When I arrived home from work the other day, I was greeted with the sounds of children in distress and a husband at the end of his tether. It had been a long, sick week for the family and being the only healthy body in the house, my husband had been on night wake-up and child minding duty all week.
As he began reluctantly to make his way towards his screaming youngest child, I told him to stop, sit down, relax, have a drink; I would get this. I was feeling good. I missed spending time with my girls and this was my opportunity to reconnect with them.
I walked into the bedroom and found my youngest sitting on the floor, trying to get her clothes off and my eldest, also half undressed, beside her. Both were upset but it was my youngest who was particularly so. I greeted both of them and acknowledged that they seemed upset. My eldest came straight to me and wrapped her arms around me but my youngest screamed with venom ‘I want Daddy! I don’t want you! Go away!’
It was like a stab in the heart with a knife. What did she mean she didn’t want me? I’m her Mum, of course she wants me. Right? Well, right, but not just at that moment. At that moment she wanted me to hear something that is hard to hear but it was important to her that I hear it.
As I listened to her angry shouts, I came to realise…
I had been distant from her as I struggled in bed with the flu. I hadn’t changed her nappy in over a week. I hadn’t gone to her in the night when she woke crying. I hadn’t even been putting her food on the table. Her father had taken on all these roles and more whilst I looked after me.
My little one didn’t like it, she was mad at me and was making that clear.
I needed her to know that it was ok to be mad, I understood and my love for her remained unwavering.
I acknowledged her feelings “You are having REALLY strong feelings. (Pause) You are mad and want me to go away. (Pause) I’ll move back here a little to give you some space. (Pause) I want you to know I love you and want to help you. (Stop and wait for her to indicate she is ready to connect). I sat on the floor of her room for about half an hour. We said nothing. If I tried to, she would scream at me in anger.
Eventually, she began playing with her doll. She didn’t look at me or acknowledge my presence but I knew she knew I was there because she was deliberately keeping her eyes averted. After about five minutes, she brought her doll to me and placed her in my lap. She still didn’t look at me so I gave her a little more time. Two minutes later she removed the doll from my lap and sat herself in her doll’s position. I tenderly wrapped my arms around her and held her.
We reconnected and she was able to see that no matter how much she yells at me, no matter how much anger she has bubbling up inside, I will be her rock.
Nothing will shake my love for her even when I can’t be there to take care of her.
That night when I kissed her as I tucked her into her bed I spoke with her gently. “You know, Penny, I love you even when you tell me to go away. I love you even when you are angry with me. I will always love you and nothing will ever change that.” She gripped my neck as we cuddled and did not want to let go. I sat with her on her bed and drew circles on the palm of her hand as she fell asleep.
She no longer wanted me to go away.
You might also enjoy reading:
Toddler Tantrum Therapy ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)
Go Away, Mama! ~ Janet Lansbury (Elevating Childcare)