This post is getting a bit long, so let me preview here so you can decide if you want to venture beyond the cut. First, bullet points: a perfectly fine playdate ending in disaster; fears of abandonment that turned out to be triggered by parents in the basement; description of CG's hysteria; an uneaten dinner; four changes of clothes necessitated by piddling in the panties. Then, more bullets on my own reactions: guilt; confusion; dialogue.
Because I will go off on too many tangents if I try to narrate this mystery, I'll resort to bullets:
- on Tuesday, when I picked her up from playdate with Little Hyphen, CG ended up in tears. There was a broken headband (which she may, or may not, have asked Little Hyphen to bend into the shape of eyebrows); there were gifts which Little Hyphen may or may not have presented to CG; there was a lost headband; there was piddle in the panties; there were irate accusations back and forth between them. These girls have an interesting relationship--a good one, definitely positively developing, but not without angst. Little Hyphen isn't confident about CG's friendship, and is sometimes jealous of CG's attention to other girls at school; CG isn't good at attending to more than one friend at a time. CG was in hysterics, and she cried for 80 minutes before I put her to bed at 6:20. I wasn't at my best--at times, I got irritated with her--but in the end, we had good snuggles before she fell asleep. As soon as she got into bed, she calmed down. And along the way, I did some things right. But there were many tears.
- Last night, Politica and I were in the basement, Politica trying to fix the dehumidifier and I trying to do laundry. When we came up, CG was shrieking. "Mama! Mommy!" She'd woken up while we were down there, and our lack of response to her cries caused hysteria. I bolted up the stairs once I heard her (leaving Politica to figure how to get around the laundry I dropped at the top of the stairs) and we all came down together for cocoa. She took about 20 minutes to stop sobbing. Somewhere in there she informed me she had a big, big sneeze in her bed, and now the sheets needed changing. I checked the bed later and it seemed OK to me, although I wonder if I should investigate more thoroughly in brighter light, or change the sheets anyway just to be on the safe side.
- CG has never been good at self-comforting once hysteria hits. Calm presentation of options, time out, announcement of some logical consequence, no effect. What works, generally, is holding her. She likes company.
- Tonight, she ate no dinner. On the outside, I channelled Ellyn Satter (whose approaches to feeding children I utterly endorse and often recommend). But on the inside, I was freaking out. CG is small, and I have a hard time watching her not eat. (Maybe it was all the candy at her class' end of school party today. It was a lovely party, but not sure the pinatas needed to be so stuffed with candy.) After she whined on and off about not wanting to eat dinner, she squatted down and peed on the deck. On my brand new trex deck. Right next to my chair. I told her to go up, take her clothes off, and get clean clothes on. She went in, came to the window and said "but the problem is, I have to poop." "It's your problem, deal with it," I said. "Change your clothes, and then come down and clean up your mess here." This kicked off 30 minutes of hysterical crying. At one point I went into the house to urge her downstairs (I pointed out that we were ready to come in and if she didn't come down, she'd be out there cleaning alone); she came down, still in the wet dress, and I sent her back up to get a dress. More hysterics.
- Did I mention that she peed in her pants at the picnic, and then again on the playground (when she was high up on the climbing structure!!!) before we left her school?
- I feel totally awful about last night. I hate that she seems so inconsolable when she wakes up, period, but I really hated that we were there, and she was calling for us, and we couldn't here her.
- I don't know what to think about the potty thing. Or the lack-of-potty thing. She doesn't seem to care if her clothes get wet. "They'll dry, Mama," she will tell me, or "we can change clothes." At the picnic I didn't think I had clean clothes with me and she said "that's ok, I can take my panties off and you can hold them." This is, of course, me coming out of her mouth. When she spills things at dinner, I don't get upset, and I calmly point out, "they'll dry." And it's true, they do dry.
- It's also true that most of the time, she uses the potty. She has more accidents when she's tired. She has fewer accidents when I remind her frequently to go. But the more frequently I remind her, the more she seems to have accidents right after she's tried in the potty and had nothing. I really don't want this to be a control thing. Mostly, it's not. But these little spurts of accidents, they are wearying.
- I know lots of people do incentive programs for potty-training, but all the food games we did have de-incentivized me about incentives. Besides, I don't want to train her to do things for the reward. And she's been wearing panties for a year and a half now. This seems a little late to go down the incentive road anyway. And really, incentive charts just don't feel like me.
- There's probably something going on in her head about growing up and/or adoption, because she wants to play baby, and in fact asked Politica to feed her at dinner because she, CG, was a baby. Politica said no, you need to feed yourself, and we don't play baby at meals. I think Politica made the right call there, but I'm not sure how to figure out what's going on in CG's head.
Anyone else read Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting? I liked it because I already held many of the views he articulates there, although not without so many footnotes or polish. Kohn writes about the ways so many incentives (in school and at home) essentially function as threats: if you don't do what I want, I'll withdraw my love. He argues, instead, for unconditional parenting, where parents connect, always connect, and go from there. I've seen some parenting groups I've been associated with get into some big flame wars about discipline, and I get very irritated when people assume that parents who don't buy incentives/timeout are therefore limitless people letting their children run free and be obnoxious and rude. Probably no one reading here regularly would characterize me that way, but I'm sensitive to that critique, having suffered it elsewhere. I'm a big believer in limits, and in the Which Star Trek Character quiz I just took (Will Riker, btw), I said I was strict. I'm all about encouraging exploration and excellent etiquette. And I value connection with CG above almost all else: I see that connection as fundamental to so many of the other lessons I want her to learn, lessons about trust, impulse control, socialization, whatever.
So I don't know whether my parenting philosophy is fine for a younger kid and not so great for a four year old, or whether my parenting philosophy is awesome and will ultimately give us a flexible relationship which gives us all support for working through the hard stuff. I don't know whether these are adoption issues or developmental issues or neither or both. Sometimes, when CG is pitching one of these fits, I just want to pick her up and cuddle her until she stops. And, truth be told, she'd probably stop crying pretty darn fast if I did that. What, if anything, would that teach her about piddling on the deck?
I don't know. Anybody have any bright ideas? (like, maybe I should re-read comments I've left for Phantom Scribbler or Jody about their kids and toilet-training and take my own perspectives to heart? yeah, that's an idea.)
Some bonus book recommendations, for anyone needing picture books about race cars. We had a race car picnic to celebrate the last day of school. I lose no chance to read books to children, so I tackled the job of finding race car books appropriate to 4 year olds. This is not easy, but A Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca, and The Wheels on the Racecar, by Alexander Zane, are quite good. I had the kids singing along (at least the ones who weren't running around the lawn), and it was fun.