Them old walking blues

MZ is walking, she's walking up a storm. But it's messing with her head.

Friday night we went to early family services. This is a new service, grown out of the single-ish late services we enjoyed in our pre-MZ days. There's lots of singing, musical instruments and stories to bring it home to the younger audience, and the keg has been replaced by cheese sticks and Cheerios. MZ loved it, she spent the whole time roaming the room and dancing her little hip-waggling, knee bopping dance. I couldn't wait to blog on how heart-swelling it was to watch her, how happy she looked to be on her own across the room, how it felt to be connected in joy to a place we found in grief.

That night, less than two hours after she went to sleep, she woke up screaming. She was inconsolable for 20 minutes, didn't even want Puppy. She was able to tell us that nothing hurt, and as she calmed down she just said "Hug, hug, hug" over and over again. She didn't want to go back to her crib, she just wanted to lie prone on my body, and then spoon with me, so for the first time in a while we had a family bed.

She had a HUGE day on Friday, we fit in two activities before noon. On our way to a music circle I thought about heading home for lunch, but I really wanted to see the other moms I planned to meet there. I figured she'd get a good nap before services, which would be a moderately familiar environment.
She woke up after a not-quite-long-enough nap, but we pushed onward. She seemed genuinely proud of herself and happy all evening.

However, a little research makes me think her waking was an episode of night terrors, which can be attributed to periods of stress. So we took it easy over the weekend, trying to do mostly familiar, low-key activities. We figured Sunday was a shoe-in, a playgroup with her fellow Bernal tots. But lo, she was a delicate flower that morning. Anxious and easily frustrated, she spent a lot of time looking for me and asking for hugs. She kept up the walking, but it was clear that this new vantage point is not yet comfortable for her. She craves the freedom of a stroll down the hall, but isn't sure that's where she wants to be when she gets there. Less steady on her feet than the rest of her gang, she yields space and toys quickly to her more sure-footed peers.

While we were there, a friend and fellow parent asked what about our daughter we are most proud of. It was a good question, generating a pleasant buzz of conversation in the room, but we were a bit nonplussed. Her verbal skills seemed like the obvious answer, but neither of us take much credit for that. And when we talked about it later, we agreed that we don't feel a lot of ownership over MZ's development. She's funny and outgoing with adults, less sure with her peers. She's very deliberate, and a keen observer, she takes in everything and now that she's verbal, she's confirming that the wheels truly have been turning. Today when she asked for my water bottle, she surprised us by being able to drink out of it fairly well, although it had no spout and flowed more quickly than her sippies. When I commended her on being a big girl, she announced "Coffee" as though she were ready to go all the way. The child's no dummy, and I venture to guess she'll be quite a negotiator in the coming years.

But right now, I feel like everything we see is a window into her personality, which we don't quite know yet. We're taking copious notes to learn how to support her, to learn how to reinforce her strengths and enable her to love herself as much as we love her.

It's a little daunting to realize that she may be more shy than either of us, and more intense. R. and I talk about how we'll parent her, how we outgoing, opinionated people will learn to give her time and space for her thoughts to be heard, for her to make her own decisions. It would be easiest to push her into the ring, but who would that serve?

In a few short weeks, we've already backed off the ever-ready hug-on-demand. If we're just hanging out, it's hers for the asking, and ask she does, when anxious or happy. But if it's a clear bid for attention, we'll let her know she has to wait a minute, or that she can come to us, or that she's doing fine on her own. And she seems to get it (or she's just below the temper tantrum milestone). But in these challenging moments of transition, we hope that keeping the hugs coming will give her the confidence to take the next step on her own.


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