Lana has had a rough time of it the past week. (And consequently, we have had a rough time in what was already a rough week, considering the situation with J~.)
There have been two significant tantrums, and some smaller fits.
When I say “tantrum”, I’m not quite sure if this fully describes her behavior. When she is in the midst of one of these episodes, she is screaming and kicking (although, admittedly, she does not kick at PEOPLE. She will kick the floor, but, she doesn’t kick people. She also doesn’t bite, which I have read about other children doing during this kind of thing, so, thank God for small favors). Her body becomes very, very rigid, she curls in on herself, and eventually will begin to hyperventilate, at which point whatever she has been crying/screaming about becomes, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” or sometimes, ‘I need Daddy, I can’t breathe, I need Daddy, I can’t breathe.”
She has not, ever, called for me during one of these episodes. Her anger may be directed (and in fact often IS directed) at Husband, because he is the one who has punished her by denying her something she wants or sending her to her room, but, he is the one she wants to come to her when she is upset like that.
This is unfortunate because I am much more capable of sitting next to her and waiting for her rage to pass than Husband is. (I am not good at having the rage directed AT me, but, I will sit quietly next to her and wait.) I employed this “sit quietly and try to hold child” method on the rare occasions in Gabe’s toddler hood that he would throw an epic tantrum. Even now, if Gabriel is angry (Lana being the person most likely to make him angry), if I follow him to his room and rub his back and talk to him quietly, he can be brought back from his anger fairly quickly.
This technique does NOT work with my daughter. When I try it, she curls further into herself, becomes more upset, and chants, “please leave, please leave, please leave, leave leave leave leave leave” until I worry she will start with the hyperventilating, so, I leave.
At a certain point her raging becomes something…else, something sadder and less angry, more woeful, I guess. At that point, if Husband goes near her, rather than kicking the floor and screeching at him, she will fling herself at him and cling to him, and he tells her “breathe, breathe” and then she desperately needs affection from him.
The extremely unfortunate part about these tantrums in the past week is that they have been witnessed by Keiko, who is an exchange teacher from Japan who is staying with us for 3 weeks.
(I actually wonder if the presence of Keiko in our house, and the disruption of her routine, may be responsible for her heightened tantrums this week. She was quiet and clingy at the airport when we went to get Keiko, and she overheard someone ask Keiko if she (Lana) was her (Keiko’s) daughter, which prompted Lana to climb up my body and into my arms (not necessarily odd behavior, but, the timing seemed telling.)
Keiko is far too polite to comment on the tantrums, but, I have to think she found the behavior disturbing to witness.
After the second tantrum this week, I took Lana into my bedroom to read some books and to cuddle in our big bed. We read about four books and then we were just lying there, and I was rubbing at my ear.
“Why you rub your ear?” Lana asked.
“Because it hurts right now,” I said.
“Maybe you gotta go see the doctor?” she inquired.
“Maybe.” I said. (I think it is just sinuses, but, it’s been hurting for about a week, so, maybe I should go.)
Lana suddenly says, “I don’t never wanna get another shot from the doctor.”
“Sometimes you have to get a shot at the doctor, to keep you healthy.” (I think she might actually need one more shot this summer before she starts kindergarten, so, this conversation is making me nervous.)
“I no like shots. I cry,” she says.
“They hurt, but, sometimes you have to have one to stay healthy. Daddy had to have a lot of shots when he was so sick last month.”
“Babies get lots of shots,” she comments.
“Yes, I guess they do.” I say, wondering where she is going with this.
“Who went with me? Who went with me to get my shots when I was baby?” she asks.
“Um…” I say.
“You go with me, when I was baby, I cried for shots?” she asks.
“No, honey. I think, maybe the mom you had before me, your mommy before me, maybe she went with you.”
She is lying with her back to me, her tiny backside curled against my stomach, the back of her head nestled against my throat. She says nothing for a few minutes.
“I had two moms, before. One of them was hooker.”
“What???” I say, too loudly.
“No, no, that’s wrong….” She corrects herself, “One of them was COOKER. She was all the time cooking. She was COOKER.”
(I try very hard not to laugh at this point. She certainly wouldn’t understand the humor in her alphabetical mistake.)
“You had two moms and one of them cooked all the time?” I ask.
“Yeah, one of them was cooker,” she repeats, as if I am not getting her point.
I wonder if she thinking of her foster grandmother, who, in the four photographs we have of her, is wearing an apron. Maybe she cooked a lot?
Lana rolls over to face me, and wraps her arms around me very tightly.
“I give you a squishy hug, mama,” she says. “I love you very, very,” (on her fingers she carefully counts “very” 10 times) “much,” she finishes.
“And I love you very, very” (and I use her fingers to count “very” 10 times) “much, too.”
I’m just relieved to know that she knows I love her, and that, of her life before, she remembers someone who came with her when she had to get her shots, and someone else, who was a COOKER, and not a HOOKER.
Some days I feel like mothering this child takes me from the depths of despair and frustration to the heights of hilarity. It’s quite a roller coaster, but, I think the high points are outweighing the low ones.
* Josh Ritter, You Don't Make it Easy, Babe
(the song is the background to this video
on YouTube. I did not make the video, not sure what it's about, the point to the link is the music.)