Separation Anxiety

I have been meaning to write this post for a few weeks, and definitely felt like I had to do it after yesterday’s admittedly baby braggy post. In case you think we are abundant in sleep, patience, laughs, and love (well, we’re abundant in some of those things)… read on.

About a month before Teddy arrived Henry began to show some signs of separation anxiety. He loves school, but he started to cry and did not want Allen and I to leave at drop off. His teachers always said that once we were gone he quickly calmed and went about his day like the happy little guy he usually is. Once Teddy arrived, this behavior stopped. It didn’t seem like Teddy’s joining the family had much of an impact on Henry at all. He cooed over Teddy, wanted to tickle him, wanted to hold his hand, wanted to hold him, and wanted to be near him. It was adorable.

Then about two weeks in Henry became a bit more defiant. He was always inclined to tell us no, whine to get his way, etc. Typical two year old stuff. But it increased. And we didn’t know if it was Teddy related or two-year old related. About three weeks ago our little system seemed to break down completely. So many changes in Henry’s life (molars – the worst, new baby, it is light later and earlier, time with mom is different, Henry has to wait for some things, etc.) has lead to separation anxiety and a related sleep regression.

The first night it happened it was just me and the two boys. Normally, we have a strict bedtime routine of getting wiggles out, brushing teeth, pajamas, books, one song, bed. This night when I told Henry to pick out the last book he looked at me with those big blue eyes, all sad, and softly whimpered, “Mommy.” Odd. But we carried on. Then as soon as I started singing our usual bedtime song he climbed up my neck, holding in for dear life, while repeatedly whimpering “Mommy.” My heart was shattering. I spent extra time talking to him, but he lost it as soon as we got up from the rocking chair and started heading for the crib.

I have never heard that child cry the way he did that night. It was a desperate wailing. A pleading. It was awful. Pure soul torture. I could not bear it. Allen and I subscribe to cry it out, so I let him be for 15 minutes. 15 long terrible awful minutes. Normally Henry’s regular cries and whines have zero impact on my cold mama heart. I could listen to those sounds forever and go about my business unaffected. This cry pierced my soul. I needed it to stop. I needed him to not feel the way that he felt that was causing that cry. I went in. As soon as I picked him up the crying ended. As soon as I motioned to put him back it began. We did that dance for 90 minutes. And 90 minutes the next night. 3 out of 5 nights were like that. The two nights he didn’t cry? Daddy put him to bed. Drop offs at daycare became bad again at this time. Desperate pleas not to leave him. Worse if I took him to daycare. I took him to see his pediatrician, hoping that he had an ear infection. No such luck – healthy boy. She agreed that it sounded like separation anxiety that could be triggered by any number or combination of things. Especially since he was no longer sleeping through the night, getting up 2-3 times sometimes to call for us.

So, here we are… almost three weeks in to this change in our previously amazing sleeper. You may have found yourself wondering what I do with all my well-rested time. Ha! See! We are not well rested at all. But the reason is not the newborn. It is the two-year-old. Things are getting better. We went from 90 minutes of shrieking to 30 minutes of shrieking to 30 minutes of regular cry/whining to 15 minutes to 10 minutes and the past two nights it has been just a couple of minutes. I think we’re on the right path, but nothing has made me question all of my parenting skills the way this kid has in the past few weeks.

His general two-year-oldness combined with not sleeping well means that on any given day we might get our amazing, hilarious, smart boy or the little asshole that sometimes occupies our two-year-olds body. On those days, I find myself standing in the living room listening to him whine because mommy brought him goldfish crackers and he wanted daddy to do it thinking, “When did I lose the joy? When did this go from being fun to being a chore?” And I get so mad at myself for feeling this way, for feeling like being a parent is anything less than amazing. But, it isn’t. Sometimes it is totally awful. For long stretches. And I’d like to put him in a closet and leave him there until he is willing to be a rational little person. Those times I try to remember that his brain is more caveman than modern day human. The best thing I can do is help to guide him to sanity. And it isn’t all fun. And that’s okay. Toddlers are hard. So hard that I’ve asked Teddy to never become one. We’ll see if he listens.

But then Henry says and does amazing things and it makes it worth it (I think). Like… he’s started to call Allen “seetsee” because I call Allen sweetsie. And nothing gets us laughing like when Henry yells “Seetsee! I need help!” or “Seetsee! Come here please!” Or songs he’s starting to make up. Or his dance moves. Or the general ridiculousness that comes out of his mouth as he’s trying to understand a world that is new to him every day.

I’m trying to keep it together. But hooooly, babies are WAY easier than toddlers. They don’t talk or move. That is a gift from God.

Now excuse me while I prop my eyes open with toothpicks. Maybe tonight the toddler will go to bed easy and sleep through the night. I have to believe that will happen again for us one day. Let it be soon.


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