In our downstairs bathroom, there's a sign hanging on the sink: "Curious Girl, please don't hang on the sink." The sink in question is a pedestal sink, and it's tall enough that Curious Girl still needs a step stool to be able to wash her hands or look in the mirror. So when she's standing on the floor, the sink is up just high enough to invite her to pull herself up on the edge of it and swing. I think the sink is connected to the wall somehow, but it's not really meant to take that much weight on its edge. So after several weeks of increasingly irritable conversations with CG about the reasons she shouldn't hang on the sink, several weeks of tantrums because she got evicted from the downstairs bathroom, and several weeks of headaches, I finally said, "CG, this is a problem. I don't want you to hang on the sink. What will keep you from doing it?" "Put a sign up," she said. So we did. and it worked. When the first sign got ripped, she came and requested a new one. She can't read the words, but it worked.
This isn't the first odd solution she's come up with. Curious Girl is enormously wiggly. Some nights, I even think she's worrisomely wiggly, although maybe all almost five year olds are worrisomely wiggly. At dinner, she was getting way wiggly, and this was leading to spilled drinks and general irritation about declining table manners. The more we asked her not to shake her entire body in her seat, the more enticing the shaking became. So finally, I said, "CG, this is not a fun way to spend dinner. What we all do so that you won't wiggle around so much?" "You could say, "I love you, Curious Girl." At first I thought this was a reflex confusion of family sayings (if you ask her, "CG what do you have to say about X?" she will say "I"m sorry" even if that's not the appropriate answer). But she stuck to the suggestion. and it works. If one of us says, "I love you, CG," she settles down at the table.
CG also wanted a sign to remind her to come find me when she wakes up in the night (instead of sitting in bed and wailing). So we have a sign for that, which worked the first two nights. It says "Curious Girl, don't cry when you wake up in the night. Come find Mama or Mommy!" But it doesn't always work, often with funny explanation in the morning, like "well, I couldn't see my sign because it was dark," or "Mommy forgot to put it in front of my clock." Lately she has taken to simply calling for me, and when I pop in she will say, "I wasn't crying!" rather proudly. Her sleep needs are complicated (as is her relationship to print, which she clearly values even though she can't decode it all yet). Whatever.
This week, though, we have not been our typically crunchy selves. Politica is off communing with her professional people at a conference, and CG and I are both tired. I don't like sleeping alone--and I'm not, as guess where CG is sleeping right now, so it's more accurate to say I don't like sleeping without Politica. When she's not home, I tend to stay up too late because I'm afraid if I go to bed early I won't sleep and will get all worked up about strange noises and other night time neuroses. Given the sleep debt I already have from the semester, this has been a counterproductive parenting strategy. Curious Girl has been on edge, and she would't sleep for the babysitter on Wednesday night, when I was teaching and Politica was already gone. And for the rest of the week, CG has been crabby. We've both been overreacting to irritation because we're tired and we miss Politica. Yesterday and today I asked CG to sit on the stairs and find her calm more times than I've asked her to do that in my entire parenting career, and while I know I"m the mama and supposed to stay on the high road, I was having trouble keeping my own calm in the face of CG's volatility.
So at lunch, I said, "You know, CG, we're both pretty grumpy. this isn't a lot of fun. Let's try to think of some ideas to get in a better groove. " She nodded, put her finger on her cheek, and thought. "We could say, 'tut tut, it looks like rain.'"
"Tut tut, it looks like rain?" how is that going to help?"
"We could just say it."
And so we did. And it made us both laugh. Try it. Say it a few times in a row, looking up at your ceiling to see if just maybe, it does look like rain. See if you can keep a smile from spreading across your face.
"Tut tut, it looks like rain" doesn't work quite as well as the sign on the sink does. But it did make us laugh several times today. And that's a start. So thank you, Christopher Robin. And come home soon, Politica.