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2 Year old SD getting upset away from mum

(16 Posts)
NewLevelsOfTiredness Wed 22-Mar-17 09:20:12

Ok, might seem like a dumb title - of course a 2yr old wants to be close to their mum, but bear with me...

I moved in with my GF and her two girls (6 and 2) in November. Their parents split at the beginning of 2016 but their dad only moved out at the end of the summer.

We were already dating by this point (when he moved out) and had a nice plan to take things slowly, maybe meeting her daughters this May or something.

Anyway, obviously plans change and both her and her ex felt the girls were ready to at least meet me in November. Within a week the 6 year old was saying it was stupid that I went home every evening, so I stayed over... and never really left. I officially moved in Mid-December.

That's all background stuff, the issue is...

The 2 year old has always been ultra-clingy to her mum. Their dad is not a bad person at all but uh.. fathering was not for him and he wasn't there often (one of the reasons she left him in the end.) Apart from my girlfriend's mum, the little one hadn't really bonded with anyone else.

Here's the thing - it's gone great since I moved in. Both girls were receptive to me and seemed entirely comfortable that I was there (which is the main reason everything suddenly went so fast.) But over the past two or three weeks the two year old (2.5 now) has been sadder and sadder when she's dropped at daycare , goes to her gran's (father's mum) house or generally is away from her mum at all. Her gran said that last weekend she kept crying and asking for her mum, and also pointing to a picture of her dad.

They don't mention their dad much though, when with us. The girls know, absolutely, that talking about their dad at home is both welcome and encouraged - there's no issue that it's a taboo thing.

It's just really accelerated. She never loved saying bye to mum at daycare, but she was always cheerful up until that moment, now she's practically crying before we get there.

My initial instinct is that she's just reacting to the change, and that things are different and it's difficult for her to process so she wants the one stable rock in her life - mum. I worry that on some level she's unhappy that I'm there. But at the same time over this same period she's bonded with me on a level that we hadn't before - she's insisting that it's me that changes her nappy some nights, or that I'm the one to clean her teeth etc - so it's not like she's showing any upset at my presence, quite the contrary.

Sorry, this is all really jumbled - I just wondered if anyone else had experience of what 2 year olds go through with a new step-parent, or major change in things like this, how they react etc. Should I just accept that this as part of the process or is there something I can try or suggest to my girlfriend?

As a final note; I'm loving my life there, I can't express how much those girls already mean to me, independent of the fact they're my girlfriend's daughters. I think we've already built a very happy home (the four of us will cuddle up on the sofa in the evenings, and sing together at their bedtime, go skating at the weekend etc... it's wonderful) I just want to do the best I can and I hate seeing the little one sad and feeling powerless - while also accepting that a new step-parent can only do so much.

needsahalo Wed 22-Mar-17 10:54:23

She is tiny. Dad has disappeared. She is probably fearful that mum may disappear as well. It is unlikely she will be able to articulate how she feels even if she understood how she feels which she probably doesn't.

Poor little thing. It's very hard.

keeponkeeponkeepon Wed 22-Mar-17 11:28:28

She may be going through a clingy phase. My dc2 was s nightmare at 3/4. He cried every time he went to nursery. Was fine when he was there though.

Does she settle down or us she still sad? Her mum could play with teddies and act out Teddy going to nursery and is sad and why is that? See if there is any insight there. She may be too young though.

I wouldn't worry too much. Keep reassuring. Make sure mum has one to one time with each girl every day if poss but certainly every few days.

I'm not a step parent though so I may be all wrong. You sound nice OP

NewLevelsOfTiredness Wed 22-Mar-17 12:34:14

She's ok at daycare generally, apparently, and on the same days that she makes a fuss being dropped off there, she'll complain about being picked up because she's having fun. The daycare staff also said that she's not showing any negativity towards towards the situation - she's talking about what we did together as a family and that she and I play together (the "I'm going to eat your feet" game - her favourite smile )

Other than that her gran says she had several episodes of crying and asking for her mum when she last had her. She also said she pointed to the picture of her dad now and again. I'm not sure really 'clicks' with her gran though (she wasn't the best mum herself, based on what I've heard - although she's a very committed grandmother.)

When her dad first moved out he didn't see the girls for a couple of months. He started seeing them again towards the end of the year and I think they got used to the idea of seeing him a little more (on 'his' weekend he takes one and his mum takes the other) - then at the start of March he went away for a few weeks on holiday, so I think she's missing him, but it's hard to tell when she's still a little young to articulate much.

Underthemoonlight Thu 23-Mar-17 09:57:12

Sounds like it's all been far too fast for her, I think you were wrong to move in so fast. She's gone from seeing her dad then to not to a new man on a scene to him moving in and now seeing her dad again. I second she's most likely afraid her mother will leave. They haven't had the chance to get used to their dad leaving before you've moved in and in less than a year. What happens if you then break up with her mother?

Gogglerox Thu 23-Mar-17 16:47:47

My son is currently doing the same, he's 2 1/2 years old. A lot of children do it around this age as their brain development and associations change.
It's likely to be unrelated to the change in her life, at that age a few months is a really long time and soon she won't even remember you not being there.
Just let her mum give her extra reassurance. My son won't let me even use the bathroom without following me at the moment grin

Gogglerox Thu 23-Mar-17 16:49:32

Put it this way... we moved house 5 months ago, my son is 2 1/2, he doesn't even remember our old house. At that age their memory is so short

swingofthings Thu 23-Mar-17 16:52:28

Other than that her gran says she had several episodes of crying and asking for her mum when she last had her.
Whose mum is that, her dad's or her mum? It sounds all confusing. She's in daycare during the day, with her father sometimes, with his mum some other week-ends, and maybe with her mother's mum too?

If that's the case, considering the fact that toddlers that have little notion of time let alone days, it is not surprising she is expressing confusion and anxiety over who she is with and who she isn't.

Gogglerox Thu 23-Mar-17 17:50:35

Swing has a good point! She may just need a bit more consistency in her weekly routine

NewLevelsOfTiredness Thu 23-Mar-17 19:03:22

It is a good point!

And yes, it sounded a little confusing, sorry.

Basically the arrangement is that the girls are with their dad every other weekend. Whilst he's away his mum is filling in.

They only see my girlfriends parents on an ad-hoc basis (although both girls have bonded very well with them - the 2y never gets sad if she's left with them!)

So essentially we have them 11 days out of 14, and to be honest their dad drops them home pretty early on the Sunday usually when he has them.

So I think they have a fair level of consistency. I live in Denmark and the vast majority of kids are in daycare after their first year.
The daycare staff have been supportive and told us that she's actually only spoken about me in happy terms (me and him did this, played this game etc.) which was a huge relief (and obviously made me feel great in general!)

So I think it's a lot of change, and that while she might like me being there it's still a big thing for her to adapt to? I'm new to this and just doing my best.

And yes, it probably was very soon. I concede that but feel we now have to make the best of the situation.

swingofthings Fri 24-Mar-17 06:42:23

I don't think it's a fair level of consistency for a child that age. The week-end you refer to, was this one of the ad-hoc time she spends with her mum's mum and was this a whole week-end? If so, that means that she wouldn't have spent a whole week-end with her mother in one month.

If that's the case, it's no surprise she is clingy. Is her mum making sure she gives her children enough attention? I don't mean this unkindly but it's very easy to give a new partner/love a lot of attention without realising it takes away from your children.

You make it a lot about you and ensuring she doesn't have an issue with you. I don't think it is about you at all but about not having enough time with her mum, maybe?

Underthemoonlight Fri 24-Mar-17 07:19:34

I agree with swing it sounds as if she's missing out on time with her mother when she really needs that time with her mother when everything's all new to her she's gone through massive changes and when they don't understand they can become clingy teary and worried. You guys need to put the DC first she is telling you something wrong she wants the reassurance

Gogglerox Fri 24-Mar-17 08:38:26

To be fair I don't see how mum can spend anymore time with the child unless she either quits work or stops the weekend access?
Kids at that age do often get upset when leaving mummy - I think perhaps people are reading too much into this because you mentioned you're fairly new to the scene.
Both my children were in childcare from 1 year of age with no issues, then around 2- 2 1/2 got more clingy for a period of time. My son is doing the exact same thing and there's no changes to our situation.
It's common, ask a lot of child minders. At her age she just needs her mummy but it's not possible for her to with her 24/7.
Make sure her day to day routine is consistent, this helped a lot with my son. Everything at a set time, meals, bath time, bed time etc so he knew exactly what was happening every day.
Maybe ask dad and grandparents to follow the same routine when they are looking after her

NewLevelsOfTiredness Fri 24-Mar-17 10:56:40

We have set times for everything - getting up, meals, bed etc. She's actually very good at adhering to this (she's a lot easier to get ready for daycare than her sister is for school!)

The 'ad-hoc' arrangement with my girlfriend's parents is a rare thing - she's only slept there once this year but they'll collect her from daycare maybe once or twice a month and watch her until my girlfriend gets home from work.

My girlfriend reduced her hours when her ex moved out so she could be the one picking them up every day (previously she delivered them and her ex picked them up) - this was to try and provide more consistency. I work from home one day a week and have rearranged my hours to be there an additional day when she picks them up. I've picked them up on my own a couple of times with no problems - I could do it more often but we don't want to force it too much.

So in general it really is just every other weekend, and for various reasons she's been away from her mum less than that - one weekend she wasn't well so we kept her, another weekend her dad wasn't well. On average it's been more like three out of four weekends we've had them per month.

It's very fair to point out that there's a danger of mum giving too much attention to me in place of the girls, but we've been so careful with this, and even before she'd date me she laid down the law there: Girls first, every time, and if I couldn't accept that and have the same attitude then it wouldn't work.

Sorry if this post reads a bit like a defense - I'm just trying to fill in the picture where it seems there's questions. I don't pretend for a second that we've done everything perfectly, but we've honestly tried as a couple to put the children's interests first.

OrangesAndApples Fri 24-Mar-17 12:14:01

Hey OP, it sounds like you're doing a fine job. This also sounds like very typical behaviour from a child that age so I wouldn't worry. It may or may not have anything to do with you or the changing situation in her life and given that she's so young and can't articulate, you'll likely never know.

The very fact that you're thinking about it so much (possibly even over thinking it!) indicates that you care a lot and that makes me think that these kids are going to be just fine.

Honestly, just carry on what you're doing and give the little one a chance to settle. These things take time.

swingofthings Fri 24-Mar-17 14:47:35

I don't think it's anything to worry about but maybe explaining more in advance what is likely to happen as although the changes you mention are no big deal alone, it does sound like added all together, they generate quite a bit of changes at the last minute in her life and that is what must be unsettling. If she's particularly tired at this time, and indeed, all kids like us adults go through stage of being more tired, it will express itself in being more clingy and tearful.

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