Needy Girl

Phaedra has always been a daddy’s girl.  When I went back to work at six weeks old, she was completely fine with it.  Rob and Phaedra would hang out at home all day, getting into all sorts of delightful mischief.  Once he covered her in the cash from her baptism cards and took her picture, like she was a tiny club owner who had just finished making it rain.  He made a tinfoil hat for her to wear while we baked cookies.  They would try to match each other’s facial expressions in the mirror, snapping pictures when he felt they had gotten it right.  Even now, her ultimate goal is to be awake when Daddy gets home from work around midnight, and I am constantly reminded that “Daddy never breaks my cookie in half; he always gives me the whole thing.”  He’s the good cop to my bad cop.  It’s okay.  They’re buddies.

Now, though, it seems there’s a new sheriff in town.

Every evening for the past month, I’ve had this exact conversation with Phaedra:

“Mom, do you work tomorrow?”

“Yeah, honey, I do.  I’m sorry.”

“But I don’t WANT you to work tomorrow!  Why can’t you stay home?”

“Because I promised I would go to work.  I can’t break my promise, even though I’d rather stay home with you.”

“Well, how many days until you get to stay home from work?”

“Two.  Two more days until I can stay home for a day.”

“Mom, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease stay home tomorrow!”

My super independent Daddy’s girl has suddenly grown tentacles and attached herself firmly to me.  She wants me to accompany her everywhere, watch her do everything.  When I’m home, she’s by my side all day — asking to sit in my lap, slamming into me with a hug, pleading with me to monitor tasks she always demands to do by herself.  She falls apart when I tell her I have to leave, whether it’s to go to work or go to the basement to get a basket of laundry.  “But I’m going to miss you while you’re goooooooooooone!”

Ahhhh.  Much better.

Bedtime became an even bigger disaster than usual.  Instead of falling asleep to a movie or book, she would will herself to stay awake, because the thought of me leaving her alone was too much for her to bear.  Rob and I finally decided that three hours was a bit excessive for a bedtime routine that begins at 10:30 pm, and that Phaedra was old enough to lay in bed and fall asleep on her own.

That’s when she took her crazy to the next level.

The second I left the room, even after repeatedly assuring her that I would be right back, that I would check on her in a minute?  That’s when it began.  Screaming, hysterical can’t-catch-a-breath crying, even getting out of bed and sneaking downstairs to watch TV while I coaxed the baby back to sleep.  She was terrified of bedtime, and began spending the two hours before bedtime intermittently crying and listing reasons why she shouldn’t have to go to bed.

She would wrap her arms tightly around mine while I read bedtime stories.  One day, she asked me, “Mom?  How do you get away from me at night after I fall asleep?  I thought I was holding on tight enough.”

I am bewildered.  I really don’t know what to make of this.  On the one hand, it hurts my heart to make her so sad.  If it was my choice, I would stay home with her.  I’d probably still go down to the basement by myself, though, because BACK THE FUCK UP, KID.  However, with two other extremely needy kids under my care, it’s hard to cheerfully add a third set of clingy demands to the list.  I try to cater to this new emotional need in the daytime, but far too many 1:00 a.m.’s last week found me surrounded by three kids screaming from their beds, either directly or indirectly affected by Phaedra’s new obsession.

One night early morning, after a particularly nasty bedtime, I sat talking to Rob.  He had returned home from work in the middle of the shit storm, and was able to coax her to sleep.  “I just don’t know what to do anymore,” I said.  “She says she can’t sleep.  Nothing helps her fall asleep anymore — not books, not movies, not music, and she loses it if I try to leave her for even a second.”

“What about talking to her?”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s like me, she can’t shut off her brain at night.  That’s why she stays up so late.  She just needs something to focus on, to help her thoughts shut down.  Tonight, I just laid down with her, started talking to her, and she calmed down and fell asleep.”

“You talk to her.”


“That’s it.”

“Uh huh.  Just try talking to her, man.”

The following night, I informed her of what the new bedtime routine would be: PowerPuff Girls episode, go potty, brush teeth, hug Bella goodnight, and then her and I would lay down in her bed and talk.  She looked at me suspiciously.  “About what?”

“Whatever you want, honey.  Just me and you.”

“No Bella?”

“No Bella.”

He was right.  He’s always right.  Now, Phaedra and I snuggle up and after a little chatting, she listens while I hypnotize her with my words.  Bedtime topics have included Disney World, how your body grows, kindergarten, Barbies, dreams, and why girls can do the same things as boys.  All she wanted was a few minutes out of her day where she had my undivided, absolute attention.  Where she didn’t have to whine and insist and compete for it.

She’s started to relax little by little since we started our snuggle talks at night.  Poor Phaedra.  It’s easy for me to forget that, though she talks like a forty-year-old woman, she’s really just a sensitive five-year-old with a tendency to over-analyze.  It’s easy to get busy and not realize that you might be taking your child’s naturally independent nature for granted.  It’s easy to forget that even a daddy’s girl needs her mama sometimes.

As it turns out, I was the one that wasn’t holding on tight enough.

This entry was posted in best husband ever, changelings, Phaedra, sleep (or lack thereof), temporary insanity, working mom problems. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Needy Girl

  1. Janel-
    Adopt me. It can be done- the adult adopting another adult thing. I just Googles it. You are the Mom I knew I could never be, that’s why I have pitbulls:)

  2. That would be GoogleD it.

  3. Janel says:

    I like Googles better. And surprise! You’ve been adopted! Now WEAR SOMETHING MORE THAN A SCARF WHEN YOU GO OUTSIDE FOR GOD’S SAKE YOU LIVE IN ANTARCTICA.

  4. Oh man, this made me tear up!

  5. Arnebya says:

    This breaks my heart, mainly because this is, to a degree, happening with both my 9 yr old and my 2 yr old. The boy has always been a whiny leg holder. The middle girl, though? Man, she’s always been the free spirit, the fuck y’all, I’ma color without you girl. She asked if I got summer vacation at work. Shit. She asked why I only get two days off from work. Shit. She asked me to play dolls with her, go outside with her, lie down with her, bathe her. All this was also requested to be done alone, minus the leg/hip/hand appendage that is usually the boy. It’s calmed down some (her, not my guilt at not being able to better accommodate her requests for one-on-one time). I have used science to deduce a top notch theory: this parenting shit is hard. Gimme mah medal.

    BTW, I like “I just Googles it” better too.

  6. Janel says:

    It IS hard. I’m sure it’s also going to just get harder the older they get. Shit indeed.

    Also, I feel like it’s time to start spreading Googles across this great land of ours.

  7. It is so hard, when they talk like they’re 15, to remember that they’re so small inside. I have to check my head on this a thousand times a day.

  8. Janel says:

    “they’re so small inside”. That’s a perfect way to say it. Rob has to remind me every day how small inside Phaedra really is.

  9. Anonymous says:

    That is an awesome beard! My husband is jealous.

    Love your blog, you have a great voice.

  10. Janel says:

    Ha! He gets that all the time! Which is unfortunate, because it just means he’s never going to shave it 😉

    Thanks so much, glad you enjoy it!

  11. Julia P F says:

    Great team work! My husband asked me today why the bathroom door was open if I was using it. I informed him I haven’t pottyed with the door closed in almost three years…

  12. Janel says:

    Totally. Sometimes I have to remind myself that *hey man*, you should close the door when you’re around adults that don’t live in your house. I miss closed doors.

  13. Cherie says:

    This made me tear up too. My 2 year old is all too aware that in a few weeks there will be a baby in the house and her insistance of “mom” time is 10 fold.

    I have to remember she is small inside too, she acts and speaks like she is WAY older. It feels good to be needed and wanted, but breaks you right down the middle when you can’t be there all the time.

    Being a parent is hard! <3

  14. Janel says:

    Cherie: I agree, it’s pretty darn hard. Good thing our kids think we’re doing it right (most of the time).

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