Her Growing Independence, and Fear

Amie and I picking flowers at Drumlin Farm

Mama and Amie picking dandelions

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!

I was hugged and kissed a little more vigorously than usual this morning by Amie and Baba. It’s my second mother’s day, but the first time Amie could verbally congratulate me, and she did very well! It’s quite a mouthful. There was also a drawing by Amie and a blown-up picture of her.

I called up my Mom to wish her “Gelukkige Moederdag”. Yes, in Belgium too they celebrate Mother’s Day: a couple of years ago it had completely slipped my mind and the result was not pretty! And I so understand now!

Today we’re taking it easy: some playtime in the park, a walk to the Corner… But yesterday was the real Mother’s Day for me! 

Drumlin Farm visit

We visited Drumlin Farm, a whole group of us, lots of little kids, one bigger kid, and a gang of adventurous, upbeat grown-ups. The air was fresh, the sky sunny, the animals out and about, very vocal and mobile and many with offspring (kids, lambs, piglets, chicks). 

Sheep and Lamb at Drumlin Farm Rooster and chicken at Drumlin

“Sheeps,” Amie pointed out.

The fields looked deserted (weekend), but soon they will need all the help they can get to keep up with the growing season, and I still want to be a volunteer. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty!

No, distance, and secrets

Amie is celebrating a new-found sense of self and of freedom.

As part of her new attitude, she experiments with “NO”. She loves being contrary, but in a playful, not annoying mood. When you ask her to come to you, she’ll yell “Noh?” and run away. In  record time she puts quite a distance between herself and you, then she looks back, and if you are following her, she continues her escape. This would have been unheard of even a month ago, when we had to be within arm’s reach at all times.

Several times she has even pushed me away, saying “Mama don’t play”. And then there is “Mama go away.” She’s just testing out the idea of it, though, because if I oblige and leave the room, she will cry and run to me.

She also started whispering. When you look at her, trying to understand what she is whispering, she smiles and goes on muttering, relishing the fact that she is keeping the words to herself. There is real secretiveness there!

Luckily for us they are offset by more intense episodes of hugging and hanging-around-the-legs, and this amazing new verbal affection: “Amie loves Mama”, “Mama is nice”, “Baba needs a hug from Amie”. She also likes to observe: “Yes, you are right,” which is nice, but then again, “you” often still means “I”. So I’m not qutie sure what to make of that.

We are very comfortable and encouraging with these experiments of independence. They are a necessary stage in her emotional and cognitive development, and she needs to forge an identity that is separate from ours. I am happy though that she is doing it in a funny and charming way, without being too disruptive, without taking too much distance at once. So far.

Fearful

But no pain no gain. She also started grappling with a new nervousness, that I am sure is connected to her growing sense of one-ness and thus alone-ness. 

Until a month ago, Amie had been afraid only twice: of a particular glow-wormy doll, and of balloons when you make them squeek. Darkness, animals, noise, heights, the grotesque witch puppet who stands taller than her… none of these elicited anthing but interest or disinterest.

Now, however, when we’re inside the house and an airplane flies over rather noisily, or a car honks in the street or speeds past, or heaven forbids she hears a siren, she runs to me and asks to be picked up. Often she tells me: “Not be scared of the airplane” and hugs me closer.

She is most sensitive to sounds and especially machine-noises. The word “machine” is pronounced with awe. When she asks to go “see the machine,” I think she wants to know where it is, so she can keep an eye on it. Often, to console herself, she will say: “Machine can’t see Amie”. It’s quite heartbreaking.

More sociable

So this new fear only seems to extend to things, especially noisy machines. Her attitude towards people (other than her Baba and me) has undergone an opposite change.

She has had her share of stranger anxiety, and a long and terrible bout of it for months, up until very recently. Today she will shake the hand of a barely-remembered acquaintance without hesitation, say a very cordial “hi!” to a total stranger on the street, and after 5 minutes exchange imaginary flowers with them. After some hours of friendliness, the majority of our visitors is allowed to pick her up, and she’ll give them a hug (when asked).

She has also finally found happiness at daycare, this after several months of grief and back-to-square-one (mal)adjustment. She plays now, and laughs, and says hi to everyone. She lets me go without a whimper at drop-off and delays pick-up. Most relieving is the fact that she is no longer inordinately attached to the assistant, whom she adopted as my surrogate and monopolized for many months.

A Child’s Development

It is fascinating and bewildering to watch them grow and change. Keeping track and making sense of their emotional development is more tricky than tracking their progress with language, art, play, but they are all, of course, intricately related. And new layers are added everyday as they tackle new and old emotions and as, lcognitively, they become more “rational”.

I always say: I am part-mom and part-time observer.

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