I figure I'm going to have it all figured out right about the time the kids leave to go start their own families...even then I'm sure I will still be very confused. However, I have made some serious progress this week! I have often referred to Anna as my "Anna-mal" - she's a little bit crazy, a lot sassy, and a lot stubborn. She has personality for miles, and can be a super-sweet girl when she wants to be. I tend to compare Haylie and Anna (as I think most parents tend to compare their children to each other) and they couldn't be more different. Haylie has always been quiet, shy reserved and obedient...in most ways. We've had our struggles, for sure. Anna has always been loud, outgoing, etc. I am not saying she is bad, but it has taken me some time to get used to it after having a quiet one like Haylie.
Since Ian joined our family in December, the family dynamic (obviously) has changed drastically. Anna is now a "middle child" and we are all feeling the effects of that! I am learning a lot about both girls and *thankfully* learning how to manage the new dynamic. After much observation (especially during my C-section recovery and Christmas Break) I realized that Haylie, in her quiet way, was provoking a lot of Anna's outbursts. Duh. I was punishing Anna for hitting, but not realizing that Haylie was also in need of punishment for saying mean things, or otherwise provoking her sister. It felt good to make that realization and stop blaming Anna for everything!
So in spite of my best efforts, Anna has still been having some anger issues: growling, screaming, stomping her foot, etc. I am so grateful for my 6am walks with my friend. I feel so much more clear-headed in the morning and we like to say we solve the world's problems in that 50-minute timespan. We have discussed, at length, some things to I could try at home to help Anna to not feel so displaced. Side note: I can tell she is suffering from the whole middle child syndrome thing, but she only takes it out on Haylie - thankfully, not Ian. So, one of the things we talked about was getting some alone time with Anna. Sure, ok...how am I supposed to do that in the middle of summer when all the children are home and I'm nursing a baby, etc, etc.? So it didn't happen for a while. On Tuesday, Haylie was invited to go play with a friend and Anna really wanted to go to...then the light bulb came on! "Anna, Haylie is going to go play with her friend, do you want to do something special with Mommy and Ian?" Her response? YES! I asked her what she wanted to do and it took her no time at all to decide that she wanted to go to the zoo and feed the giraffes. So I decided that we would do just that. I asked her to keep it a secret from Haylie and would you believe it? She totally kept it secret! I did not know a 3 1/2 year old could do that! So we went to the zoo and I let her be the guide. I let her make all the decisions about where to go and what to do next. We had the. most. lovely. day. It has been sooo long since I have felt that much love and compassion towards Anna and I was so grateful to have that opportunity to feel that way again. She was sweet and kind and happy as could be. Wow, we both really needed that alone time! Not surprisingly, we have had a great week - she still has her typical 3-year-old fits, but I really think that I was able to reassure her and let her know that I haven't forgotten her in all the chaos of family life. I feel like we have really come to a greater understanding of one another. What a blessing! Here are some pictures of the day - she wanted me to take pictures of her all over the zoo, and I was happy to oblige.
Feeding ZuZu (sp?) the giraffe
Hangin' on Nosey the elephant
Sittin' on the boy on the turtle
Tackling a giant lizard (I have no doubt my Anna could win that fight!) ;-)
On our way out...my sweet, wonderful, happy, spunkly little Anna and me. I love her so much and am so grateful that she is part of our family. I can already see that she is going to be a smart, strong, confident woman who will be incredibly successful in life. I love you Anna Banana!