Thursday, March 16, 2006

Chernobyl? We Have a Meltdown

Yesterday, I experienced a meltdown of parental proportions.

OC was tired, hadn't had a nap at school, and was needy and whiney. Every tap and bump she received from her lunchbox, the door, the oppressive air around her, made her whimper in pain. This tends to get on my nerves even on a good day, but yesterday we had SO MUCH TO DO.

It takes me 20 minutes just to get to her school from work, and when I get there she is, more often than not, not excited to see me. I have to ask her repeatedly to get all her stuff together and to get her jacket on while I help her get her stuff because she is busy ignoring me to tell other parents where their kids are, or talking to other kids about needing to pick up or something; then we walk to the car, deal with traffic, stop at the store, and get home so we can make dinner, build a fire, feed the cats, do laundry, deal with the dishes, bathe, jammies, brush teeth, and read a bedtime story.

While I am at the same time annoyed with her, I also, just as forcefully, feel compelled to drop everything and attend to her. Who cares about work and schedules and clean clothes? My daughter needs me!!! Usually, I try to negotiate my way to comfort her while also managing to accomplish only the most necessary things. An example of this is: I'll get down on the floor and hug her and kiss her owies, then tell her I have to start dinner but I'll be right back. This usually falls flat. Upon reflection, this moderate approach probably results in both of us feeling unsatisfied in the way that only getting part of what you need accomplishes.

It's when I am not a comfort to my own child that I feel I have failed as a parent. That is what caused the Chernobyl-like meltdown last night. She has a lot of earwax in one ear, so I stopped to get an earwax removal kit at the store. When we got home, had dinner, we gathered up what we'd need and settled into a chair to begin the process. She was scared that it was going to hurt, so I reassured her I had done it many times before on my own ears and it doesn't hurt at all. It's just like having bathwater in your ears, I said. She was not convinced. (It's not that I expected her to believe me and calmly submit to the earwax-removal process, it's just that I felt that while I was there for her, it might as well have been the Abominable Snowman doing this for as much comfort as it seemed to give her.)

Of course, I immediately thought things like, she's been in daycare since she was four months old, of course she feels disconnected from me. It's further my fault because I have so much to do in the evenings, that I frequently have her do much on her own while I cook, clean, and whatever. I do that TOO much, and so she feels like either a Himalayan Yeti, or her mother, would be fine to administer ear drops. And then I have no one to blame but myself, because even though the situation is such that I work, it is also true that when we ARE together, I push her away. Not meaning to, but that is the result of me trying to get things done.

So I cried and cried and cried, and OH came home and was all, "Holy.... " while I cried some more and tried to explain it to him. It wasn't pure guilt and down-on-myself-edness, it was a realization of what is truly going on.

It wasn't a waste of energy, either. What came out of it is that I recognized the need to change how I interact with my daughter when we are together, at night and on the weekends. I now have the opportunity and the motivation to do things differently. I only hope it is not too late to reestablish a close relationship with her. I keep thinking positively, hoping that my insides will catch up and feel good, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can OH take a little more on, such as: go shopping, make dinner, do the dishes, build the fire, feed the cats...? There are perks to being married!