Yesterday afternoon was traumatic for me. Grace was asked to bring in a stuffed elephant or elephant book to school because they are "studying" elephants in her class. She chose a stuffed elephant and we brought it in, but when she went down for her nap yesterday afternoon she got really upset that the elephant wasn't at home. And by "really upset" I mean "threw the worst temper tantrum she had ever thrown before...by a long shot [until later that night]". There was over an hour of screaming and throwing things out of her crib; she wouldn't let me touch her or pick her up, didn't want Mama, only wanted the elephant (which she had previously liked but it had never one of her chosen few). Eventually I succeeded in distracting her with something else, she let me hold her, and all was well. But it scarred me. For real.
Then came bed time. Normally Grace is a champion "go to sleeper" because since we sleep-trained her at 5 1/2 months old, she has always gone to bed easily with a few rare exceptions related to jet-lag and travel or sickness. She knows and loves her bedtime and never cries going to bed. Literally. Never. Until last night, when she topped her earlier temper tantrum with a 3-hour scream-fest that involved climbing up and jumping out of her crib onto our extremely-hard-wood-on-top-of-concrete floors. She only wanted me to hold her and rock her and read to her in this situation, as opposed to earlier in the day. When we finally got her to go to sleep at 10 pm, she still woke up every couple of hours crying. She did sleep until 7:15 am, which is some kind of record in this house, but only after about 6 1/2 hours of sleep total. If I thought her daytime tantrum was traumatic, I had no idea what she was capable of. Kristoffer and I are still in shock that that was her. It was unbelievable.
But off to school she went this morning, where we traded a safari book for her precious elephant. I had warned her teacher, Miss Mbata, about what happened last night and that Grace might be a little off today given her lack of sleep. Sure enough, when I picked Grace up after lunch I was told that she was naughty for the first time ever. She threw her shoes, she hit another child, she threw sand at some other kids in the sandbox. Grace. My child. You've got to be kidding me.
So OBVIOUSLY this extreme change in behavior is related to the fact that she knows someone new is coming out of my big belly very soon. We've done everything all the books tell you to do (and more!) to prepare your only-child toddler to become a big sister and for the last couple of weeks she has seemed really "into" the baby. But I hate to tell you, Rocky, she's just not that into you! While she has good communication skills for her age, I think they are no match for the overwhelming variety of emotions she must be feeling and her behavior must be considered "normal", right?! (please say right, or else I might start to cry...again).
Her teacher said, "Once you have the baby and come home from the hospital and everything is stable, she'll be OK. At least we know why she is acting out. But I have to say I almost didn't react when she hit the boy because I was so shocked that it was Grace!" And as Kristoffer wrote me in a text message today, "She will need a lot of attention over the next weeks. We have to give her as much lover as possible and try to be very stable parents." Right. Okay. Attention. Love. Stability.
So, the bottom line is: I want my little girl to be happy and feel secure and loved and not to feel like we are replacing her...and I want my new baby to feel all the love and attention and awe s/he deserves upon his/her birth...and I can't help but feel we are venturing into extremely uncharted waters here. Good thing we have two life-preservers arriving in the morning.