We have gotten so much good advice from other parents who have adopted older children. One of the best things we've heard was this:
"Playfulness disarms fear."
One night this week, Ted was teaching a night class, so I was the one putting the kids to bed. We did our usual routine of bath, pajamas on, video, snack, teeth-brushing, bathroom, upstairs, in bed, tell a story, sing a song, kisses, goodnight.
All was well right until the end. Beti didn't want me to leave. She is getting more and more comfortable with falling asleep quickly and on her own but this night, maybe because Ted is usually the one who does this part of the night-time ritual, she tried to cling to me. She poked out the bottom lip (oh, she is so good at this) and looked like she was going to start the tears.
As true of most six-year-olds, she has some drama-queen tendencies, so we're still learning which tears are real and which are the ones pulled out in a power struggle. I sensed that these were the real ones. I hugged her tight, kissed her forehead, told her I loved her, that all was well.
The just clung tighter, asking me not to leave. I crouched down near her, snuggled her, and told her how important it is for her to go right to sleep since it was a school day for everyone the next day: for her, for her brother, and for Bang Bang.
She immediately stopped whimpering. She stared at me blankly.
"You didn't know that our cats go to kitty-school after you leave for kindergarten every day?"
She smiled hugely.
"Yep, they love kitty-school as much as you love school."
She started laughing, real giggles (not the fake kind she also uses in power struggles).
"Mom, Chitty and Buddy go to school too?"
"Oh yeah, they've both been going for a long time."
At this, I kissed her head again, told her goodnight, and as I walked out of the room, she was still smiling. She was asleep within a couple of minutes, hopefully dreaming about our cats wearing backpacks and doing math problems.