I wish I couldn’t relate

I remember.

Sitting on my mom’s bed as she got dressed for a night out. Her looking in the mirror, freshly showered, hair done, perfume spritzed, necklace clasped. Me quiet. And sad knowing she was heading out for the night. The doorbell would ring and the babysitter would enter. I’d hide quietly behind my mom’s legs dreading her walking out the door with my dad. I knew I had a night full of card games, dessert and TV ahead of me but I still ached with the knowledge that someone Else would be putting me to bed. Helping me brush my teeth. Reading me my goodnight book. Turning out my light.

Many nights I’d grasp onto my mom’s leg as she tried to pry herself away from me. But she’d end up leaving. No matter how many tears I cried. What excuses I gave. She ended up going. And although some nights I fought the babysitter’s attempts to get me to stay in bed and Go To Sleep, I was always ok. I survived. My parents got to enjoy their time away. Their Time Out. And I was no worse for the wear.

Some nights I’d wake in the the wee hours of the morning, missing my parents. Wishing I could crawl into bed with them. Feel their warm bodies next to me and share my mom’s soft, squishy pillow under my little head. But I knew that wasn’t allowed. The times I’d go into my parent’s room in the hours when the moon and stars still twinkled in the sky, my mom would sleepily walk me back to my bedroom, kiss me on the forehead and softly urge me to go back to sleep. And many nights, I’d take my own pillow and small blanket, place them on the floor in the hallway outside my parent’s bedroom door and sleep there. Content knowing they were close. Right behind that door. My mom would wake early as she always did, open her door and find me asleep. Curled against the doorframe. It was not ideal for either of us. My mom was sad with the knowledge that I had been frightened and lonely, overcome with the need to sleep on the hard cold floor. But she was able to get a fine night’s sleep, not knowing her little girl was suffering, however silly it may have been. And I was afraid of making my mom angry, yet too scared to stay alone. But I was satisfied with this compromise of sleeping close by. It worked for me . And I grew out of it, eventually.

Fast forward 33 years. I have this little girl. Suddenly suffering. Unable to let me leave the house, even leave the room. She is scared at night. Having nightmares. She is petrified of my not being there when she’ll need me. Afraid no one else will understand how to take care of her (outside of Tim and her grandparents).

She had gymnastics tryouts this week and I couldn’t leave the room.

She won’t leave my side when I’m in the bathroom, even if it’s to run down the hall to fetch some toiletpaper.

She scolds (yes scolds) me for sitting outside in my swing when she’s in bed. “You can’t leave your Children inside alone Mommy!”

And now she is making me a prisoner in my own house. And I’m at a loss. Sick for her. And pitying myself. She got herself so worked up with sadness with the babysitter on Tim and my anniversary that she ended up throwing up repeatedly and (sorry) pooping all over the floor. On the phone as I drove to the restaurant, I tried to talk her down but she insisted she Needed me immediately. And upon my arriving back home, she admitted she had just been nervous. Very nervous being left with the sitter.

I have not heard from that sitter again.

And last night, when I had a night of cocktails on the water with Tim and his brother and sister-in-law planned, she would not “let” me leave her with the new sitter. She was traumatized. Terrified. Shaking. Unable to be reasoned with. And for fear of another episode with this new babysitter, I again stayed home. Another night ruined. Beyond frustrated. But aching with sadness for my little girl.

Tim believes we should punish her. Not let her irrational behavior win. Not let her be rewarded with our staying home. But I truly believe this is a stage resulting from something deeper than “acting out”. That there is a true fear I need to alleviate. That I need to dig out the roots of this problem and help her heal.

Am I being the gullible, irrational one? Should I show tougher love? Have her find her own way of solving this problem, as I did by sleeping outside my mom’s room in my young scared years? Or do I lay beside her, the way I had only wished my mom would?

Because here I am, feeling tortured. Feeling bullied. Afraid of how long this will last. How far and long this stage will stretch. Will she not let me leave her at Kindergarten in 3 weeks? Will her new gymnastics program fail us as well? Will I never find a babysitter that I won’t worry Hannah will throw up on?

I find these issues that I can relate so deeply to the hardest. Because I remember. I wore her shoes. I felt her pain. And now I’m crying her tears. And I know it’s not right but I’m at a loss for what to do.

Any tips Welcome!!

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Filed under ages and stages, babysitter, hannah, kindergarten, Me, Nature/Nurture, parenting

48 responses to “I wish I couldn’t relate

  1. LZ

    We had this problem with M. If we were home alone, it wasn’t as bad, but if someone else was here, I could not go upstairs or to the bathroom without a tantrum. I’ve let numerous gym memberships lapse because she wouldn’t even lol at the day care without crying. Unlike H, she wasn’t happywith grandparents watching her.
    I don’t think it’s something to be punished but I applaud that you’re still taking your time together. She will get over it, butbthebonly comfort I can offer is that you’re not alone!

    • I would try hiring a sitter to come in while you are there so she can get used to her. After a while when you go somewhere, she will feel comfortable. I have a college student at home with me part time and she’s like part of the family. I would do this a couple of days a week until she starts kindergarten so at least you can have a moment to yourself! Good luck!

      • I think that’s a great idea Julie. I worry that Hannah will just follow me around the house if I’m home but it’s worth a try for her to get used to someone. I just never had this problem. Ever. It’s a new phase and it’s the hardest one yet. Thank you!!!

    • It’s so new for us. I never expected it would happen at 5 and a half but it is! And after being so used to being able to leave her with whomever and whenever, this is a shock for us. It does make me feel better that I’m not alone… are you still going through it?

  2. Rachel

    This is a horribly hard one. I’m afraid I can’t help, as I really can’t relate, but I can say I hope you get the help support you need.

  3. Oy. I feel for you both. It could be that she is having anxiety about kindergarten? (My son has generally been pretty independent, but the other day dissolved into tears when I mentioned that a sitter–a sitter he loves–was coming over.)

    Does the gymnastics place she’s going to have any experience in helping kids manage separation issues?

    • I do think she may be having anxiety about kindergarten. I mentioned that to my husband today. I’m just not sure how to talk about it with her. i feel like I need to talk to a professional in the area!

      I’m not sure about the gymnastics place… I know I can watch her from the waiting room. I’m hoping that will be sufficient.

      Thanks so much…

  4. Andrea

    Hang in there, it will pass-and sooner than you think. My 5 y/o sleeps in our room in her own bed and routinely cries to sleep with us. But she loves school so she bucks up all her courage for it. I look at her like an empty vessel that needs to be full of mommy love-sometimes she is just bottomless-so I keep pouring, knowing she will fill up. Keep her close while you can!

    • What a sweet comment. She does seem to be this type… that needs to be as full of my love as possible at all times. And usually I’m fine giving it all to her but this just seems out of control. I see I’m not alone in this though which makes me feel better. And you’re right, in 5 or so years, when she could care less about my going out or going out on HER own, I’ll probably miss this. Thanks Andrea.

  5. Oh, Becca. I wish I had some insight for you to help you and Hannah.

    I hope it resolves itself quickly and that you get some good tips!

  6. Separation is so tough. I know my 5 year old is throwing bigger tantrums this week and I think the feeling of change coming is throwing her off. Kindergarten starts next week. I have been too distracted lately with a sick littler one. Andrea, I love your comment. Our girls need to be filled with mama love.
    I think once you’ve gotten to the stage of throwing up crying, you’re past the punishment phase. She doesn’t want to feel like that either.
    I wish I had advice. I haven’t had a night out since #2 came along, so I have nothing. Good luck!

    • OMG – I can’t believe you haven’t been out in so long! I guess I was spoiled going out every Saturday night. This is something I’m not used to… thank you so much for your advice and for letting me know I’m not alone!

  7. Oh, Becca, what a horrible situation for all of you! I really feel for you.

    I was going to say exactly what Julie said… find someone to come a play with her a few times while you are still at home, so Hannah can get used to her and feel comfortable with her. Then she won’t be “nervous” to stay alone with her when it’s time for you to go out. But you will eventually have to stand your ground… or she will know that she has you wrapped around her little finger and she will use it every time. She has to understand that you won’t always be there with her, but you will always come back. I really think you should find someone who is good with her and will spend some time with her while you’re at home, and then Hannah won’t have an “excuse” for you not to leave. You’ll have to be strong (and have a strong babysitter!) and just go, without feeling guilty and without coming back home. She is old enough to understand. You need time away, too. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, but try to stick to your guns. Good luck. (hugs)

    • So true Shannon. She is definitely wrapping me tighter and tighter around her finger and she needs to remember who’s the boss around here! If I didn’t think she was going to throw up, then I would just go and leave her but that throws another element into this mix that I’m having such a hard time with! But, I’m going to be strong… and see how it goes!

  8. Becca, this is really hard! I’m sad for both of you. If you’re up to it, I honestly think you should emial ck (badmommymoments) about this–she’s had some similar issues with ONE, and I think she’d be a great comfort and help to you. ((you))

    • ck

      I was just thinking the same thing. Shoot me an email if/when you have some time. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you on this kind of behavior and also to brainstorm.

    • Exactly what I was going to suggest. Professional help might also be a solution, try finding a child therapist/psychologist in your area and, if you can afford it, but a preliminary appointment.

  9. Oh becca this is so tough! Sophia comes and sleeps on our floor sometimes and I notice and I let her because it is so sad and precious that she is so silent trying not to wake us. I think the idea to have someone in the house while you are there a coulple times is good. We have always done this and the kids seem okay when we leave. Well Miles is hysterical for a few minutes and then forgets I ever existed! I hope things get better and I know that they will but I agree – as hard as it is – you can’t be a prisoner in your own home. It will make dealing with things so much more difficult.

    Start with small outings maybe but when you need to be out of the house – you need to and hopefully she will start to calm down.


    • Thank you so much Brittany. You have no idea how much better it makes me feel that I’m not alone and that so many of our kids go through things like this. I’m going to have to start from scratch with hannah… staying at home with the sitter, small outings, etc. Hopefully this too shall pass – sooner rather than later because I’m running out of babysitters! xo

  10. I don’t have any words of wisdom for you, I wish that I did. My son goes through this a little, when I leave him at the child care when I go to the gym. But he’s over it in a few minutes. It breaks my heart just for those few minutes that I know he’s crying. I can’t imagine how hard this is for you.

    My only thought is to talk to your mom, if you can. If she went through it with you, she might have some insight for helping your daughter through it.

    Just keep repeating this to yourself, it’s helped me through tough times: “This too shall pass.”

    • That is such a great idea to talk to my mom… not sure why I hadn’t thought of it or why she didn’t mention it when she read this post! I never made myself physically ill when she left me so I think she showed me some tough love and just left me. And I don’t think I had a hard time at school or activities, just on weekend nights and sleeping through the night.

      And you are definitely right. As hard as it is… this will definitely not last forever.

  11. Oh Becca, I can’t even imagine the stress this causes for both you and your husband and for her. I wish I had something brilliant to suggest. I really like Julie’s idea – maybe if she is used to someone you can work her up to you leaving for short trips while she is up, so she can see you leave and see you return.

    What about letting her sleep and spend special time in your room/bed when you are out. That way she knows when you come home she will know and can still be tucked in by you.

    Good luck!! I hope you find a solution soon!!

    • Thanks Liz. I did offer for her to go to sleep in my bed the other night but that didn’t work. I even told her she could stay UP and watch TV until we came home… but no, that didn’t work either. She just wants me there. She’s worried she’ll NEED me when I’m gone and no one would be able to care for her like I do. Sweet but painful, all at the same time!

  12. Becca – I am so sorry you all are going through this whatever it is. Did it worsen after you were out of town for BlogHER? I am wondering if she realized suddenly, on top of the impending kindergarten, that you do sometimes go away for more than just a few hours.

    Also, you mention you feel like you should talk to a professional. Have you considered finding a child’s psychologist for H to talk to?

    • No Nicki, it started before BlogHer… although I guess the last two horrendous episodes were since the conference. Something to think about – you’re right.

      I’m definitely going to look into someone for me to talk to first to give me some tips on how to deal with this and if that doesn’t work, I’ll find someone for her too.

      thank you for your thoughts. Really. xo

  13. Wow. This sounds really hard! Maybe she’s just reacting to change? You said she just graduated from one school and will be moving to another…maybe that’s part of it? I wonder about little girls and their attachment to parents. I don’t want to gender-stereotype, but I notice differences with friends in the way that their girls act when it comes to change vs. boys. (Of course, my boy is still only three, so who knows what I’m in store for.) I also remember feeling lonely and desperate for my mom when I was young, being terrified at the idea of being alone in the house.

    I hope you can figure something out. Good luck!

    • Thank you Jana. I do think the move to K has a lot to do with this. I think maybe I’ve talked too much about her impending change thinking she’d get excited about it and instead I may have freaked her out. sigh.

      I’ll get through it – somehow!

  14. That sucks.

    I have no answers.

    In general I’m a big fan of praying (if you’re the sort) for acceptance and the strength to get thru it. And crying. I’m a big fan of crying.

  15. Becca – my heart goes out to you. While I’ve not experienced this as a mom, I remember a distinct memory from childhood where I cried my eyes out and begged for my mom not to leave. I was so scared that she wouldn’t come back for me, for some reason, even though that has never happened before. This fear is irrational and unfounded but no less scary for a little kid.

    As Hannah learns more about the unpredictability of the world around us and realizes just how uncertain things are, she probably feels the need to hold on tighter. You are her world now after all…I’m sorry I have no advice, but I’m sending hugs your way. I hope it’s a short phase, and until it passes, stay strong my friend. The important thing to remember is that it WILL pass.

    (Although not soon enough, I know).

    • You are so smart Justine. So much of what you wrote feels so right. makes so much sense.

      As hard as it is, I can’t help be feeling slightly warmed by the fact that she feels so safe with me. And I know it will pass… it’s just so sad, pitiful and HARD to watch her go through this.

      Thank you. xoxo

  16. Hi,
    I want to offer a solution for this and yes it is my company created from my own experiences in dealing with my children’s fears.
    Our brand is designed to provide comfort to any child and they can hang them anywhere in their rooms especially putting the tail between the mattress.
    Hope this helps. šŸ™‚
    Warm Regards,

    • These are so cute! What a GREAT idea! Maybe worth a shot even though her fears are more about me leaving the house than about being afraid of the dark. she has a bed FULL of stuffed animals but maybe a ScareMeNot would serve a different purpose. Thanks for passing it along (and this is the first “spam” comment that I actually responded to and will leave up for all to see!)

  17. This must be so tough on both of you. Since Hannah is having physical reactions to her anxiety I don’t think “letting her tough it out” would be the best route to go. I remember having terrible separation anxiety when I was little but the worse that happened was sobbing. I don’t have any experience as a mom with this but perhaps consulting professional help would be in order. Best of luck.

  18. I have no words of wisdom – just hugs, hugs and more hugs. Thinking of you both!

  19. Becca, what a rough time you have been having. I can imagine how your heart must be breaking every time it happens, not knowing what is behind it, not knowing how to fix it.

    I hope that you both can get through it, no worse for the wear, soon! Sending you hugs and hope!

    • Thank you maria. I hope we get through it soon too. I need a night OUT! And a day without her thinking she’s going to throw up from nerves.

  20. I wish I could help in some way, although it might be related to school. My almost 4yo started regressing with her toilet training as soon as we started discussing school and around the time I was leaving for NYC, so perhaps related? Who knows. I hope this passes quickly for you both – best of luck.

    • Thank you Maria. I have heard about many examples of kids regressing in one way or another… so I guess it makes sense. As hard as it is to watch, and deal with.

  21. oh wow, I feel for you. I went through it with my now 8 year old, and yet again with my 21 month-old. I think it’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it shows they have really bonded with you and need you above all others, yet a curse because you can’t even pee without you out of their site. Frustrating at times, I know. I’m thinking it’s a phase that they quickly grow out of, as my daughter has proved. Then you move into the other wonderful phases of childhood….oy vey!

  22. Goodness, I have no insight on this one, but I do imagine that I will face something similar with my girls down the line. I think it is brave and wonderful of you to write about your situation here because there are so many people out there with experiences and the desire to help. Really, we are all in this parenthood game together.

    Good luck. xoxo

  23. Liz

    Ok, so I read this a couple days ago and couldn’t comment. Now, I am in such a hurry to get to work that I haven’t had a chance to read any of the commentys posted, so excuse me if I write something someone else did.
    With Ben, we would always make sure there was somethign “special” about staying with the sitters (GRANTED…our sitters are family members, but still, there were many times he did NOT want to go)…like: a special visit to the movie store first to rent something, an extra TV show, a later bedtime, a sugary treat we don’t allow…etc. He always feels like he gets something special b/c it’s not Mommy and Daddy time. We have also explained our need for “Mommy and Daddy time” and compared it to when he likes to be alone with his cousins, or one of us, etc. As for the debate between your husband and you about whether to “punish” or “reward.”…I don’t know about punishing, but I do agree that coming back when she is hysterical, or cancelling the plan, is definitely training her that this will work and to try it again and again. I would try to do the sitter thing more frequently in the next few weeks but in very short bursts, like for an hour at a time, and then increasing to an evening, and NOT return, no matter what, but you’ve got to be matter-of-fact and loving with her. Good luck, and keep us posteD!!!!!!!!!!

  24. I’m a little late on this but I wanted to say, from experience cuz my kids are teens now, that they learn to manipulate us at a very early age. An age of 3 or 4 and if we allow it, they only get better at it. Mine did…sigh. Most likely she’s feeling anxious about the changes coming with Kindergarten. Also, some of it is normal behavior, I would think. My kids always went to daycare, so we did not have much of this at all, but I can say, leave her sometimes, don’t take those anxiety ridden calls, she needs to learn to self soothe. It is more likely harder on you than her, but it will probably pass. I don’t think you should punish her, but I definitely think you may want to try and ignore some of it because giving attention to it will only teach her that she will get attention from that behavior. Good luck!

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