Posted by: instanthausfrau | September 20, 2007

Turning a Corner

Turning a Corner I made that horrible parenting mistake, the confidence of feeling like I knew what was what, on a clear end-of-Summer sort of evening at the park. Moon was playing on the playground equipment, giving the Husband and I one of these more-frequent-now chances to snatch bits of conversation from the air around us.

“I’m really coming to love this,” I said. “Being with her. I feel like I’m able to start really engaging with her in ways that are interesting to both of us, and that we’re finding times for real conversations about the world. I’m really loving where she is.”

This was the Murphey’s Law Cue to the Universe to pull the rug out from under my feet.

The last two weeks have tumbled past in a clumsy sort of cartwheel; the worst being the day where my daughter screamed and screamed and screamed for a literal three hours, sobbing so hard that vomit began to soak the front of her shirt as I held her. Her body rigid as she threw it into walls and poles and whatever else surrounded us. She gets lost in these feelings — this is beyond the toddler tantrum at being denied a favorite treat — like some sort of gear-shift on her emotions is jammed, and she can’t escape. Had I been walking past my house that day, I would have called CPS to report the obvious abuse of a child.

Frequent nightmares haunt us, too; I see her clawing her arms in the air and screaming out her “No!”s in her sleep, images so real to her that it can take hours upon waking for her to come back to us in her room. She cowers in a corner of her bed as we try and coax her back to the here and now, eyes heavy with our own needs, our own dreams.

In the quiet times between, we’ve been talking about it. Worried, whispered conversations between the Husband and myself, emails back and forth to her teachers at Preschool of Choice, tired confessions to friends over coffee, and frantic emails to family to ask if they dealt with anything like this? What worked for them? Talks with Moon, too. We got Bombaloo back from the library, and that’s helped some. “It’s scarey being Bombaloo,” she tells me, as we make a plan for how we will deal with the next time. “I want Mommy to hold me,” she says. “I don’t want to be alone.” And so I hold her.

We’re turning a corner.

We work to give names to feelings, to talk about what makes something feel the way it does. Fall is a time for big changes, and Preschool of Choice, though wonderful, is a big one. I’m trying to move from the “false dichotomy” method to more open ended problem solving, giving her more ways to be in control of her future (and hopefully her feelings). Instead of, “Would you like to put your shoes on, or would you like Mommy to do it?”, I find myself saying, “Hmm, we need to get going if we’re going to make it to Preschool. That means you need shoes and socks, but you’re telling me you don’t want to put them on. How can we solve this problem?” She’s more willing to opt in when she feels like she’s helping solve instead of being bent to unfathomable parental whim.

The leaves are falling from the trees here now. They weren’t yet when this started. But these incidents, this time spent being Bombaloo, is falling back. We’re not spending hours of a day, every day, staring at this emotional drop-off and waiting for the fall.

It’s hard to write about the darker parts of raising your child; feels like laying the fragile parts of self and family in the matador’s ring. Small inadequacies are bound to thunder open into real fissures, leaving hollow, broken shells of what we were. But we’re not the only family to have tried to face this down, and it’s for those other families that I’m writing this now. You’re not alone. We’ve turned a corner. You can too.

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