Looking Forward to Someday
My oldest, Paisley, had a cold over the weekend. Saturday night she woke me up around 2 am, crying and coughing. I went in myself, which isn’t good enough these days – she prefers her Daddy right now – but I did my best to get her calmed down. She said her stomach hurt. It’s something we hear a lot – she has anxiety (not officially diagnosed, but it’s very obvious), and tummy aches are a frequent complaint when she’s feeling overwhelmed or scared. My tummy feels like a stone, she says, using a line from one of her favorite books, Ernie Gets Lost, to communicate her big feelings. Sometimes she says her knee hurts, sometimes it’s her “down knee”, or ankle. It’s a tricky call to make, as a mother of a child whose anxiety manifests as various vague ailments that are mostly imagined. Sometimes it’s real, and sometimes it’s not, and I have to psychically divine the difference.
Last night, I had the feeling that her stomach ache was real. She asked for medicine and I told her I didn’t have anything for it. I got her settled and came back to bed to listen to the monitor.
Sure enough, not ten minutes passed before she cried again. She had thrown up, which started a nearly two-hour marathon of getting her cleaned up, changing out bedding, getting her back to bed and then the whole cycle repeating again until she had emptied what was left in her stomach. Poor thing.
One of the times Shaun had to clean up her hair, and he tried to make it quick by using the shower nozzle. But her only experience of showers is from the in-between time when we moved here, and we were stuck in an Airbnb out in the suburbs of White Bear Lake, a basement apartment that had no bathtub, only a small shower. They hated it. We would put off bathing the girls as long as we possibly could because of how loud their screaming was, how extreme their terror was. Seeing the shower nozzle must have brought Paisley right back there, because she screamed like that again, backing into a corner of the tub. And Marlow, hearing her sister wailing in such apparent agony, got scared for her too, so she started screaming, even louder, her eyes and mouth open with such worry and fear that it made me a little scared too. When I could hear Paisley start to calm down I held Marlow’s hand and we walked over to the bathroom so that we could see that Paisley was alright. And Paisley was just standing in the tub, naked and shivering, her little arms wrapped around her body, the look on her face so scared and sad and lost. It’s moments like this that it hits me how hard parenting two little people really is sometimes.
The next day, Shaun and I took turns taking naps to make up for the long night – it was past 4 am when I finally got to sleep and they woke up at 6. We watched a lot of TV – Christmas movies and Toy Story. We read a lot of books, too, but the screen time was definitely well beyond the AAP’s recommendation for their age group. It was actually really nice, and I don’t feel too bad about it at all. It was a break and a much-needed one.
The past few weeks have been rough with these girls. Marlow is rocketing towards two with all the bad temper and big feelings that go along with that milestone. Some days just seem like constant crying and screaming from her over some perceived slight – one of us looks at her wrong, Paisley takes a toy away, I don’t understand what she’s trying to say, the list goes on. And of course it sets Paisley off, and then before too long, we end up with both of them screaming. The noise gets to be more than I can handle, but I have to handle it anyway.
Luckily Shaun’s there. We give each other breaks, trade-off to preserve our sanity. One of us goes for a walk to the grocery store while the other stays, or the coffee shop, or just to bed to take a nap. I miss carefree time with him when we could have a complete conversation without being interrupted, or leave the house together without a plan in place. We used to go on long walks at night, just us, with no agenda. We’d just set out to see what we’d encounter.
We’ve both been homesick for Portland lately, where we lived for four years right up until Paisley was born and we both graduated from Portland State, all simultaneously. It’s easy to get caught up in nostalgia, but I catch myself in it and wonder, are we nostalgic for the place, or for our lives together before we had children. It’s most likely the latter. There’s no way to get back to that life, even if we moved back to the same place that we lived it.
And I wouldn’t really want to go back to our life pre-child. But it’s been hard. What I need is a vision of what our lives will be like when they’re a little older, when some of their rough edges have been smoothed out a little. That could replace the idealized memory of our past before they were in our lives. I tell myself: Someday they’ll be potty trained. Someday they’ll be able to wipe their own noses. Someday they’ll go to school. Someday they’ll be able to modulate the volume of their voices. Someday we’ll live in a house and not an apartment and there will be quiet corners I can hide in for a minute. Someday they’ll be able to dress themselves and they won’t cry when I put on coats, hats, gloves or mittens.
In the meantime, I’m looking for signs that someday is, in fact, coming. Paisley likes to learn new skills in secret and them surprise me with them. I can’t directly teach her anything, she likes her learning to be a private thing, which is frustrating. But lately, she’s been helping more, and showing off new things she’s figured out how to do: clear her own plate from the table, and sometimes Marlow’s too, throw trash in the trashcan, put on and take off her own shoes. Some of these things are way behind where she should be at 3.5 years old, because so far almost all of her gross motor development has been delayed, probably due to her sensory processing trouble. But she’s still making progress, and that’s hopeful. She’ll be able to do more things for herself, someday. And Marlow is learning new words and speaking in longer and more complex sentences than ever. She can talk about her feelings (I don’t like it! Marlow is scared!)and the feelings of other people (Paisley is sad! Don’t worry Paisley!) She (sometimes) gives up toys willingly if her sister wants to play with them, and when she hears Paisley crying she finds her favorite doll (a crocheted David Bowie doll she calls Ziggy) and brings him to her.
They are both so smart and sweet and empathetic and hilarious. They love each other and have a lot of fun playing when they aren’t fighting. It’s not hard to imagine that things will feel a lot calmer, and more enjoyable, with just a few more years, when their self-regulation skills can catch up a little with their very intense emotions and interests. Someday is coming soon, and I’m looking forward to it.
#parenting #anxiety #selfcare #toddlers #asynchronousdevelopment #sensoryprocessing #spd #childhoodanxiety #motherhood #childhood #children #gifted #giftedness #raisingpoppies #intensity #emotionalintensity