Friday, September 28, 2012

my little barometer

Years ago at the end of my pregnancy with Princess Commando, I sat in my midwives office expressing my concerns about pressing my luck with a 3rd child (and first girl child) after having been blessed with two easy going boys. She recalled the challenging infancy of her own daughter, her first child- telling me that her daughter's colic was so bad that she would have given her to anyone who offered a nickel. I felt fortunate, in that moment, that I had never been driven to the desperation of wanting someone to relieve me of my child. 

But then, 8 years later, Violet came along. I was a seasoned mother, but I found myself in uncharted territory. She was colicky, inconsolable unless wrapped tightly in a cocoon adhered to my body which was forced into a monotonous rocking dance. For three months, her mouth was permanently drawn into broad ‘O,’ letting loose banshee wails- the soundtrack of our nights. My enervated eyes longed rest upon a peaceful face. 

During one of her cloudy days, The Mr. and I ran an errand to our local butcher who affably asked if we were exchanging our 'adorable' infant daughter for a cut of meat. We replied in bone-tired unison, ‘Yes. Please take her.’ Our frank response took him aback. But we were so weary.

At 2.5 years old, she has outgrown her colic. But being very much in the throes of her second year, she is possessed by that gremlin that occupies two year old bodies. She slips into orneriness all too naturally. She is a tornado. She is feral, fickle, contradictory, petulant. She is masterly at knowing which buttons to press and when to press them- crossing my wires, until I short circuit and become the nasty robot mommy.

This week we had one of those days- a truly sucky day. A day when No!, Stop!, Don’t! was our only discourse. I had the rare opportunity to work on an illustration. For money. I knew it was going to be a challenge to try to complete it in the company of a 2 year old; but there are only so many hours in the day when my creative state and my dexterity align, producing quality work. Violet had other plans. From the moment she woke up (at a super special 6 AM), she was ON- deliberately dumping cereal (the kind that requires the big vacuum), ripping books, breaking crayons, demanding things we did not have (green juice! purple juice! Indian food!) unfolding freshly folded laundry, spitting her chocolate milk on the couch, dismantling her sister's bed, sneaking candy, flooding the bathroom sink, bringing back the banshee wail, trying to ride the dog or ‘snuggle’ the hamster, pooping in her pants, pressing every button, challenging me to the edge of the allegorical cliff.  And that was all before 11 AM.

‘I don’t like you. You’re not my parrot!’ She yelled. She meant parent and she was right- in that moment I was neither her parrot nor her parent. I was convinced that I should resign, that there was another woman, a better mother out there who was the proper fit for Violet's puzzle piece. I was ready to take an ad out in the paper to find her.

‘I don’t like you much right now either.’ The response was almost involuntary.

‘I am not really listening,’ she admitted shamelessly. ‘I’m not very nice to you.’

When she demonically laughed in the face of the most sacred of hours, naptime, I lost it in the confines of my own bedroom and dissolved into tears. I began to cringe at her sticky, angry voice demanding, ‘Mama!’ Guilt buckled over my ribs, my heart ached to be filled with compassion and patience because all I wanted to do is sell her to the gypsies. 

It wasn't until the last ‘Mama!’ faded into the bedtime hour that there was space for quiet. And then there was clarity. She had been trying to tell me something all day. I was the one who needed to be bartered to the gypsies for my sour behavior.

I have been on edge the last two weeks. There has been stress in the house. The Mr. has been working on a project which has left me to parent alone many days from sun up to sun down. We have been facing a difficult decision regarding our financial health. It has lead to many heated discussions.  My anxiety and self doubt have inflated monumentally. I am unsettled. I am guilty of wearing my emotions on my sleeve. Violet is a sponge. She soaked up my frustrations and vexations and poured them back on me. Violet was only acting as the barometer for the muddle I had been grappling with out in the open.

With the consciousness of my behavior awakened, I could make the choice to try better, do better, be better. While I tend to ferry the insecurities, worries, and regrets of days past into the next day, every morning is a fresh start for Violet. When she woke the following morning, she danced down the wooden stairs with her ruffled, flame colored head and sought me out for a hug. She sighed ‘Mama’ into my neck with warm breath. It was infused with love, faith, promise. How could ‘Mama’ have ever sounded like anything other than a melody? 

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