Last night went pretty much as I'd predicted. On the plus side, Katie waved bye-bye and watched my car pull away, so she knew what was going on and didn't cry. She and Dada had a really nice evening, including bath and playtime. I'm really glad they got to spend some time together without me - Katie gets such different (and excellent) parenting from him. I love watching how they interact because it's so different from her relationship with me. And my gut tells me that the differences are hugely important to her emotional and social development.
Another plus is that I had a wonderful time at Parent Night (aside from some social awkwardness.) The topic was Emotional Intelligence. Teacher Donna just got back from a weekend teacher's conference and she was just bursting with wonderful things to tell us. The main thing I took away from her talk was that language is the way to encourage your child to use his/her cerebral cortex (the "thinking" part of the brain) to express his/her emotions, rather than just operating from the limbic system or the brain stem (more primal reactions.) Giving names to feelings is hugely important to a young child. I've been working on this extensively with Katie, and although we're nowhere close yet, I'm looking forward to the day when she can say "Katie angry!" rather than just screaming and throwing a tantrum.
I also learned that activities that "cross the midline," like painting in broad strokes, or anything that requires the child to reach across her body, help to organize the brain. Truthfully, I don't know exactly what "organize the brain" means, but doesn't it sound great? I also learned that swinging on a swing has a similar function - that it organizes the brain in another way. Teacher Donna says that kids know instinctively what their brains need to work on, and their interests reflect that. That's why it's so interesting to watch what they do at preschool - it gives us clues to what might be happening in their development. Are they working on running or jumping? Pedaling a tricycle? Picking up tiny objects with their fingers? All of these are tied to specific developmental milestones. I wish I knew more about it - it's fascinating.
So I guess it's no surprise that Katie is suddenly SUPER into swinging. Ever since she was a newborn, she would tolerate a swing for maybe 30 seconds to a minute, tops. She just wasn't a swinging fan. Later on, at around 18 months, she'd ask to swing at the park, but still want to get down after a minute or so. Then about a month ago she suddenly decided that swings are awesome. We've had marathon swinging sessions lately. I have to drag her off them! So maybe her brain just needs some swinging organization right now. How cool is that??
The other thing I took away from Parent Night was a sudden realization that Katie really does understand on some level that her position as "Only Child" is about to be usurped. I have no other way to explain her behavior lately. There have been a lot more tantrums, seemingly over nothing. There have also been a lot more spontaneous hugs - which I am loving! More night waking, too, which I am not loving, but I still feel good about comforting Katie when she wakes up screaming. I thought all this was maybe due to her molars finally coming in, but after having talked to the other moms (75% of whom have an older child as well as one Katie's age) I really think she's acting out because of the new baby. (Besides, I've yet to see any sign of a tooth erupting!)
But anyway - back to last night. Katie and Dada had a good time, and I had a good time too. Everything went great until Dada tried to put Katie to bed. I was wrong, he was able to get the sleep sack on with the assistance of a second bottle. (I'd made him four bottles in advance, just in case! lol) He did the entire usual bedtime routine, but when he put Katie in her crib, she started to whimper. Then she started to howl. 45 minutes of howling later, she finally fell asleep. OMG. I definitely think he did the right thing in letting her cry, because we've already learned that going back in her room makes things worse. But how awful for both of them! My poor baby, and my poor husband having to listen to his precious darling cry, and not being able to give her what she wanted. Torture.
When I got home at around 9:20, Katie had been asleep for about 15 minutes. I'd promised her when I left that I'd come in and say goodnight, so I did. I felt like I was breaking some taboo, sneaking into her room when she was asleep. We *never* do that, ever ever ever! I can only think of two times we woke her up - once when we had to take her to the hospital for a procedure, and once when we thought she'd stopped breathing. (She hadn't, of course, and she was pretty perplexed to see us standing over her.) So it was a rare treat, actually, to see her sleeping. We often wonder how she sleeps - whether she uses Lambie for a pillow, whether she stays on her back or rolls over, etc. Last night she was on her side, kind of leaning towards her front. She was still sniffling a little, poor angel. I told her "Good night, sweet Katie, Mama's home now. I love you, darling." I rubbed her back very lightly. She didn't wake up, but I hope on some level it registered.
This morning she slept a few minutes late, so I was already awake and able to go right to her room when she woke up. When I opened her door, she said, "Mama!" in a voice that sounded half amazed, half relieved. It sounded like, "You DID come back after all!" And I hugged her and kissed her and told her that Mama always comes back.
And I hope she remembers that, because tonight I have a seminar to attend, so we're doing it all over again. Gah. But honestly, the seminar is called "Raising a Spirited Child." Here's the description:
Understand children who are persistent and intense and who want to have a lot of control. Learn how to avoid power struggles and improve communication and cooperation particularly effective for strong-willed children.
Don't you think I HAVE to go to this one??? LOL!
Wish us luck and a smoother, tear-free bedtime!