did still need his naps, so then we tried the putting him back in his room every time he came out thing. After a bit of effort, it worked, and he was back to napping. But he started waiting up for Daddy every night. They started sleeping in the same room when they were both sick and it was easiest for all. They got used to it and will probably keep doing it till Sir A is ready to move out of the parental bed and into his brother’s room, since it’s apparently lame to sleep alone.

Even this wasn’t a huge problem, until he became scared of being alone. Naptime wasn’t too much of a problem – he goes down pretty fast then. But bedtime? After an hour or more sitting with him, Daddy would give up and bring him downstairs. In the last few days it’s got to the point were we just don’t bother. After his brother is asleep we’d all spend some time together, then install him on a couch while we sit on the other with the laptop and some earphones and watch something. Sometimes he’ll fall asleep before we’re done. That’s nice. But it doesn’t happen every night. At least we’ve figured out a way to get some sort of time together, but hardly adequate, and we kinda needed time to actually talk. It’s not the done thing to talk about one’s child in his hearing, but if he only goes to sleep shortly before we do… Yeah.

This post is the journey of getting back our evenings. Important to note is that his little brother had only shortly before stopped waking up 1/2 hour, then 3/4 hour etc every evening, and it was looking up for some proper dates. Yeah, Lord B had other plans. Don’t they always? They plan it in the bath. Or anywhere, these days. Always up to mischief. Anyway, Mummy and Daddy need more MummyDaddy time. Even more than this, Lord is due to start Montessori in a month or two, and he needs to be able to handle Mummy and Daddy leaving him. Plus I’m still not convinced he actually gets enough sleep.

11/08/12

Sir A the African Baby has recently decided my parents are actually pretty cool. It only took nearly 18 months. Today we decided to try having them babysit. They came over to our house and we left. And he didn’t seem to notice! Headed off to a cafe close by, and called to see if he was still ok, and heard both boys were wallowing in the mud and quite happy. Daddy relaxed much more after this, and we got to talk properly about what to do with poor Lord B. Finally. It was such a novelty sitting in a cafe with my husband without interruptions!

Talking about all we’d read lately, we started wondering if there were things we were doing during the day that was making Lord B anxious. Cos really, when you can’t even leave a room without him getting frightened, there could well be more than just a developmental stage going on.

I’d noticed we both get kinda cranky at him quite often. There are things he does, like making a big mess of his undies on the floor (as in taking them out of the drawer) and refusing to clean it up, refusing to go to the toilet before it’s too late, playing with his food and messing it all over the place, that just piss us off. In theory we practise gentle parenting. No punishment, compassion, trying to understand where he’s coming from etc, but do we really do it in practice? Gosh it’s hard to overcome our own feelings of annoyance, to get off our high horse and focus on helping the boys through the obstacle course of what is and isn’t acceptable rather than on making them know they’ve upset us.

So we’ve set ourselves a couple of goals. First, we’re going to try to keep a really neutral voice when we say something is not on. Instead of “that really upsets us, tidy it up please” all annoyedly, it’ll be a “I can see you’re really enjoying that, but we don’t mess food. Let’s put it away so you don’t feel tempted and you can go play in the playroom till we’re done eating” or “I can see you really like throwing your clothes on the floor. That’s fine. We’re leaving in ten minutes, so in five minutes you’ll need to tidy it up so we can get in the car. I’ll come and help you if you need it.” and then if he’s having trouble doing it himself, guide his hands (interspersed with ticklings if necessary) till it’s done. We’ll see how that goes.

If we’re finding it hard to keep the annoyance out of our voices, we’re going to remind each other with a high pitched, poncy sounding “tonality!” which should hopefully lighten the mood a little. Nothing like someone else sounding silly to provoke a smile.

We have been putting in a lot effort to spend quality time with him, and give him lots of cuddles and affirmation etc. But he’s sensitive child, and who wouldn’t feel a bit stink if they’re being told off several times a day for seemingly unimportant things? I don’t think I’m explaining this very well but hopefully it makes some sense!

With regard to his sleep, we’re going to try gradually moving further away and eventually out the door and down the stairs, as he can handle. Yesterday I refused to lie down next to him and had to pop out a few times to answer the door, and he was cross! Not sad, cross, which gives me hope cos it seems more likely to be a preference thing rather than actual fear. He can’t always have his way, so denying him a preference doesn’t bother us so much, but if there’s actually fear underneath it’s a much more delicate issue and harder to resolve. Anyway, eventually he stayed lying down, stopped saying “no!” angrily, and went to sleep.

17/08/12

Update. We haven’t really kept our resolutions about Lord B’s sleep. It’s just so darned inconvenient. As I write, Sir A is passed out on one couch where I fed him back to sleep, and Lord B is on the other, attempting to go to sleep. Daddy is on retreat this weekend so I’m largely on my own. This’ll be fun.

The other day we had another minor victory, though. Daddy was on a working-not-from-home day, so Sir A had to do with only one sleep so I could help Lord B get to sleep too. Got Sir A to sleep (vacuuming, of course), and thought I had long enough before the end of his first sleep cycle to get Lord B down. Lord B, however, was playing silly buggers a bit, and was not asleep before then. Sir A unfortunately stirred, woke up, and I had to pace about to try and get him to sleep again. Wandered around upstairs, checking in various mirrors as I went past to see what he was up to (not going back to sleep, is what) and occasionally popping into Lord B’s room to check on him. Wandered around his room for a couple of minutes in case he preferred that and he asked me to go away. Apparently I was disturbing him. So I did, and went back to the pacing about upstairs and checking on him every couple of minutes. He went to sleep quite quickly, in the end, which was just as well because Sir A never went back to sleep. He was thankfully dopey and therefore quiet until we went downstairs, where I tried to feed him back to sleep; also didn’t work. Incidental to the story, however. The point is that Lord B went to sleep without me actually in the room, and with minimal fuss.

Of course when Daddy puts him to bed it’s a bit of a different story. It’s always been a little like that – him pushing his luck further with Daddy. I find it quite hard to deal with, because part of me is like “sorry dude, I can’t be in two places at once, you’ll live” and another part is always worried that I’m ignoring legitimate needs and/or causing a rift between the boys as Sir A is completely incapable of going to sleep by himself. I worry that Lord B will feel I care less about him because I don’t give him as much assistance. He mostly seems to just accept it as the way it is, but if he were secretly questioning it in his head, what would the answer be?

In all, I’d say that at the moment naptime is improving, but bedtime hasn’t really changed. We just not committed enough to changing it, I suppose. Perhaps if we get naptime sorted properly bedtime will be easier? She said hopefully. Which reminds of Winnie the Pooh, and his hums, for some reason.

Actually there was another serious big victory for Lord B on Tuesday. Every Tuesday morning I have a talk thing and Confession afterwards. The last few weeks Daddy has been working from home on Tuesdays, so I’ve left Sir A with him to have a nap, and only had to take one child to Confession (have to plug ’em. with boob, of course). This week Daddy was not home, so I had to take them both. They had plenty of fun climbing all over the couch and squealing with delight during the talk, and made rather a remarkable mess of the toys and cushions. I took Lord B for a pitstop at the end of the talk, so there was no chance of accidents while I was gone, and then informed him Mummy was going to talk to Father with Sir A and he was going to stay with the person who’d given the talk and tidy up. And once that was done, he could go and see if there were any biscuits. (The biscuit thing is a Tuesday morning tradition, not a bribe. Honest.) To my amazement he didn’t protest. I scuttled off, and on coming back a few minutes later he was happy as Larry, had just finished tidying, and was about to go get a biscuit.

To put this in context, he had NEVER accepted being left alone there (ok, maybe as a tiny baby, but not since he was aware of Things), and since he was so clingy at the moment I didn’t expect great success. So this is remarkably Good News (not the Gospel kind), and gives me much Hope (also not of the Gospel kind) that he will manage Montessori when it happens after all.

Another little bit of encouragement came at the local library’s playgroup. Since Sir A had slept in a little that morning, I decided to take them both, hoping Sir A would really like it. At first the both alternately clung to me and pesked whichever books were closest, making several attempts to elicit mim (all of which I managed to “not notice”, knowing that if I gave in to one, I’d be feeding them both within seconds – not something I have a problem with, but since I was facing the door to the library and didn’t want to freak out all the patrons, something I just then rather wanted to avoid; thankfully they just pawed for a couple of seconds and then found some more books to pesk).

Every now and then, Sir A would venture a few steps into the middle of the circle. I think he just like the mat. Neither were interested in joining in the songs or nursery rhymes, but Lord B did deign to pay some attention to the stories. Especially the one about ducks. He likes ducks. And he was little bit interested in the 5 little ducks song, too, as he knows the book.

When it came to craft time, Lord B jumped right in, supervising his brother and everything.

The other two or three times we went, we sat in a far corner “observing” the other children and finding refuge in a great deal of mim. Neither songs – actually, especially songs – nor stories would entice him closer to the other children. The first time there was Cutting at the end. Lord B hadn’t had a chance to engage in Cutting before (neglectful mother than I am). They were actually supposed to be making a dinosaur out of bits of paper, I think, but all he wanted to do was cut the edge of the paper into a tassled effect. The second time there was something boring like glueing. Yeah I really can’t remember. As there was not Cutting, Lord B was not interested, though he was quite happy to get an animal stamp on his hand. So I wasn’t expecting huge amounts of excitement at a bunch of felts and boots for ducks and wobbly eyes, but he had great fun “colouring in” – for some reason the ducks needed ears – and choosing boots for his brother’s ducks, and drawing fake mud on himself (Sir A had fake blood all over his legs, and in his mouth – nice) and generally actually participating! Which gave me further Hope that he would manage Montessori. As long as he wasn’t all joining-inlike just cos his brother was there.

See part two here

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  1. […] and we strongly suspect that all the issues with being super dependent for those weeks described in previous posts were part of getting there. Retrospect is such a fandangoing fabulous […]



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