4am Resilience

She screams like a soul condemned to hell when I slip her back in the crib. Five nights in a row. 4am. 

I did the ten minutes, but she was wailing. The one time I stood firm for too long, I left her in a sea of poop. So I went to her and calmed her at my breast. But when I eased her back into her crib, the abandoned soul began howling into the abyss. 

Clock ticking. No relenting. No eye rubs or collapsing to the matress. 

I am a parent and I want better for my child. I imagine each of us have a different better based on the lens of bad we see in ourselves, our families, and our experiences. 

I want my daughter to be resilient, to be a master of her emotions. I’ve battled for years to grow into a steady champion, to shed the childhood whirlwind of screaming matches and games of trying to make me cry and belittling sarcasm meant to serve as guidance and siblings out out the house with all their things stacked in bags on the front steps. I’m almost at a point where those are legit not the memories I remember. 

Sometimes my resilience feels like a mask. Sometimes it feels like part and parcel of who I am. 

I want resilience and steadiness to be part and parcel of who Aria is. 

How I handle these moments of tantrum feel so important in this quest. 

But I’m exhausted. 

How can I be a teacher when all I want is to curl up in bed? 

I plod back to her room. I pick her up. 

She is too far gone to be relieved. 

She thrashes and spins in my arms. She pulls toward my nursing chair and screams for my suckling breasts. 

As safely as I can, I set her on the floor. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

A new decibel of fury trembles through her lips. She whirls and turns and climbs up my legs. I lift her and shush her. 

As safely as I can, I set her on the floor. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

Blind madness rages as she tries again to climb up into my arms. Her back arches as I heft and turn her. 

I set her down again. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

Get rage turns to gasps and wails. The devil has escaped her and left misery in its ashes. She flops onto my knees and sobs. Sad, exhausted sobs. 

I stroke her back. 

“You ready?”

Another sob. She reaches up. 

This time when I lift her, she takes in a couple trembling sobs. She tucks her head against my chest. 

I hold her for a minute as her chest ripples with the last vestiges of her misery. 

I’m so tired. In my exhausting victory I’m ready to call retreat. Walk back to my room, lay her on my bed, and let her tear up my nipples like a pacifier. 

I drop her down toward the matress. Her tantrum reignites. 

I pull her back up and start to put her on the floor.

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

She quickly suck in a breath to calm herself. I pull her back to my chest. 

“Time to go night night,” I remind her. “Tell me when you’re ready.”

She curls up as close to me as she can, resting her face in the book between my chin and chest. A few more desperate wails moan out from her lips. 

I want as much to hold her like this forever ask desperately want to go back to bed. 

“Tell me when you’re ready,” I say wearily as I lean over the crib. 

She takes a deep breath and hugs herself to me. 

I lean closer. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

She turns her head to the bed and sighs. 

She points to the crib. 

I take my own deep breath and set her down. 

She rolls to the side. Without another son or protest, she closes her eyes and goes back to sleep. 

Does any of this teach her the self-mastery I yearn to cultivate in her? I don’t know. I hope she grows up so much better than me. 

Hmm. 

I was about to write about all the things I don’t think I’ll be able to do because of my weaknesses. 

But I look back at how incredibly far I’ve come. Personally. Emotionally. Professionally. I am light years ahead of that girl who left home for college fifteen years ago. Still playful and quirky, but a woman who stands so much taller, literally and figuratively (thank you roommates who pushed me to fix my ape-like posture!)

In these moments I teach Aria, I stand taller even still. 

Whomever I help her become, she’ll have choices far beyond that. 

Maybe we can both be better than we started, 

even in these tired moments 

at 4am

when we should both be sleeping…

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