Attachment parenting triumph and why you should practice some self-care
I’ve been gone a while.
And I am genuinely sorry about this, but it was completely unavoidable and necessary, and here’s why.
I wrote my second year exams on the 10th May, so obviously the few weeks before that were mayhem, slightly panicky and berating myself as to why, (oh why!) I hadn’t been consistently studying throughout the academic year, to make my life easier. I don’t suppose I’ll be the last student to think that.
Then a week later, Roz and I flew to Zambia for two weeks to, as I said before, basically say goodbye to my grandmother. I am hoping against all hope that she will still be there next year, but I do have to be realistic and grown up about this. I said most of what I needed to say, and while I am still teary and any talking about her will have me close to a full crying state, I am slowly coming to terms with the fact she may not be here next year. I really couldn’t express how very much she means to me, so I’ll stop there before I start crying.
I’m back now and the summer is here and I’ll be blogging
every day more regularly over the next couple of months.
But back to today’s post. I wanted to tell you about what happened yesterday. when we were in Zambia, Roz was attached to me, like seriously attached to me. She had a bit of a scar the first night we were over and I think it just caused her to want to be close to me The Whole Time. And when I say The Whole Time, I mean The Whole blooming Time. I bathed with her in the room, peed with her in the room, slept in the same bed, went everywhere with her and if she couldn’t see me for more that a minute, she panicked gave hysterical cries of,
“Mama? Mama?! Maaaaammmmaaaaaa!”
Despite my saying,
“Roz, if I’m not where you can see me, then I’m either in the toilet or the bedroom”,
and her nodding and saying okay, she panicked. Every. Single. Time. It was exhausting. I love my child very much but 24/7 proximity to anyone is enough to drive one slightly batty.
So when we got back Sunday afternoon, I was delighted that she had missed Krys so much she wanted to be with him the whole time. And when I went to work yestermorning, the three of us had breakfast together and she sad her goodbyes, gave me a hug, and I was gone.
Oh but when I got back!! sigh.
let me give you some background.
I didn’t sleep very well the flight back to Ireland. It was a night flight and Roz slept, sprawled all over the seat, so I had to stay awake in case she landed on the floor – she’s a turning, tossing sleep fiend. Then we arrived in Dublin and I had the worse headache ever which got worse and worse and I couldn’t sleep well and I woke at 5:30 Tuesday morning unable to get back to sleep, and had to go in to work feeling like death armed up. So I was very tired and very grumpy yesterevening. I found Roz still asleep from her miraculous (she rarely naps these days) nap and took the opportunity to shower and catch up with Krys.
And just as I was getting my dinner sorted out, Roz woke up. She was in what I can only describe as a demonic mood. She didn’ wan dinner, no, she wanted dinner now! no, she wanted a scone for dinner. no she wanted me to make dinner with her in my arms.
I came down to her eye level and said,
“Roz, I can’t make dinner with you in my arms because I need both arms”.
She wailed and threw herself on the floor.
“I want a scooonnnneeeee!!!!“
“Honey, you have to have dinner first then we’ll see”.
let it not be said that I can’t say “no” without actually saying “no”.
“You don’t tell me that. You don’t tell me anything mama! just give me a scone” she yelled. “I just want a scone now!!!”
I looked at her, despair coursing through me and the stirrings of anger starting as well because let’s face it, I’m only human.
I told her I was there if she needed me, I was giving her space and I would start her dinner now. She was having bread and cheese and eggs with tomato and spring onion and she could have a whole mango that I got for her as well and the whole time she was screaming and thrashing herself on the floor. Krys came back from wherever he had gone, looked from me to Roz, started to try and soothe her and saw it wasn’t going to work either. She was far too upset and I still don’t know why.
I got her dinner read while Krys tried in vain to see what was wrong, to reason with her and you know what? I was at a complete and utter loss. I was so tired and so hungry and close to crying myself.
I kept thinking of myself as a child. I don’t remember much around three and a half, but I do remember my sisters at that age. My mum would have probably hit me by now, either picking me up from the floor and whacking me across the legs to shut up. Or my dad would have told me to shut up and get out of the room until I stopped making that racket. That would have been it. And I would have been devastated. It would have worked too. I would bottle up everything and slither to my room to cry my heart out, or bottle it up, wipe my tears and carry those festering unshed tears till it was safe enough to cry in my room. At worse, I would end up in a huge physical fight with one of my sisters and one of us would end up crying, transferring the tears to a “safer” aggressive place.
I want to be candid because violence really doesn’t work on children. No matter how much people justify it and think they came away okay themselves, if they are really willing to look within and examine these, violence teaches you nothing but violence and how to be scared of people who love you.
I know my parents didn’t know any other way. But I do. so as I cooked and listened to this completely wailing child, my mantra at this time kicked in.
“A tantrum is not a sign of defiance, it is a sign of distress.”
I thought of screaming and throwing down the pan and stomping out of the apartment in my own retaliatory tantrum. I thought of telling Roz to stop being a baby and had a busy day and couldn’t be listening to this crap. I thought of saying (Beauty and the beast style),
“You don’t want to eat. Well then go ahead and Sttttaaaaarrrrveeee!!!!!”
and I mumbled under my breath,
“A tantrum is not a sign of defiance, it is a sign of distress.”
And I said it as fervently as a nun reciting the rosary, over and over as I cooked the arse out of those eggs.
And I took a deep breath and told Roz I was finished and where did she want her dinner and she wanted it on the table. no, on her own small table. no, not like that!!! no, with a blanket around her; no I did the blanket wrong, now she wanted to have her dinner on the floor. No, not there, here, near her legs. And she wanted to watch a movie while she watched it because daddy had promised a movie when they got home and she hadn’t watched a movie all day. And she was sobbing and shouty and throwing herself on the floor throughout this.
I asked Krys if he had promised her a movie. He started to say,
And she burst into a flood of new tears,
“You promised daddy!”
And Krys said, “listen Roz, I was saying that well, it’s 6:30 now and you..”
“….Haven’t watched anything yet…”
So yes, you can watch something.
“And will you watch with me mama?” She asked.
“Yes”, I said, “I’ll watch with you”
“And will you watch with me too daddy?”
and she brightened right up. It was like someone had unplugged the demonic play mode and Roz was back, wiping her tears away and sitting on there smiling telling me which movie she wanted to watch.
I still don’t know why she threw such a tantrum. I suppose I never will. Is it important? yes, but she’s still very young. sometimes she tells me why, and sometimes she’s so angry that she doesn’t want to talk about it and it gets me nowhere telling her later that we need to talk about why she was so angry. I try every time, this time, she didn’t want to talk about it and that’s okay.
I have a theory.
It was her first day without me and Krys there with her and she just lost it.
Now here’s the bit about self care. listen up close and pay attention.
I lived through it. I didn’t hit my child. I stayed calm and I stayed there. And through all of this, I told her I was there if she needed me and needed a hug and it was okay. And I had a happy child at the end.
And I suffered. I ate dinner late and I was like a bear with a sore head the rest of the evening, snapping at Krys and burying myself in a book and eventually went to bed at 8:30 because I just wanted this whole awful day to be O.V.E.R.
You can’t operate like that as a parent. I only have one child, I cannot imagine having another that I then have to be sunny and merry to after an episode like that. It will wear me down.
What I should have done is, and I can see this clearly now in the light of another day (sure, hindsight is always 20/20 innit?), I should have gone out for a walk. stomped my way around the apartment block, or gone to sit beside the canal, anything to get me out of my head instead of still in that space.
Because if you don’t have compassion and don’t care for yourself, you will eventually burn out and you will be useless to yourself and hard on those who love you. I know parents with more than one child will have less time, and for single parents’ it will even be harder, but make time. Even if it is only for two minutes where you step out the door and take in a deep breath and reconnect with yourself. It’s only to clear your head and get you to a point where you feel, yes! I did that, I stayed present and calm and my child is fine and I too, am fine.
Here’s to taking care of myself next time.
And here’s an even bigger nod to staying connected.
*apologies in advance for any typos that may have occurred.
You are amazing. I can’t imagine many parents in that situation would have stayed so calm, never mind anyone who had a history of physical punishment in their childhood. And 3.5 is hard. Add to that the displacement she must be feeling having gone to a totally new place, got used to it, and then coming back to her “old place” and having to get used to that again… and jet lag, and time differences, and messed up bedtimes…so hard for everyone.
Thank Maud! 3.5 is way harder than the supposed terrible twos, especially because her memory is so good now and she remembers what her life is supposed to look like. It was so hard watching her get so distresse. But, I’ve lived to see another day. Yay me! 🙂
and thank you for the comment.