I feel sort of *move to Antartica-y*. I feel sort of *why aren’t you in school yet-y*. I feel definitely *kid, you don’t pay me enough-y*.
Curious Girl shrieked for 75 minutes tonight before falling asleep, exhausted, on my lap. She's in a phase of disequilibrium, and her disequilibrium sure was catching tonight. Neither of us were at our best, but I am sure feeling better to know that I'm in such good company, and that CG and Ripley share a flair for the dramatic. Misery loves company, and I'm feeling much happier already.
Disequilibrium is a term I learned from the developmental series by Louise Bates Ames. Ames' books deal with each year of a child's development, and while they are dated and sexist, they are pretty handy. She posits that children move between equilibrium and disequilibrium, and this is a normal part of development. So a sunny, serene period is likely to be followed by a turbulent period, and parents simply have to wait it out. I generally like her descriptions of development--they're written with a broad enough brush that they don't seem tyrannical, and she does a good job guiding a child-centered view of the situation. And the notion of developmental spirals is helpful. They are hopeful books, full of practical tips.
I've not been so patient with four year old Curious Girl as I have been before, and that's been hard for me. Maybe we've both been in a bit of disequilibrium, maybe I've been challenged by my new job, but I've not felt so patient this fall. I've been starting to feel more in my parenting zone again, but tonight, geesh. Part of me wants to go wake CG up and apologize profusely for my own poor choices tonight and part of me wants to get on a plane for Vancouver to grab Arwen and suggest we both head to a spa for the weekend.
So what happened tonight? CG got distressed, a little, when it was time for bed, and I helped her put away the game pieces we'd been playing. "I WANT TO DO IT MYSELF!" she announced, but since self-cleanup was taking too long, I helped. I jollied her out of whining fit #1 by singing "Hey What a Crab" (from Rhinocerous Tap), but then when we got upstairs and I suggested using the master bath for a shower, she started whining again. My suggestion that she stop whining and use words led her to shriek, and when I simply picked her up and said, "ok, right to bed then," she got hysterical. "I WANT A BOOK!" "Right to bed" actually meant "let's skip a bath or shower," not "let's skip our whole bedtime routine," but that's clearly not what she heard. And she shrieked so loudly that I couldn't convince her she was going to get a book. And then I got mad, and walked away to take a break. So she got lonely, and shrieked louder. And then I would say to myself, "Susan, take the high road, she needs connection, go hug her," and I would go back, and snuggle, and she would keep shrieking. And so I would leave the room again. Argh.
So I wasn't handling it well, but she was totally drawn to the drama. She crawled into the hallway and watched me work at the computer, and when when she stopped crying, I said, "oh great, you're calmer," she said, "no, I just stopped for a minute. SHRIEK!"
In the mini-moments of calm we had some discussion about whether she wanted to sleep in her own bed or sleep in the bed in the guest room, where I was working. But the choice of the guest bed lead to hysterics about the lack of her "favorite, super duper blanket," whose description was so garbled in her tears that I couldn't figure out which blanket she wanted. I hate nights like this, which are thankfully not common. But I got mad at her, then mad at myself. I didn't like my own reactions: CG really hates being left alone, and I don't like it when my own impulses leave her alone. Even though I know that sometimes, walking away to get calm is the thing to do.
And what gets me about this tonight is that it was all about the drama. Curious Girl has her own self-calming techniques. She goes to what she calls a thinking chair sometimes, or she asks for a hug. She's much more likely to ask for a hug than go to the chair, but she's learning that she can control her emotions enough to talk about them and process them. She's also learning, clearly, how to let them rip, too. She must be working through the power of emotions, or maybe her own fears (since at some point in a tantrum, she starts making dark forecasts about herself. Tonight she informed, between sobs, that something "popped right out. And now I'll never have another dream again. Not when I'm grownup or a Mama or tonight.") She scares herself a little sometimes, and worries about the consequences. But she also seems to want to be all upset sometimes.
And I should let it go. And mostly I do, or I sing a song, tell a joke, redirect. I turn toward her, not away from her. But tonight, I let it sink it. I moved away. Not fun.
But hey, I'm sinking with Arwen, so how bad can that be? If Ames is right, in another six months we'll both be blogging up a storm about our peachy-keen emotionally stable kiddos.