Eric and I have been teaching Noelle to cry.
Yes, you read that right. We are teaching our daughter to cry.
Noelle, being the active toddler that she is, is prone to tripping, falling, crashing, and banging various body parts on an almost daily basis. But she doesn't cry. We will find bruises or scrapes on her knees and elbows when changing her clothes, bathing her, etc. and wonder, "When on earth did that happen?" Sometimes we will actually witness a wipe out and wait for the screams to come...but silence. Stone cold silence. She doesn't even look around to see if someone is coming to her aid. She just sets her little face in a grim line, stands up and returns to her previous activity.
We could have ignored the warning signs and said, "Wow! We've got ourselves a tough, owie-proof kid!" but knew this would only hurt Noelle's chances for healthy emotional growth and bonding to her parents. We surmise that Noelle has been unwittingly trained through her experience as an orphan to not expect someone to come running when she gets hurt. I often wonder how many scraped knees, bruised arms or bumped heads she suffered in the orphanage, with no parent to swoop in with tender kisses and words of comfort. It makes me so very, very sad to think of this sweet little girl learning to "Buck it up, babe, 'cause no one is coming to help you!"
Now, let me just interject here that Noelle's orphanage is one of the really great ones, as far as orphanages go. The nannies there are well trained in child development and genuinely love the children. This doesn't change the fact, however, that there's just a lot of kids to keep track of. They do the best they can. Noelle surely got lost in the shuffle, as each of the children would, from time to time. We do take some comfort in the fact that Noelle's primary nanny appeared to love her very much.
Eric and I have been making a concerted effort to retrain Noelle in this area. We want her to know that her parents will unquestionably be there for her whenever she needs us. When we see her stub her toe on the couch, twist back her pinkie finger, scrape her arm on the playground equipment, etc. we immediately reach out to comfort her. No, we don't freak out and over react. We do, however, take the opportunity to examine the "injury", kiss the boo-boo, snuggle her up close to us and reassure her she is okay. We conclude by saying something like, "Mommy's here. Mommy loves you. I've got you. Don't worry..."
And guess what? It's working...very well.
Almost too well, in fact.
Noelle has become quite proficient in calling out to us or bringing her owies to us for kisses. There is often a bit of a whining or sniffling accompanying her request for attention. She's got the pouty lip, the shuffling gait and the hunched, dejected shoulders down pat. It's very cute. And yes, a bit annoying at times, but we were prepared for this. We'd much rather deal with our own feelings of frustration than our daughter's feelings of rejection.
Allow me to share one bit of owie drama before I close. Several days ago Noelle hurt her knee when the three of us were outside making bubbles. She tripped, and in her recovery effort, scraped her left knee. She didn't make a peep and Eric missed seeing her contact with the pavement. But since I witnessed the scrape, I performed my mommy inspection and grabbed a wet wipe to clean the wound. As it wasn't serious, we went back to our play.
Now a day or two later when the scrape had formed a scab, Noelle became very fascinated with the dark spot on her knee. She would say, "Pooooor baby!" as she examined it. I would tell her to leave her owie alone and attempt a distractionary technique from my growing arsenal.
Eventually, as all kids do, she picked off the scab. It started to bleed. I cleaned the wound, applied Neosporin and applied a band-aid. (In 5 minutes I had to repeat the process.)
Noelle was very fascinated with her 'bandaged' knee. She would rub the spot for minutes at a time with a wondering look in her eye. She would whisper softly, "Oh baby!" when she was unaware of observation. When she noticed I was watching, however, she would kick it up a notch. First came the soft whining with the soft "Owwwooo". Then came the louder, high-pitched whine accompanied with a much louder "Owwwwwwwwooooooo!" She would wave her arms wildly and point to her knee. In keeping with our re-training attempts, I would then swoop her up onto my lap and kiss her knee. But one kiss was never enough. Noelle would sign "more" and I'd kiss her again. We would repeat this exchange several times until I could distract her with tickle, a goofy song or other such nonsense.
One evening at the height of Noelle's knee drama, I was putting her to bed. I had given the final kisses, tucked her into her covers and was rising from my knees. As Noelle appeared quite relaxed and sleepy, I thought, "It won't be long now before she is floating away into dreamland."
But our little gal had other ideas. Knowing her bedtime routine quite well, Noelle realized that-- after mommy rubs the lotion on my hands and face and kisses my cheek-- she leaves the room!
This is not to be tolerated. I will not take this lying down.
Taking matters into her own hands, Noelle sets her dimpled face into a dramatic pout, rubs her knee and whines, "Owwwwwwoooo!!!"