We’ve been sick, Amelie and I. We’ve had fevers, headaches, snotty noses and sore throats. She’s had it all week. I was bad for two days but I ate a load of raw garlic (that old trick) and I reckon that killed it.
We’ve been cooped up in the house, staring at the sunshine mocking us through the window. Yesterday I thought we were well enough to go see my parents, but she spent most of the time crying.
I’m finding it hard to handle her emotions. And mine. And not just this week, but for the last few months. She flies back and forth between rage and sadness. She bursts into tears. She goes out of her way to be difficult. She starts fights for no reason. And as soon as we make up she does something else and we’re back to arguing. And I try to remind myself that she’s three, she’s tired, she’s sick, but I keep losing it. I constantly fail to muster up enough patience or understanding, which is exactly what I need, and exactly what I seem to be incapable of.
When I get a minute to think about it, I can be rational. I tell myself not to rise to it, to find out what’s really going on, so that maybe I can manage her with compassion, but I’m really struggling. I keep doing a bad job. And being sick or tired is not enough of an excuse. Yes, it exacerbates things, but it’s not the cause. And I realise that things have been amplified this week because we’re on top of each other, but still.
I take her rejection really badly. Sometimes she won’t look me in the eye when she gets up in the morning. For no reason at all. We start off the day with her pushing me away. And God forbid she wakes up late and doesn’t see Brendan before he leaves for work – epic trauma. She’ll retreat to her room and cry. If I try to hug her she’ll curl up into a ball. She wants him. And that hurts.
It’s hard to keep it together when my only crime is that I’m not her father. When I’m second-fiddle and second-rate, merely loathed for existing. I remind her that I’m a person, a human being with feelings. That I get sick sometimes too. That I can be moody and grumpy, just like her. That I’m sorry I’m not much fun today, that I got no sleep last night. That I’m doing my best and that I love her.
And that’s not to mention the standard mothering transgressions, such as asking her to be polite. Or brushing her hair. Or trying to get her dressed. Or picking the wrong outfit. Or wanting her to eat lunch. Or saying no to the playground because of the INCESSANT rain. Or, the real kicker, wanting to leave her with granny for an hour so I can get out and have some time alone.
Don’t get me wrong, the problem isn’t her. She’s three, it’s her prerogative to be an asshole. The problem is me. How I handle it. I snap. I stoop. I tell her that she’s mean. I threaten to tell daddy that she’s not being nice because I know that’ll get a reaction out of her. I pretend I’m going to cancel granny’s visit. I force false apologies out of her. I change tack and try to be nice. I try to find out what’s wrong and then end up enraged again when she inevitably pushes me away.
I’ve never loved anyone as much as her and that’s why it hurts so much when I do my best and it’s not enough. And when I don’t do my best there’s The Guilt. And when she won’t let me comfort her it’s the ultimate betrayal. It makes me crazy. I say stupid things. I tell her I’m going to go out get a job(!) and find someone else to look after her. I say damaging, immature and pointless things. Threatening a three year old, FFS, aren’t I great? Words designed to get a reaction, to make her worry, to try and fail to get her to appreciate me. It’s pathetic.
She’s three. Not thirteen or twenty-three. Sometimes I forget that. I could say anything and she’d believe me, that’s the awful power I have. The power I’m not meant to utilise. I’m her mother, I’m the last person who should take advantage of her innocence. It’s the worst thing I could do. And what’s worse is that I watch myself doing it, I tell myself not to, and then I do it anyway. And I strive to be better, I am better, and then she knocks me down again.
And I get up again…
I’m on Facebook.