In which I remember to be thirty-one
Here’s some information you may want to file away if you are ever to be in the care of one Rosie Mae (my 15-month old daughter), or befriend her someday, or marry her. Especially if you plan to marry her. When Rosie is unwell and feeling less than optimum, she does not want to mope around or sleep it away or cuddle up for some sick day snuggles. Sickness does not weaken her. It Pisses. Her. Off.
Starting on Thursday of last week, Rosie was….challenging. She was all over me like white on rice at work, only wandering away long enough to inflict terror in a two and a half year old boy or two before staggering back to my side to cling to my legs and make that noise that will be etched into my neural pathways until my last days on earth: Eh eh eh eh eh eh ehhhhh. Friday was better, mainly because it was my (newly implemented! hear the angels sing!) day off and I was not with her in the morning. Then in the afternoon she woke up warm from her nap and I knew the thunder in the distance and the storm clouds gathering over my weekend were not just forecasting precipitation outside.
And the weekend was, in fact, bleak. As her fever raged, Rosie raged along with it. It was not hard to guess that she did not feel well and that BeeTeeDubs, she was mad as hell about it. It was like watching a dramatic play on fast forward: “Hark, get me mine mother!” “Fools! Madness! I want my mother not!” “Post haste I say to you, give me sustenance!” “I fling this sustenance to the hinterlands, for it is vile and angers me greatly!” “Clutch me to your breast! Verily I say!” “A pox on your house! UPON MY WORD I CURSE THEE TO HELL!!”
And so forth.
I witnessed a scene in which she wailed and threw herself to the floor, screaming “Nak! Nak! Nak!” out of the blue, as if we had been withholding it cruelly from her, and then after I quickly set out the very yogurt melts she had been pointing to, she hurled them to the floor, chased after the scattered pieces, picked them up very carefully one by one and then hurled them furiously away once more. Five minutes later she came running back over, saying “Nak? Nak?”
Hello madness, my old friend.
It’s not even enough that she be pissed off - she would prefer you to be angry, too, thankyouverymuch, and will do just about anything to get you there, including clawing, biting, slapping and pinching. I currently have a visible scratch on my face that extends from just above my right eye down to my right cheek, and another just below my mouth. First rule of Fight Club: Don’t tell anyone it was a toddler that’s been giving you that fat lip.
If anyone else were abusing me this way, I would most likely either a.) fight back or b.) get that person out of my life. But in this case my job is to a.) stay calm and b.) be loving. And I know there are plenty of people out there who have struggled with this (and the stories you hear in the news are of the people who have failed in that struggle), but inside me is a beast, and that beast is anger. And the whole time I’m holding Rosie’s thrashing, clawing, flailing twenty-six pound body away from myself in protection that anger wants out, and it’s clawing and thrashing my insides in its attempt. And here’s where I state the obvious about (Rosie red) apples and how they don’t fall far from trees.
Eden Kennedy of Fussy wrote about this sort of feeling a few days ago, and the title of her post was Don’t give it what it wants. And the point I took away from what she said was that that is what my responsibility as a parent is. Don’t give in to that feeling. Because to some extent we are all toddlers. We’ve just (hopefully) learned over time how to put those feelings to the back and use our better judgment, for the most part. But the more we are worn away by exhaustion or illness or lack of time or whatever it is that wears us away, the more exposed that toddler becomes. And it’s an ugly, scary thing that should not be allowed to see the light of day.
So I didn’t let it. But I came close. And that’s the truth.
It was an ear infection, it turns out, that turned Rosie into this Hyde version of herself. Antibiotics have been dispatched, the fever has broken, the violence has begun to subside. What remains now are the scars, both inside and out, that remind me of the beast that sleeps in us both.