Thursday, September 2, 2010

In which there is a sappy tangent, I'm so sorry.

I am so tired.

Yet! So! Awake! Augh!

Whenever I'm wide awake like this in the middle of the night, I get this compulsion to Do Something Cool.

Sometimes I actually get up and do it. Before we moved here, I would get up in the middle of the night and clean the apartment top to bottom. Or study a whole lot. Or--and this was always an exercise in lunacy, because I can't bake--try to bake something delicious.

Right now I want to go downstairs and sew some more curtains.

But I probably won't. Instead I'll lie awake, getting more and more excited and more and more awake about Doing Something Cool. Curtains! Cleaning! Decluttering! Making baby food! And at some point, I will suddenly be very, very sleepy, and next thing I know, Jeremy will be bending over me with a cup of coffee at 7:30 in the morning, and I will want to shoot him in the head. Even though he is the kind of guy who brings me coffee in bed every morning.

This sucks.

I don't know why this happens. Often I can't sleep because I've done something stupid that day--watched an exciting movie right 'til bedtime, or downed six cups of coffee with dinner. But the bouts of real insomnia, when it happens in spite of doing everything right, last for two weeks or more when they do happen. And they always happen right after I've finally gotten into a good schedule and have caught up on sleep. Maybe I'm supposed to live in constant sleep debt.

Let me tell you, though, it really sucks. I'm a very happy person. Mostly. But last week (two weeks ago?), when I'd finally had several days in a row of good sleep, I realized just how lousy I'd been feeling. For months! Months of not being very happy. I wouldn't go so far as to say depressed. Just... not all there. Eugh. At least I don't realize how I feel until after it's gone. Or I'd be really depressed.

I'm probably not making any sense because it's 1:00 in the morning, and I should be sound asleep.

A friend came over for lunch today with her two kids (she took some pictures; two of them are up on my Facebook wall, if any of you are my friends there). I was looking forward to the visit. I was not looking forward to Grace's behavior during that visit. She alternates between shy-but-personable and oh-my-gosh-we-need-to-call-a-behavioral-expert. I've found that holding her as much as she needs or wants to be held helps more than trying to get her to interact. But it's a trial sometimes to have people over. I have to keep track of her, and of Emmy, and somewhere in there, I want to have a conversation with my friends.

(I worry too much. I'm 99% sure she's just shy, as I was. But that little 1% is screaming, "Spectrum disorder! See how she sucks her thumb and plays with her hair? That's stimming! Early intervention is key! If you don't get her in now, she'll be chewing on tablecloths and counting toothpicks by the age of 12!")

Today was a happy surprise. She clung a little at first. Then she was content to sit on the couch next to me. On the other side from where my friend was sitting. Then I had to get up to go into the kitchen. I expected her to follow me, most likely screaming. She didn't. Five minutes later, I walked back in to see her still sitting on the couch, smiling at my friend (from a safe distance, of course).

What really bothers me is criticism from other people who aren't there day in, day out. "You baby her too much." "Stop holding her all the time." "She needs to learn how to behave." People who get up in her face when she's clinging to me or Jeremy in terror. Because spazzing out inches from a frightened child's face is certainly going to cure her shyness.

I know where we've made mistakes. She's a firstborn, practically guaranteed to be screwed up. But the things we do now--holding her, helping her calm down instead of disciplining her when she's frightened--are things we've that we've learned help her the most. We have to walk a line between pushing her just past her comfort zone and traumatizing her. Believe me, we're trying, and we're very conscious of her shyness. And making us stress out over it even more doesn't help.

(This is not directed at anyone I know who reads this blog; I'm just frustrated. I didn't even intend to write about this right now.)

Grace is afraid of so many things. Water in her face. Other people. Falling. Stairs. It's exhausting to constantly work with her on these things, and pushing her too hard takes us ten steps back.

On the other hand, she sits and looks through books for half an hour, an hour at a time. She has countless words and is working on sentences. She has a sense of humor (though I think, as a proud parent, I might be seeing more than what is really there). She can and does will herself to master her fears when pushed long enough and gently enough.

This spring, when the weather was first warm, I took her outside in the grass several days in a row. At first she wouldn't even walk in it with shoes on. This went on for a few days. I'd plunk her down in the middle of the yard and walk ten feet away. After a sufficient length of time, I'd pick her up, and we'd go back inside. Then, one day, she just started walking around in it. Barefoot, even. Falling on purpose and shouting, "Whoah!"

The same thing happened with the stairs a few days ago. The thrill of such small victories is almost worth all the angst.

Emmy, though. Emmy is... going to be a handful, in a whole different way. I think. I guess I don't know this, but that's how it seems so far. Emmy has never cried over water in her face, not even as a newborn. She faceplants in the carpet hard enough to leave a mark, and all she says is, "Mah!" in irritation. Diaper changes have become an Olympic sport. Feeding her anywhere but a quiet room is like intubating a coke user in the middle of an epileptic fit. She's crawling all over now. Not well. It's like watching a drunk try to pirouette. But she does it. There is a lot of running face-first into hard objects and screaming. And then getting back up and doing it all over. Grace had the decency to wait until her brain development could catch up a little; she went through this phase when she was a wee bit smarter. Emmy has a divine mandate to grab and chew anything in her path. Twice now I have found her face-first in a mangled magazine, cheeks and fists smeared with ink and paper fibers. She screams for five minutes after I take it away from her. She's happiest being thrown through the air or hanging upside down.

In fact, she's happy almost all the time. Except, when she's not, SHE'S REALLY, REALLY NOT ROAR GROUCH HISS. How so much rage can be bundled up inside such a tiny ball of sunshine is a mystery.

This is such a cliche for anyone who knows pretty much any parents, I know. Yes, KIDS ARE ALL DIFFERENT. KIDS ARE MIRACLES. KIDS ARE FULL OF WONDER. BLAH DE BLAH. But it's so much different to have such a close look at it. These girls share DNA and parents and environments. They both sleep well. They even look alike. But in almost every single other way, they are opposites.

It's such a wonder to see the person emerge from the (seemingly) blank slate. I could do this a hundred times.

(I say that today; ask me again tomorrow.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry about the insomnia. I had bad insomnia the last few weeks of my pregnancy, and while Unisom helped some, I was still getting only a few hours of sleep each night. A few weeks of that and I was not functioning well. But at least I knew there'd be an end once the baby was born! I can't imagine going through that constantly. Have you gone through any sort of sleep testing to see if there's a cause that a doctor can help you with? I can't imagine handling two kids with chronic insomnia.

    I'm sorry about the shyness. My daughter is also shy with adults, but she's outgoing with kids, so I don't have the same worries over it. But I totally get what you've said about people discussing her shyness in front of her and how it reinforces the "shy" idea in the kid's head, and people just don't get it. From their side, though... maybe they see her, she freaks out and hides, they're embarrassed because they feel like they've come across as scary or not liking kids or something, and so they bring up the "shy" label as sort of a self-defense mechanism? Either way it's hard on you, I know. :( I wonder if her sister being such the opposite will reinforce the shyness (as contrast) or whether it will help her get over it (Emmy did it, she survived, so I can, too). Just a thought.

    And I love what you said about the kids being so different. It's really fascinating how early it comes out, isn't it? And I know they talk about each kid being their own self, but I think also that kids tend to be more different from each other as part of their way of defining themselves. If they had each been raised separately and then met later, they might have been less different, because they wouldn't have needed to develop such different interests/traits to make themselves stand out. Maybe? Just a thought. Okay, my response to your post is turning into a blog-length post itself, so I'm shutting up now!