Before I get into the main theme of today’s post, I’d like to first provide you with a little background.
Last year, I separated from my husband, taking my daughter with me. Shortly thereafter, and completely unexpectedly, I met someone new. Long story short, we hit it off very well, got pregnant, are still together and happy. It’s not always easy, specifically because he also has two children, five and eight years old. Living in a house hold with three children, all of whom are going through a similar transition with parents splitting us and new people entering their lives, can be very stressful. But we are managing and my relationship with my boyfriend is as strong as ever, despite all the obstacles we face.
Anyway, for my daughter, who will be five years old in June this year, this has been a bumpy transition. She’s doing better than could be expected, but that isn’t to underestimate the challenges she has and continues to face.
So, it was a rough weekend, in particular, yesterday, after she returned home from a visit with her father. Although she was happy and excited when she returned home, the fact that she immediately entered into play with the two other children meant that she didn’t get a quiet moment to process the events of the day. It’s a common pattern that every time she visits her father or his parents, even though she enjoys her time with them, that when she comes home, her ability to handle stress is greatly impacted. Bouts of screaming and crying and fighting with the other children ensues, and I find myself at my limits trying to deal with it all.
So, I decided I needed to do something to help her, and I had a strong feeling since yesterday evening that I should keep her home from kindergarten today and do something with her, just the two of us. This morning, that feeling had not abated in the least, so I got her up, dressed and had breakfast, dropped my boyfriend’s youngest daughter off at kindergarten, and then took my daughter, Frida, shopping for the morning. (No, this wasn’t “shopping therapy”.) She’d been asking for a new dress, as she really doesn’t have many, and has lately really taken a liking to skirts and dresses. So, I thought, I need a couple things, as well, so let’s go shopping and see if we can find her a nice dress. Then maybe we can stop for hot chocolate or ice cream, and just enjoy some quality one on one time together.
Almost immediately after we arrived at the shopping center, and were at a little cafe there, she had a meltdown when I ordered the hot chocolate she wanted, but also a small piece of cake she didn’t want. Normally, she would have been thrilled to also get a piece of cake, but not this time. Frida had been in such a good mood, so happy to be out with me, until that moment. She dropped to the floor, refused to stand up and walk, and so slid across the floor towards the table where I carried our order. Needless to say, I was not happy about this behaviour. Even after she got off the floor and sat down, she continued to sulk and fuss. Then finally, she said she doesn’t get to see her father enough. Never mind the fact she had just seen him the day before. But that’s just it. She was clearly still needing to work through it all after her visit. So, once she told me this, we managed to move forward and her mood improved.
Well, we found a cute new dress for her, and one for each of my boyfriend’s two girls, on sale for a really good price. I found a couple maternity/nursing shirts, and then we picked up a little lunch and an ice cream for Frida and headed home in time to pick up my boyfriend’s youngest from kindergarten.
For a little while things went well with the three children, but then the outbursts started and got steadily worse. So, I finally brought her upstairs, where we had pretty much the whole upper floor to ourselves. I politely asked the other girls to let us have some alone time. At first, Frida screamed and cried, threw a major tantrum and demanded to be let out. But I knew if she went back downstairs in that mood, it would be a disaster. My boyfriend thought I was making a mistake to keep her upstairs away from everyone else, and at first I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing or not. But then I had a stroke of luck, and once I got Frida relatively calm, I ws able to find something she was willing to do with me. So, we had a little painting session. For those of you who don’t know me, drawing and painting are lifelong hobbies of mine. The first picture, Frida and I painted together. She told me to paint and airplane. Not my thing, but if it makes her happy, fine. Then the second painting she did entirely on her own, while I hung up the laundry to dry on the drying rack. As she painted, we talked about what she was painting, what she should do next, etc. Then she realized that there were certain colours she didn’t have. I only buy primary colours, because any other colour I need, I can easily mix up myself, but Frida doesn’t know how to do that. So, she started asking me how to make the other colours. First, she needed brown. She had just started to paint a tree, when it hit her what she was missing. So, I told her what colours to mix, and success! She made brown for her tree! Then she needed purple, then orange, then pink, grey, and so on. It was really cool to see how well she did following my simple instructions. I didn’t do it for her, and didn’t show her how much of each colour to use. I only talked her through it, told her what to keep adding until she got the colour she wanted. It was a really fun activity for her to do with me. When she was cleaning up all her supplies, I started setting up for pregnancy yoga, and asked if she wanted to do yoga with me. She takes children’s yoga, so it was no surprise that she wanted to join in. Again, it went really well. Towards the end, she was losing focus, but I expected as much. So, she went back downstairs to join the other kids.
The rest of the afternoon and evening, we had fewer outbursts and fewer conflicts. Plus at dinner, when I asked what she enjoyed about her day, it wasn’t the shopping trip she mentioned, but the painting and yoga session that she found so enjoyable.
So, all in all, I think the day went pretty well, and was very instructive. It is my hope to be able to find regular opportunities to focus on her in this one on one way and do things together that help her to calm down and work through her emotions and relieve stress.
That was my version of Mommy-Daughter Therapy!