4 am. Subtle whimpers and rustling. Please don’t wake up. Not again. Fussing as she musters the strength to sit up. “Na-nas”, she says. This is the fourth time she has woken to demand that I nurse her. “Shh, its sleepy time babe, lay down and go back to sleep.” It’s as though the moment I utter the words, her trigger switches from sleepy asking to angry demanding. “NA-NAS” she begins to wail over and over. I offer her everything. “Water? Let’s cuddle. Come close. Do you want me to hold you and sway? Here let me sing you you’re song: We sleep in the night time, we nurse in the day.” She doesn’t care. There is only one solution in her mind and the longer I hold out, the louder and angrier she becomes. I offer her some cheese for a snack. “Ap?” She wants an apple instead. I offer her cheese again. “AP!” becomes the new mantra and she sits in between the two of us shouting it over and over again, her small body rigid with anger and determination.
Except she isn’t the only one who can go from a sweet slumber to full tilt enraged in minutes. And just like that, I feel it coming. The anger. I fly out of bed (well as fast as a 7 month pregnant lady can), throw the bathroom door open and begin my usual 4 am rant. “It’s sleep time, Lennon! How long are we going to do this for? Every single night you have to wake up and scream at me until I give you exactly what you want? You’re sick, you’re tired and I’m sick and tired of listening to this ALL NIGHT LONG. You aren’t a baby anymore. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” I forcefully turn the sink on and get her some water. She is still scream chanting for an apple. Slamming the bathroom door behind me, I shove the water into her hands and she shoves it right back. “AAAPPPP!” “NOOOOO!” My husband mutters something about the two of us calming down. “Fuck it!” I barrel down the stairs, my arms hot with energy as I stifle the urge to scream. I pull an apple out of the fridge and begin ferociously cutting it into small chunks, swearing and cursing this night time routine that has been driving me mental for two years.
From upstairs, I hear her getting worse and worse, her own rage taking over. Now she is pissed because I left her sight, as though I need to sit there peacefully as she hulks out on me over an apple at 4 in the morning. Her dad’s soft and calm voice comes from the room but her ear ringing screams of “MAMA!!” are all that I hear. And they infuriate me. She settles when I return and I try with every ounce in my being to calm myself before saying another word. We sit on the bed and she eats the apple. I begin to cry and ask her why it has to be this way? Why do we have to fight so much? She leans over and rubs my face, the same motion I have done to her during all those nursing sessions. I kiss her head and we lay down together. “I’m sorry, baby” I whisper. “Sowwy, mama” she whispers back. Tears fall from my face as I nestle into her, wondering how long I can sustain the calm for.
My biggest fear is that I won’t teach Lennon well enough how to deal with this anger. The same anger that I have dealt with my whole life. No one really wants to talk about their ‘bad’ temper. And isn’t that what everyone calls it? Because you should be able to control yourself and not fly into a rage every time your child does, right? Meaning you’re bad if, like me, you do. I have spent my whole life trying to navigate the temperament I was born with only to birth an amazing little girl who has the exact same temperament. Let’s just say I have yet to master it in the 24 years I have been trying.
I worry and fear that without the proper tools to deal with my own temper, I will fail to teach her how to deal with her temper. These heated moments arise so quickly between the two of us and in an instant they are out of control. Both of us giving in and fueling our own fires which mesh into one destructive force. I don’t want her teachers to recommend Ritalin as they did for me. I don’t want her to feel the embarrassment of losing control in front of others. I don’t want her to feel the shame of being born with a ‘bad’ temper just because she is full of overwhelming emotion and needs to let it out.
All I can do to ease these fears is to continue to practice self control. If I can show her what it looks like to walk away, to take a breath, to shake it off or laugh and dance instead, then maybe I will save us the years of fighting I experienced with my own mother. Along the way, I hope to show her that she is a powerful person with energy to share, she just must be responsible with how she shares that energy. Most importantly, I want her to see how I heal my own shame and guilt over ‘losing control’ because just like me, she will never be perfect. It is a long road of learning to accept who you are and I fear that if I don’t accept myself for everything I am, how can I expect her to?