So little sister Ladybug is this energizer bunny, loving, hilarious, jumping bean; she is either in a state of motion or fast asleep. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground with her, ever since the day she was born—I remember her little body in my arms, and she was trying to hold her tiny head up in the hospital (I think so she could hear her big sister). She’s embraced life to the fullest and with gusto that I wish I could bottle, especially when at a late afternoon meeting and I have to force my head to stay on top of my neck, rather than sag into an impromptu slumber, lol, because hey, I’m old now, and naps are AWESOME! Sorry for the digression.
So over the last couple of months, Ladybug has suddenly displayed different behavior—I’d say skittish, like a cat—much more shy around groups of people. We stopped going to gymnastics last month because she was displaying big reluctance (which was weird, because when she started last fall, she loved it. We even had her birthday party there in February and she had a blast). Sometimes she said she would rather go to "swim lessons with daddy," and I responded positively and told her she could do both. And despite the reluctance, usually a third or halfway through the class, she’d finally warm up and participate again. Plus, being the energizer bunny that she was, I thought it would help burn off some of that energy, and since she twirls and somersaults in the house, perhaps doing so with thick padding would help. Towards the end, she became quite vocal about not going, “I’m scared mommy!” to which I would react with curiosity, “what does it mean to be scared?,” “does anything bad happen?” and I’d struggle forward saying we had signed up, so we had to follow through, and mainly so I could show Ladybug that during that 45 minutes of gymnastics, nothing BAD happened, no yelling, hitting, hurting, etc., I was hoping she could see with her own eyes and ears and body that she was okay.
Cut to the last lesson where she just sat on the mats the entire time, while the other children were bouncing and laughing and having a lovely time, and I decided, well she’s miserable, I’m miserable, let’s take a break.
During this time, I also noticed when we went to a new place where there were lots of people, she would hide in the back of my shirt, clinging like a baby koala and refuse to let go, or if she did, her face hidden in my side. And while my inlaws were just in town (the girls LOVE them! See my last post), when they first arrived, Ladybug clung to me again repeating she was "shy." After 20 minutes or so, she warmed up and was fine, cuddling, playing and laughing with them with her usual gusto.
I talked with the girls’ play therapist—who says not to worry, it could be just a normal phase with Ladybug, because kids can do this—and as long as we react with curiosity and support (rather than punishment or negativity), she’ll likely get through it. That because Ladybug was so extroverted before it seems like this huge change, but really, it could be just a normal phase that many kids go through. (Squirrel didn’t, which is probably why it seems like such a surprise to me.)
Well…then the the girls came home from a week end at dad’s on Monday, and for the first time in 2.5 years, Ladybug said she was "shy" around A when he got home and was reluctant to be around him. We assured her that A loved her and did our best to respond positively.
Ladybug still seemed upset though, and during the phone call with dad, she was audibly sad, and dad asked her what was the matter, and she said she didn't want to tell dad, because she was afraid he would 'get mad at her.' Dad reassured her that he wouldn't get mad at her, and then she said she felt shy around A, because she hadn't seen him "for a long time." Dad then repeatedly asked her if "something happened with A," to which she said no, repeatedly, then she wanted to get off the phone, and dad asked her if "someone asked her to get off the phone," to which Ladybug looked at me (confused) and said "no." Then big sister Squirrel got on the phone and explained to dad that Ladybug was just shy and she always warms up later (because Squirrel always feels likes it her job to take care of dad’s worries…). Squirrel went on to have a normal phone call with him.
Before the in-laws left, who are veterans at this blended family business (20+ years, and both their youngests were around 10), I touched on Ladybug’s skittishness with them, wondering if all the back and forth between the two houses was finally getting to Ladybug. That up until now, Ladybug just went with the flow, because she was a baby when the Ex moved out, and she didn’t know any different. Back then, it was big sister Squirrel who was grieving and having a harder time adjusting. Now, four years later, Squirrel has her brownie scout friends, her music friends, her dance school friends, her school friends, lots of activities and support around her, and she’s older, more able to tolerate the two houses situation. I wonder, if perhaps it’s little sister Ladybug’s turn to struggle, to not really be able to settle into each house because of all the shuffling, and if the stress of the schedule is wearing on her.
My MIL confided in me that she had wondered the exact same thing—they they both thought the middle of the week overnight is so disruptive to the busy school schedule and maybe Ladybug is having a hard time settling in.
And then not to assume, but I also worry about the negative speak that may be happening, overtly or inadvertently at their dad’s. Ladybug mentioned that dad talks about A, and knowing what I know about Exie’s manipulative nature, my red flags are going off.
I brought these concerns to both the play therapist and the co-parenting counselor, and of course they are saying don’t assume, it could be a phase, etc. etc. I hope they will address this with him, and in the meantime, I remain vigilant and supportive of both girls. I think these counselors listen to me, but sometimes…I wonder. And sometimes I think, I am the only person who truly gets and understand the length and breadth of his crazy. :(
/rant p.s. So… It turned out the co-parenting counselor had scheduled the Ex to come right after my appointment. When I learned of that, I made it clear with her that while I am willing to put on a brave face at public events at school for the girls--which do go well, because I do that for the girls' sakes, I was **very** uncomfortable with being in the same place as him and that my PTSD was triggered, and I would need to leave early to be sure I didn’t see him. She apologized and said she didn't think it would be a big deal, and wouldn't do that again. I left 20 minutes early. And went to my personal therapist. I’m okay with this now, because she said she wouldn’t do this again, but part of me was like, seriously? You may see this educated, well-dressed man in front of you, so you assume he’s not as bad as I had experienced, and I will do what I need to do to be flexible and work with him for my girls’ sake, but I will NOT and do NOT have to be around the person who perpetrated his anger outbursts on us and threatened to put a bullet through my head. NO. Dammit. NO.