Don’t leave me Mama!
You may have read my story earlier this week about how Little Man managed to lock me in the kitchen, and Charlie had to break down a door to get to him. For almost twenty minutes, Little Man was aware that I couldn’t get to him.
Well afterwards I thought he was fine. I thought it was just me who was traumatised by the whole thing. But as the week as gone on, I’ve realised that’s not true. Although he may have seemed fine in the immediate aftermath of the “lock-in”, he got crankier and crankier as the days passed.
He became really whingey, throwing a tantrum at the smallest thing. And all of a sudden bedtime started to become a battle. Normally, Little Man’s bedtime is one of our favourite times of the day. You get to cuddle him while giving him his bedtime bottle, and then a kiss, a hug, lie him down in his cot, and he cuddles up to James the Giraffe, and is off to sleep without too much fuss.
But this week, that lovely bedtime routine gradually fell apart. By Friday, it had descended into an all out tantrum every time we lay him into his cot. He really seemed hysterical. We ran through the usual list of suspects. Hunger? No, he just ate a big bowl of food and drank all of his bottle. Uncomfortable? No, his nappy was clean. Overtired? Possibly. He didn’t sleep well in creche all week. Teething? Possibly. He’s always teething! But a spoon of Calpol made no difference.
After a few hours, he finally fell asleep in my arms, something he never does! I would have put it down as just one of those things, except for the way he slept on Friday night. Every hour, he woke at least once. But there never really seemed to be anything wrong with him. A reassuring pat on the back, or a whispered “shush” and he was straight back to sleep again. He had done something similar the night before, but it only happened three or four times, rather than hourly as it did on Friday night.
It was only when I tried to put him down last night, and he started resisting his cot again that I suddenly realised what was wrong. Little Man was suffering separation anxiety. I should have figured it out sooner. He had pretty bad separation anxiety for about a month after starting in creche and none of us got any sleep that month!
Well Charlie and I weren’t sure what to do, but we knew one thing for certain – we don’t want to go through that again! So I turned to the Internet for some advice. It seems there are two schools of thought when it comes to dealing with toddlers and separation anxiety. The first is the Cry It Out school. The idea here is that you allow your toddler to cry for gradually longer periods of time, until he or she learns to self-settle. Well that doesn’t sit well with me. The reason I was looking for advice was because I hated seeing Little Man so upset. I have no problem not running immediately that Little Man starts whinging. But when he’s actually upset, every instinct I have tells me that it is my job to “fix” whatever is wrong, so it doesn’t matter how many reports I read of how well the Cry It Out method worked for people…it’s not for me. And thankfully it’s not for Charlie either.
If you’re not going to go the “Cry It Out” route, the other suggested option seems to be the opposite extreme. A concept called “Love-bombing”. I remember reading an article on this in the Irish Times a few months back: “How a love-bomb can change a child’s world”
It’s aimed at children aged three years and up, but there are plenty of reports online about it working for toddlers too. So starting immediately last night, that’s what we did. We cuddled and kissed, and reassured, and played with Little Man. Bedtime last night was much better than the night before, and Little Man needed to be settled a few times around midnight, but then he slept soundly from 1am to 6am.
Tonight, he went to bed with no fuss, and right now he has been asleep for just over three hours, without a peep. Bliss!