Thank you for all of your thinking and commenting about the Ingrid situation. It was hugely helpful to write all that, and even more so to hear your perspectives on it. Especially since so many people seem to have eerily similar daughters, which makes me think that, as Emmie mentioned, development (age 3) and situational (new big sister) stuff has got to be exacerbating, if not creating, a lot of our current troubles.
It is hard to sort out what causes what, though. Some of this does seem to have been going on for a long time, like the shyness (really intense since Iris was born—and that's nine months) and the need for every ounce of my attention every moment of the day (pretty much since birth. Ingrid's birth, that is), which makes me think of it as a more enduring temperament issue. I do think there are solutions, and times will get better.
I don't have a lot of coherent things to say about what's working, because frankly right now not a lot is. I do seem to have found a tone of voice that will occasionally talk her down from a tizzy. I convinced her the other day that instead of letting the feeling of oatmeal stuck on her teeth make her whole body feel weird and bad, she could step back and look at it "like a puzzle to work on". (The girl loves puzzles). She's even repeated that strategy on her own a couple of times. Huzzah!
But most of the time I feel nowhere near that successful. One tantrum seems to just pile on top of the next, and in between that there is endless whining, weird smells, questions to which I have no good answer no matter how many times she asks me, pushing the baby over, etc. etc. etc. And being, I am discovering, immature and lacking in inner peace, I have a really, really hard time just letting all that tantrum and discontentment wash over me. I get all riled up. Worried, mad, unhappy, etc. etc. Bad.
The 24 hours that A and Ingrid were away did us all some good. Iris and I had never had that much time alone together, so that alone was wonderfully sweet. She learned to play peek-a-boo (by covering one eye with the back of her hand, then taking her hand away and chuckling) and to open the fridge, a skill I believe Ingrid still has yet to master.
And, in addition to a lot of adorable baby snuggle time, I GOT THINGS DONE. I did a ton of stuff around the house, and Iris and I went for a run and ran errands and everything went so quickly and smoothly. It was like I'd been driving around with the brakes on all this time without knowing it.
To be fair, there is alchemy when both girls are around and awake. Ingrid is easier on her own, too. I just hadn't realized how very much easier it would be with only the baby in the picture.
So that was validating, and a good break, and now A is fixin' to leave in the morning for two weeks for work. My mom is coming for a good chunk of that time, but I've got two solo days at the beginning of the trip and four at the end without her, and I feel like an utter wimp for being so worried about how hard it's going to be, because I know people do this all the time, but I am worried and have already lined up various friends to relieve me for an evening run here and there, and warned certain people to expect random midday phone calls from me when I need to speak to another adult before I lose my shit. Perhaps you should expect some random and even less coherent than usual posts from me, as well.