Sunday, May 18, 2008

Parenting on a Rollercoaster

Where to start?!

On Monday two weeks ago, we were at the park with our mothers' group when Harriet alerted me to the fact that Finn, a friend's daugher's doll, had been left behind. No problem-o, we took Finn home and Harry gave him a few adventures, we wrote a note to his Mama and the next day dropped him back at his real home. Harry had, however, become highly attached to Finn and although she knew that he belonged to TL, was quite crestfallen when we had to return him.

So to basically encourage my own desire, I thought that if we headed to the Cat Protection op shop, we might be able to find a little doll there that Harry would like (because of course she is so bereft of dolls in her own home). I LOVE the CP op shop, it is the best one in Newtown and always has some incredible gems there, amazing considering that it is such a small space.

So Harry walked in, walked straight to the doll bucket, picked up this doll that can *gasp* close her eyes and *swoon* is holding her own bottle THAT CAN FIT IN HER MOUTH people, and just could not stop playing with her. It was almost as if she was entranced, the doll had bewitched her. "Aw, how sweet' I (naively) thought. I bought the doll and a jumper and we went on to spend the afternoon running into a friend and going to a new music class. We went home, where Harry played non-stop with her newfound love, and we all went to bed.


Harriet woke up at 2am and just could not stop playing with this damn doll! For the next two hours (no, you did not read that incorrectly) this child fluttered the eyelids, clapped the hands and basked in the pitch black glory of this doll (I refused to turn the light on, in fact I was so tired from being up late proofing that I could barely acknowledge what was going on, but it was enough to stop me from being able to sleep).

So we both woke up the next morning in less than wonderful moods, but I can handle a night of minimal sleep without a problem, so we kept on with our scheduled day which was to meet up with the gorgeous Miss Rosa who is now about 6wks old I think. Harry spent a lot of her time there putting 'milk bottle doll' in Rosa's bouncer, in Rosa's hammock, placing a towel over her shoulder like Rachel did for 'milk bottle doll's spews' get the picture.

Get to bedtime, everyone is exhausted, Early nights all round. But then, on rolls 2am...and again she is *bewitched*! The same process is played out from the night before except I am grumpier and keep saying to her "It is NIGHT Harriet, go. To. SLEEP.". Finally exhaustion overcomes her and we get to sleep again...but not before two hours has passed (what is with this girl and 2am? She has a lifetime history of waking up at 2am).

The next morning she wakes up and despite needing to get things done during the day, she refuses to leave the house. Arrrhhh!

The next week plays out as a nightmare of upsets and screaming fits. Is there a doll that won't fit perfectly on to her allocated seat? Then one must throw one's body to the floor, screaming in anguish at the maladies of the world that lie upon one's shoulders, the injustice of it all, how we can operate in such a cold hard world is beyond anyone's comprehension. I was also wondering at how any parent could be calm, rational and supportive during such an onslaught of obvious stress and worry on their child. She seemed to be caught within a cycle of behaviour that she couldn't claw her way out of (despite at times seeiming to *want* to be different).

I tried consciouly to employ some Playful Parenting techniques to help me maintain (acquire?) some sanity and give Harry some positive experiences in her day. On the weekend I asked James to trim my hair. Notice the verb I used there? Well James misheard me and thought I said 'remove' my hair. Anyway when he went to cut my hair, Harry became hysterically upset about it (just one thing in a long line of things really). But here was something I could help with! So as you can see from the photos, I got Doll, sat her in a chair, cloaked her in the cover from the clipper set, cut some fringing onto a piece of paper and stuck it around her head. Harry could barely believe this activity - she had a BLAST! In fact for the first time in about a week she played on her own for upwards of twenty minutes. Honestly! James and I were in shock! We did have to cut a second piece of 'hair' but that was all we heard from her in that time. If you have a toddler at home I can highly recommend this activity for some time when you need to do something for fifteen minutes on your own!

We went to Linda and Kicka's engagement party on Saturday and had a great time, although Harriet was still out of sorts and we ended up leaving a little earlier than we really wanted to (heck, we could have stayed on to watch the AC/DC cover band at the local pub too given half a chance). It was as we were leaving that both James and I noticed that Harry was spiking a bit of a temp. Ah Ha! It's always in hindsight that illness becomes apparent as the interfering meddler that it can be.

So the past week has seen all of us come down with varying levels of viral infection. It has meant even more nights of disrupted sleep (me not being able to breathe through my nose, what joy, Harry coughing, james....well, James has been fine with sleep!) and less than perfect days. I have to admit here, on the blog, that for the third time in Harriet's life I yelled at her. Yep. I felt terrible about it. Horrid. But when I think back on the situation the overwhelming sensation I have is of exhaustion. I just remember feeling so completely exhausted at being really quite sick myself, dealing with a sick and highly cranky child all day and not having any relief (James is in Melbourne for two days and one night a week) that I can give myself a little break. Not much of course, but I am only human!

But on Thursday we both felt a lot better and made the effort to go to playgroup at Lennox House with Ruby (oh and Nadia and Tessa too!). We both felt fantastic after a play there, then the girls had a run around while Nadia and I actually got to chill out and chat for a bit together (almost unheard of with Harry around). Friday was even better in the morning but was met with some crankiness in the afternoon when Kristy came over (sporting her deliciously beautiful, small and perfect baby belly!).

Move on to today. Oh today how I loved you! Today was one of the most beautiful, wonderful, happy, glorious, perfect days we have all had together in recent memory. It started less than perfectly with a 6am wake-up (it was dark outside people - dark!). But Harry was in a great mood and chattering away about all of her dolls and making up elaborate stories (more about this later). We decided to head over to Orange Grove Organic Markets and boy am I glad we did. Harriet was in raptures about the pony rides, I was in raptures about buying a whole new winter wardrobe of truly beautiful clothes for her for the grand total of about $20 (seriously, I doubt this child has had more than a handful of new clothes in her life, second hand is just soooo much better), and James...ok well poor James missed out on a special surprise today (but hey, remember last paragraph where he got all that sleep people? C'mon, give me a break!).

I also ran into Leigh who I haven't seen for absolutely ages and was stoked to see again. Harriet was beside herself becaue we bought a box of FP Little People for her. To be honest our choice in this matter was directed heavily by Harriet (read: she saw the box, proceeded to pull out each piece and play with it one by one in the middle of the stall). But wow, what a greta buy it has been. That $15 has already bought us about two HOURS (yes, you are reading correctly) of independent play from Miss H. Not all in a row to be sure, about one hour of it was continuous, but she can sit there and play elaborate narratives with these people for longer than anything that has come before.

Then it was on to lunch at Satellite, but not before I picked up a couple of shirts from a garage sale in Hordern St amid giggling, and exhortations of "YOU'RE the crazy one!" from Harriet atop Papa's shoulders. I had my fave fave fave dish there (it's this brown rice thing with grated apple, cranberries, soy milk, apricots...sounds weird but wow, it is incredible and yes Georgia, it is the one I had when we went there ages ago) and then on to do a photo shoot on the North Shore. The whole way there and back Harry was playing with those Little People.

Best. $15. Dollars. Ever.

Now that Harriet is in bed I just look back on a day that was honestly jam-packed with squeezes, exclamations of "I REALLY love you Mama!" accompanied by an amazing nearly-three-year-old squishing her face into me with so much love that it hurts my heart to write about it. She laughed so much all day it was great to see her just so lighthearted and enjoying our presence. Normally I get shafted on Saturday mornings and Papa gets the love, so this morning I had mentally prepared myself to go for a run when we got up. But today she was giving me heaps of affection as well as Papa. Yay!

There has definitely been a *huge* change in her. She makes up quite complex narratives for her figures to operate within. For example tonight they were all on their bikes to go to King St to buy some more bikes. On the way they saw a kangaroo - "They never seen a kangaroo before on King St so they stop to play with it. It is the Mama kangaroo and the Papa kangaroo is off at work" -what work does he do Harry?- "(not missing a beat) Oh some kangaroo work, you know". She had her doll on her lap and was reading her a book (just a pretend one) "Once there was a rat. He was at home and then a monster came. But the rat was asleep so the monster went away. The End." (this one was the one that really floored me because it was such an effortless story that actually had a beginning, middle and end and is not anything like any of her books that we read to her). And after all of that pronoun confusion earlier in her life, she can now use pronouns correctly when telling a story from someone else's point of view (she may have been able to do this earlier but not until recently has she started saying stories from another character's point of view).

Case in point: She had the tongs, aka 'the snappy crocodile'. The snappy crocodile eats other baby crocodile tails for dinner so he needs to live very quietly in the pond [this is almost direct quotes from her]. But the cool thing was when she said, whilst moving the tongs, "I can see her hokkien noodles and now I am thinking they are delicious too! SNAP!" and snapping up the hokkien with the tongs. This seemed pretty complex to me, almost like empathy?

But of course she is full of wonderful little turns of phrase that I need to start writing down again (now that I am not ready to rip my own head off with stress that is). Still no word on her school entry - we'd just love to actually *know*. But for now I guess I'll just enjoy hanging around with this amazing, sweet, wonderful child. Of course if I had written this entry earlier in the week.....

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