S and I went out for the day the other week, with my sister and a friend. While S was happily running around the zoo we were in (more on that in another post) I commented to my friend that I was really lucky with S in that she doesn't often tantrum or get cross about doing things she doesn't want to do. My friend responded that this was down to good parenting.
I've always considered myself very lucky that S wasn't a screamy baby. Being on my own, and feeling decidedly fragile to begin with, I don't think I could have coped well if she'd screamed all day and night. I think she's just naturally quite chilled out and laid back about things, and I'm not sure why that is. On the one hand, she's never been particularly distressed by life - but on the other, I've always kept her close to me and been there when she needed anything.
This week we've been staying at a friend's house to look after her dogs while she's away. It's only up the road, but I was worried for S - she's been sleeping in a different bed, eating at a different table, doing everything differently. I spoke to nursery beforehand and asked them to let me know if she seemed a little unsettled. Their verdict on the first day was "she's been absolutely fine; she always just seems to take these things in her stride!" - just as her move from one room to the next at nursery was no big deal for her, and the rest of us were busy flapping around, watching for the first sign of trouble.
So is S naturally calm, secure and able to cope with change. Was she born that way?
Personally, I am not naturally calm. I do not cope well with change. And of all the words you could use to describe her father, calm and secure are far from that list.
Is it nurture, then? Something I have done?
I am a fairly insecure person; in the first months of S's life I clung to her more than she clung to me. I carried her around in a sling, at first for convenience and then because the buggy just seemed too far away for her to be. And because she was so close to me, I would talk to her. Constantly, and about everything. As she's grown, she's graduated to walking or riding in the buggy, but the chatter still remains. We talk about what we can see when we're walking along, what we think S might do at nursery today, who she might see there, what we'll have for tea, what toys we'll play with, which stories we want to read. Only last week I was wandering around town happily chattering away to her, only to take a closer look and realise she was fast asleep. It happens a lot.
I remember in the first week or so she was at nursery, she would cry when I dropped her off and I hated it; I knew if we got into a position where the nursery staff had to peel her off me before I could leave, I would end up leaving my job. And so, on the way to nursery in the mornings I would whisper to her in the sling, "I bet you're going to have such a fantastic day today, you're going to do so many fun things..." all the way to nursery. Perhaps it's the constant chatter that keeps S so perky and relaxed? She always knows exactly what's happening, what's about to happen, where we're going, who we're visiting. She knows what to expect.
That explains some of it.
Nothing can explain this:
I arrived at nursery the other day to collect S; her class were all playing outside as I got there and S was on the see-saw. All of her friends went inside; I went inside to chat about her day and collect her things; she stayed on the see-saw. I came out, the door closed behind me. I told her again it was time to go. She said "see-saw, see-saw, see-saw!"
I walked over to her, crouched down and said "ok sweetheart, I know you want to play on the see-saw but it's time to go. I'm going to count to three, and then we're going to leave." I gritted my teeth, counted to three, and lifted her off the see-saw.
She smiled, grabbed hold of my hand, and off we toddled out of the nursery and home.
Sometimes, it's like I have a Stepford toddler!