Thursday, June 03, 2010

The truth bruises

* This post is long and contains swearing.  If you don't like that kind of thing, please don't read on. *


I said I wanted to tell the truth so I’m not going to shy away from it now. I did think about not posting this, but it feels important. Telling the truth, not hiding it or glossing it over or pretending it never happened, feels important.

I had a total insane meltdown today. I hate it when I have these moments. The only thing I’m grateful for is that it doesn’t happen more often. Right now, I don’t want to explain, rationalise, justify or analyse. Right now, I just need to say that I got so angry and frustrated that I screamed, shouted, swore, threw shoes, an open water bottle and my glasses. All in front of Jake. But that wasn’t enough, so I slapped myself in the face, hard, three times. It wasn’t enough so I did it three more times. That still wasn’t enough so I grabbed one of the wooden rails from Jake’s train set and smashed it four times on the bony part of my foot. That was enough. That made me calm the fuck down like a bucket of ice down my throat. And then it made me wonder what the fuck is wrong with me.

It started in the middle of Jake’s tantrum. Almost every week he has a tantrum when I bring him home from the playground. Sometimes, I handle it fine. I let him scream, I carry him upstairs, I just let him be till he calms down. Sometimes I walk him around the neighbourhood in his pram till he falls asleep. That is if I’m not too hungry / tired / hot, or if he isn’t already screaming to begin with. Sometimes I bribe him. Icecream or Wotsits and promises of Mr Tumble. Other times, well. Other times it just gets out of hand.

He’d been at nursery all morning and playing in the hot sun for two hours so he was tired – really tired. So was I. But it was clearly more than tiredness. When his tantrum started, I tried my best to stay quiet and calm. Then he started screaming at every little thing I did.

I took my shoes off and he screamed, grabbing the shoes and wanting me to put them back on. When I didn’t, he grabbed them and threw them down the stairs. So I walked away. I took a sip of water from a bottle and put it on the table. He screamed at me to give him the water bottle, so I did.  He screamed at me to open it, but I didn’t want to because I knew he’d spill it. So I said no. He continued to scream. I continued to say no. It eventually ended up with me screaming no because he wasn’t having it. Then he threw the bottle on the carpet and the top came off and half of the water poured out. I picked up a cloth to mop it up and he screamed about that too. He threw himself on the cloth and picked it up and held it to his chest. Then he grabbed the open water bottle and tried to drink from it but he was so furious that he was shaking and he spilled it all over himself. I knew that if I tried to change him, he’d have a fit. So I picked up the water bottle, and you guessed it, he screamed again. So I threw the damn thing across the floor till all the water came out.

Then I threw a pair of shoes down the stairs cos by this point I’d had enough and I was screaming that I’d had enough, that I was sick of going through this every week and if he didn’t stop, I would never take him out again. Wonderful logic that he, of course, didn’t understand. He simply continued to scream and cry. Then I screamed to try and drown out his screaming but it didn’t work. So I stopped and threw my glasses on the table and rubbed my eyes. Screaming “No!” and sobbing, Jake ran to the table, grabbed my glasses and tried to put them back on my face. His little hands were shaking, he was sobbing so hard. I looked at him standing there, eyes red, tears down his cheeks, soaking wet, holding a damp cloth to his chest. I desperately wanted it all to stop so I could just cuddle him. Maybe that’s what I should have done. But instead, I told him I was going to change him and he screamed and screamed and screamed.

I changed him anyway. I picked him up and put him on the mat and he struggled and I got his wet clothes off as best as I could. While I changed his nappy he kicked and sobbed great heaving sobs and screamed and screamed and screamed.

It was at this point that I slapped myself. I wanted so much to break something, to do something drastic, smash a window, throw myself out a window, something big to make it all stop. I couldn’t do those things so I slapped myself. It wasn’t enough. I slapped myself again and said out loud, though I’m not sure to whom, “Is this what you want?!” All I could think was what a worthless human being I was, an awful mother to be doing this in front of Jake, fucked up and my worst nightmare – just like my own mother. My raging, out of control mother who was angry during most of my childhood. A mother I grew up being wary of, afraid of, desperately wanting to escape from. When I became a mother myself, I did become more sympathetic to her, but I still, desperately don’t want to be her.

We both calmed down eventually. He started signing frantically for Mr Tumble so I put Something Special on. Within a few moments, it was like it never happened - at least for him. I’m still in shock. He began talking about what was going on in the programme, looking at me, smiling. I want to hope that he’ll forget this. But it will be stored somewhere. The physicality of the emotion, the anger, the fear. His body will remember it even if his mind doesn’t. It all gets stored up, like rings in a tree trunk. My best hope is that the good moments outweigh the bad ones. That he’ll grow up trusting that we are more good than bad. That is something I might be able to manage.

After a while, he let me put him in my lap and we watched TV together. I knew that I needed to get him down for his nap, but I also knew I couldn’t push it or it could happen all over again. So we stayed where we were a little while longer.


Anonymous said...

Oh Tammy, I so totally understand. You're not alone in not being able to handle the tough times the way you want to every time. You're not alone in doing or saying things in front of your little one that you later want to go back and erase. You're not alone in being so angry that you hurt yourself rather than lash out at someone you love. We all have days when we can't cope, moments when it all goes horribly wrong. But we get up and try again. And the babies still love us. Snow White had a tantrum yesterday and it totally threw me because it's so rare. I felt I had nothing up my sleeve, no strategies to deal with it. I wanted to shout, to smack. I managed without. But only because my husband was there to keep me calm. Nobody's perfect. Tomorrow is another day.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only crazy person to slap myself when things get too much... I did it repeatedly the other night when Moomin was in his 2nd hour of non-sleeping and screaming at bedtime.

He's also in the (dare I say it?) phase that Jake's in - everything is "NO!" or screamable when he's tired, he's so frustrated, he's so desperate for something that I don't think even he knows what it is...

My lovely, you are not in the littlest bit alone and you are not what you think of yourself.

They still love us, despite our madness. I think you're braver than me for posting this in the first place.

Have a big {{{hug}}} and a better day tomorrow. X

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to give you lots and lots of hugs.

I also get very angry and I have the same urges to do something physical and drastic. It terrifies me. I have been working to keep calm when I argue with DH and I sometimes have to physically remove myself from the situation (which DH hates) but unfortunately this won't be possible with Thomas once he's old enough to do things that wind me up.

The very fact that you're so aware of what you don't want to be, through the example of your own mother, means that you won't create the same problem with Jake. I've been thinking recently about how hard it is to behave in a way that we haven't had modelled to us by someone close to us. No wonder you have trouble being patient and calm with Jake when you didn't receive that treatment from your mother! The thing I'm trying to focus on though is that I can set an example to the rest of my family and hopefully they can pick up on that and treat me in the same way. I've found that kind of selfish thinking is easier to hold onto when you're losing it!

We're all works in progress and can learn from our mistakes. I hope that writing this post made you feel better because learning from our mistakes isn't the same thing as beating ourselves up about them forever! Hope you have a wonderful day with Jake tomorrow xxx

tree shadow moon said...

hey there, my internet connection is working this morning. I couldn't comment last night as it wasn't working.

I would really like to give you guys such a big hug - and I really do think that moments of stress and desperation at not knowing how to calm a child down are times that many Mums must have - as I mentioned to you in a text I sent yesterday evening, I read on some other blogs recently of similar feelings.

You're a fab, super Mum - this I know, because I've seen you in action!

Why don't you maybe try finding some "Mums' club" or group (do such things exist? just for mums, not mums and a non-mum I have no idea!) because I'm sure it'd be good to be able to talk with other Mums or experts about how you feel, to know you're not alone, and to find other ways of dealing with those stressful moments for you and Jake?

Big hugs, and remember that when you need a chat, I'm around.

N. xxx

Heartful said...

Thank you. Talking to Paul and writing this really helped. x

Glovecat said...

You are not the only one, and you are not alone. Thanks so much for sharing, perhaps by speaking openly you are shaking the foundations of one of the last taboos. A massive hug to you. XXX

solveig said...

Just read this and I'm glad you shared it. I too have had times when I have reacted in ways that I now feel ashamed about.