My daughter had a full blown break down this evening while getting ready for bed. There are many factors that played into and lead up to the uncontrollable chaos – ice cream cake and a movie that lasted past normal bedtime – and man, was it a good case of freak-out.
Since she was born I’ve struggled with how to relate to her and give her the support and affirmation that she needs. She is a different kind of being and operates on a different level than me. Her almost five years of life has had moments of extreme stress induction on multiple occasions, sending me (many, many times) into crazy lady (Monster Mom) state of borderline psychotic behavior I’ve never experienced prior to this beautiful girl.
Tonight I was able to stay calm, to not raise my voice, to keep my hands in my lap. I know how to make myself physically big, hands in the air, crazy raised voice, to shock her into calming down – but this is not acceptable behavior for me. Tonight I kept my shit together. Tonight I talked to her in a firm voice about her behavior choices, about how her actions have consequences. When the screaming in my face was not lessening, I left the room, told her I would talk to her when she calmed down, and closed the door behind me. I sat on the floor in the hall while she screamed in frustration, called me Bobble Head (the worst insult she can think of), kicked the floor, screamed for me to come in…I sat quietly in the hall and calmly told her that I would come back in when she could speak to me without yelling, that she didn’t have to stop crying, but HAD to stop screaming in my face.
Finally, she was ready.
I walked back into the bathroom and against the wall, right next to the toilet, was my baby girl, back to the wall, knees to her chest, head buried in her lap, hands over her ears. Her light green gingham twirly long dress draped over her, only toes peeking out, hair covering her face. My heart shattered.
I sat down on the toilet and asked her if she wanted me to hold her. NO! I moved immediately to the floor, across from her, and placed my hand on her foot. KICK! I scooted across the floor and leaned up against the tub, my feet extended across the room and just sat for a minute. She eventually looked up at me, burst into tears and jumped in my lap. I held on. Both arms wrapped around her, both my hands on her body, hoping that she can feel the unbridled love jolting from my body to hers. Osmosis. We were one for a moment.
I asked her if her body feels weird when she gets upset. Does it feel hot or cold or itchy or tickle-y? In her head or in her body?
In a pleading, teary voice, “It burns. Mom, it burns all over and comes out the tips of my toes. It burns out my fingers and my eyes get funny and I can’t see things properly. It feels like I can’t be around people anymore.”
I could hardly stand it. Why is my baby hurting and feeling things this intense? How do I help her discover ways to manage these things before they ‘burn’ her?
We decided that we will practice talking about how her body is feeling as she’s starting to get upset and see if we can give her some personal time to take a breath, sing a song, scream, or read a book – alone. Before the burning starts.
I don’t want to walk in on anyone I love curled up on the floor next to the toilet at the end of their emotional rope. Crap, I don’t want to experience that with people I don’t love. It’s such a desperate place – and I’ve been there. Many times. But a child. My child. Such raw, real, uncontrolled emotion.
I love this girl. More then I ever thought possible. I will do everything I can to provide her with the support and encouragement she needs to learn how to function in this crazy, hurtful world withOUT feeling like she’s burning. I want to help her create an expression of herself where she pours light and love from the tips of her toes and her fingertips, still with raw, real, uncontrolled emotion.