Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Separation Anxiety

In two weeks, Anna will be one year old. She took her first step on Sunday. Just one step, but it was enough to make me weepy. She's awesome.

But this post is about Ben. My dear Benji Boy. Oh, how I love him. In the last week, however, he has presented us with new challenges in patience and compassion. He's dealing with some very strong separation anxiety issues. If we're getting ready to leave the house to go to the store or go for a walk, he starts to panic that we'll leave without him, and he screams and wails, running for his shoes and his jacket. We try to convince him that we won't leave without him, but every time he turns around and doesn't see one of us in his field of vision, he panics again.

At night, we'll go through our nighttime routine, ending in storytime with Daddy upstairs. Even if he manages to relax and fall asleep, he wakes up or gets out of bed within 30 minutes, realizes that no one is up there with him, and he has a panic attack. One night we brought him back upstairs 10 times before he finally passed out from exhaustion.

This is a typical developmental phase that kids usually go through before second year. Lots of babies have separation anxiety from their parents. It's a matter of learning object permanence. Ben's issue has such a strong emotional component, it breaks our hearts while it frustrates us. When life is happy and peaceful for him, he's affectionate and funny, playful and charming. I'm always wary for something to set him off.

Last night, we let him sleep in bed with us. Normally, this is forbidden. We were desperate, I guess. Neither of us wanted to sleep upstairs with him, and we weren't looking forward to the now commonplace back-to-bed dance that leaves Ben in gulping sobs. We may be pushovers, but we gave in.

The strong-line-parent in me didn't want to. I wanted to be strong and insist that Ben sleep in his own bed at a time that we set. I told myself he was being manipulative, and that this was a test. But the gooey-intuitive mommy in me felt that this just wasn't so. Something is going on in his spirit, something topsy-turvy, and he is just letting us know. Maybe if I hug him closer and give him as much security as I can, we can help him through this phase, and he'll become the independent and easy sleeper that he once was.

Tonight, we're blowing up our air mattress and putting it next to our bed. It's a compromise. He'll be separate, but he'll still be able to see us and hear us if he needs to. Next phase would possibly be to reverse the baby monitor. Can you imagine it? Setting up the video monitor so that he can see our bed and us in it. That might be a silly/crazy idea, but it might work.

In other news, our dear new doggy Molly is in heat. That's kind of messy and gross. She has her spay appointment at the end of next week, so at least this will be the only time she has to go through this. Behavior-wise, she's not awful. She's better with Chris than she is with me. I'm trying to be the alpha dog, and it's not like I feel nervous or passive around her, but it must be evidencing itself somehow, because she doesn't walk well on a leash for me. I'm trying.