Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Trouble with Nolie

I could use some group wisdom, my friends.  Because, while Nolie has had a good, exciting month, it has also been a really difficult month for all of us, and for Nolie.  Here's what I mean:

  • She's still waking up once a night, terrified by something indeterminate.  We can usually get her back to sleep, but it's disruptive for everyone, and is sometimes followed by additional wakings.
  • She's afraid to go anywhere in the house by herself, even to go upstairs to get her slippers, say.
  • She has text anxiety.
  • When she doesn't get what she wants, she screams and yells and has frightful tantrums.
  • She will not leave our side, even in cases when she needs to (like, we're working with hot pans in the kitchen) and we are firm with her.
  • She has trouble finding things to keep herself busy.  We are pretty hands-on parents, I think, playing with our kids a lot and involving them in most of what we do.  But sometimes your kid needs to go work on a puzzle for ten minutes so you can, I don't know, go to the bathroom.
  • She complains of frequent tummy aches, and has diarrhea a lot.
  • She engages in a lot of negative talk when she's very upset, stuff like "I'm a bad kid" and "I don't want to be a part of this world."  We try not to over-react, but this one in particular freaks us out.
What does this look and sound like to you, from the outside?  She's anxious and fearful, obviously, but how to respond?  Is this just a phase, and it's best to indulge her (get her slippers for her, let her hang close, verbalize her fears) until she grows out of it?  Or is it more serious?  Does she need counseling?  

And how do we survive this without losing our minds?

I feel so sad and confused.  She's such a loving, bubbly kid most of the time.  What is happening?

Edit:  Writing myself into my thoughts here; thank you for being patient with me.

First thought:  It's possible Nolie is experiencing separation anxiety.  She's always tended toward this somewhat, even as a baby, and maybe it's exacerbated right now.  She's said a few times lately, "I don't like you and Daddy doing all this business travel!  I only feel safe when my whole family is around me."  Okay, duh.  So that's probably part of it.  E. just got home from Switzerland and I'm headed to Boston, this week, so I could work on some ways to help her talk through her fears and also develop some tools to help her manage them.  For example, maybe I can make her a calendar that shows how many days I'll be gone, and then that she gets to spend a week with mommy and daddy over Thanksgiving break, and even longer over Christmas break.  She could cross off the days I'm gone and look forward to our vacation.  And we can remind her there are no more trips for a while.

Second thought:  Nolie's not "misbehaving," she truly is scared, so my first tendency, which is to be firm--with the idea that I'm helping her become "independent"--is not really working.  Instead, come at it with respect for her experiences, and respond with love.  If she needs someone with her to get her slippers, go get her slippers with her.  Help her back into bed gently at night, with love.  Invite her to do stuff with us, rather than trying to get her to go be on her own.  Try not to throttle her when she's up in your grill every freaking second of the day.

Okay, so I don't know what to do when I lose my cool yet.  Will have to figure that out.

Also, I'm going to make an appointment with the doc about her tummy, just to rule out anything medical that might be making her feel extra-punk.

I guess if this stuff doesn't work, we'll take her to our therapist, who specializes in kid and family therapy.


  1. Oh my god! This made me want to cry. I don't have time right now to respond in detail but I will later. O has really gotten worse since Kindergarten started at his new school. But he can be downright difficult. He sleeps but he has lots and lots of fears. Going to sleep can be an issue as he is scared to sleep but then we have instituted the "sleep brain" where daddy puts his head on his, etc... He Won't go downstairs by himself to get some paper to draw with, etc... He can be mean and too excited and rough and really loud and in everyone's faces. Saying things deliberately to piss us off and send him to his room.Then the negative self talk when he gets into trouble, I'm a bad boy, I was born that way, I'm just stupid, I want a new family, etc... That really makes me freak out too. I think Owen is misbehaving, but then really think he cannot control his actions very well, he is really frightened of things also. We have lost our cool too many times and resorting to yelling because he listens and calms down but then it just gets worse because we are not dealing with it in a way that tells O he is accepted and understood for who he is right now. The negative self talk has even included "I want to die". It's sad really. I think therapy will only help.

  2. Oh, man. I'm so sorry to hear you're going through this too. E. said that maybe Owen and Nolie are star-crossed lovers and will only get better when we get them back together :).

    But the fact that they're both going through this does make me wonder if it's a phase. A shitty, shitty phase. but maybe it will pass. I do wonder about how to handle it in the most loving way, like you.

  3. I believe she's going through an "out of bounds" phase, which will inevitably diminish. If you can deal with her needs in a matter-of-fact way with little alarm or frustration, she should soon pass through this to a more secure place. If you can continue to say, "Honey, I know you'll find a way to work through this," she'll possess growing confidence in herself. Sometimes too much attention and "doing" with them, gives them a weird sense that they can't do it alone.

    I don't know, really, but it does seem that you're providing the atmosphere for her to grow.
    Love, love

  4. Very helpful advice, Chloe. I appreciate this immensely.

  5. It would be super cool if it were as easy as getting them back together... ;-) What are you doing Thanksgiving? LOL!
    We have contemplated this before, we know our kids are, what's the new term, "highly sensitive" children. Most things around them can be overwhelming or overstimulating in some fashion or other but I think that is all of us really. But what I don't get, if that is the case, is why they do super well at school, do their work, pay attention, show respect to their teachers and fellow students? When at home O is a complete terror. I have heard people say they only do that because they fell super comfortable at home so you should be glad that they love their home environment, but really? Why would he make our lives miserable in the process so we don't enjoy our home environment. M and I have also contemplated that he doesn't trust us anymore because we have pushed him away and dismissed him too many times (sad for me to type this but it has happened without us realizing what we were doing). But then I feel like I am now being overly attentive, too much, (Kyle gets the shaft as he knows he has to treat O differently and we spend more time on O...)and that is bad and where is that fine line of helping them along and setting limits? M and I both need to work on trust issues with O for sure, listen to him, and mostly let him be and ignore those things we get on his case about most times because we expect too much from him right now. Sorry, I'm sort of rambling on your blog but hopeing conversation helps some...at least for me. I think the above advice was great! That is where that "doing" thing comes into play above where I said I'm being overly attentive now, swinging to the other side. I am hoping it's a really shitty phase also. He has always been extremely super happy, outgoing, loud, loving life and has had his moments of stubborness. But, something in him triggered when we transitioned him to a new school and Kindergarten and it's been downhill ever since.

  6. R, you know me, and so you know of course that I went straight to reading some books, because that's what I do when I have a problem to solve. I was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin a few weeks ago, and she recommended the book How to Talk So Your Children Will Listen, which I think is really great. It suggests that the very best thing we can do for our kids is to actively make room for their conflict, i.e., to acknowledge openly when they are feeling sad or angry, rather than repress it (which is what I'm inclined to do). So if Nolie kicks the wall WITH HER BARE TOE and says she hates herself, I say, "I can see that you're feeling very angry!" Rather than, "Don't do that, you're going to hurt yourself, what's wrong with you?" which is how I've been replying. I've only just started this but already I'm seeing good things.

    I was telling another mom about this (her son also went to our preschool!) and she says he is going through the EXACT SAME THING. Can you believe it? So this may be a pretty common phase, and we can either make it a positive thing or a negative thing. I think it's probably important not to blame ourselves too much, but to learn from it, and to help them learn from it.

    Anyway, I really recommend that book :).

  7. ^. Yeah, I definitely think you should listen to "naked girls" on this sensitive subject. ;)