Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Mommy, Heal Thyself

Two nights ago, Baroy was out at a party (from which he didn't stumble home until 2 AM--and I think I deserve a pretty loud round of applause for neither flogging nor throttling him when he did) while I stayed home with the kids, for whom I hadn't been able to find (read: hadn't really tried to find) a babysitter. We had a nice evening, I got N down to sleep without incident, and then put E to bed as well. In lieu of telling you a long, boring story here about all that transpired after, suffice it to say that she ended up sleeping in my bed with me, after staying up until almost 2 am with an 'off' stomach that I suspected from the beginning was somewhat emotional in nature. (She comes by it honestly; I got 'nervous stomach' several times a week when I was in first grade, myself.) The whole loose stools thing freaked her out a lot, so I gave her a lot of TLC, even as my brain was telling me that I was setting myself up for more of the same in the coming days.

I was right. Last night, same deal. Except I turned into Hard-Ass Mom and insisted she sleep in her own bed, and just deal with going to the bathroom every few minutes until she fell asleep. There was a lot of crying and whatnot, and eventually she fell asleep, but not until pretty late for a kid who has to get up at 7 for school. And by the end of it, I was angry, and felt oddly uneasy.

Then, tonight, she comes to me at around 8:30, when I'm just about to put N to sleep, and she's in tears, telling me her stomach's starting to feel a little bit bad again, and she's afraid, and she can't stop herself from thinking about it. I barely concealed my impatience as I tried to talk her out of being scared in under three minutes, then sent her off to her father so that I could put N down.

Halfway through the pre-going-into-his-room routine with N, I hear E in the bathroom, and she's whimpering. Something makes me stop, and I call to Baroy to take over with N, and I go into the bathroom and start to talk to her. And she's sitting there, and she's shaking so hard her teeth are chattering, and tears are running down her cheeks. And the hardass-though-ostensibly-gentle diatribe I was about to deliver dies on my lips. Because it hits me, in a flash--or, rather, a flashback. This was me, seven months ago. Terrified of something I couldn't quite put my finger on, something that might well sound ridiculous to anyone but me. Shaking and rocking, all hunched over. Feeling so totally alone and adrift, and desperate for somebody to make it all better.

So I sat down on the floor, and got E to sit down next to me. And I taught her a little about deep, rhythmic breathing. And I talked to her about the things we can't control--and the things we can. I told her she couldn't control her poop or how her stomach felt, but that she could control whether or not she was going to let that feeling scare her.

And then I told her that I know a lot about fear. I reminded her of my "talking doctor" from this summer, and how she had helped me learn how not to be quite so afraid of so many different things. (Of course, she wanted to know what I was afraid of, and I told her that it was something private to me, but that some of it had to do with being afraid something bad would happen to her, or N, or Daddy. "Like that we'd get sick?" she asked. "Yeah, sorta. Something like that," I mumbled. Where's a good talking doctor when you need one?)

Finally, I told her that I thought what was scaring her wasn't her stomach ache, but whatever it was that was happening in her life that was making her stomach ache. I listed a lot of possibilities, though I knew which one it was. (Bedtime has long been a struggle for her, in a variety of different ways.) She admitted she was scared of her stomach ache AND she was scared of going to sleep alone in her room. But she didn't kow WHY she was scared of her room all of a sudden. I told her that was fine, we could try to figure that out later. I also told her that I had a solution. And so tonight I sat in a rocking chair by her bed, with my laptop on my lap (how appropriate; how unusual) and worked a little on my book while she fell asleep. It took one bathroom visit, no tears and five minutes tops for her to be blissfully snoring.

It was a really, really Good Mommy moment.

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