When I arrived home from work the other day, I was looking forward to cuddling my children and having some fun spending time with and connecting with them. Instead, I was greeted with the sounds of children in distress and a husband at the end of his tether. It had been a long, sick week for the family and being the only healthy body in the house, my husband had been on night wake-up and child minding duty all week.
As he began reluctantly to make his way towards his screaming youngest child, I told him to stop, sit down, relax, have a drink; I would get this. I was feeling better. I missed spending time with my girls and this was my opportunity to reconnect with them.
I walked into the bedroom and found my daughter sitting on the floor, quite distressed, trying to get her clothes off. I greeted her and acknowledged that she seemed upset. Her response was not what I was expecting. She screamed with venom ‘I want Daddy! I don’t want you! Go away!’
It was like a stab in the heart. What did she mean she didn’t want me? I’m her Mum, of course she wants me. Right? Well, right, but not just at that moment. At that moment she wanted me to hear something that was hard to hear but it was important to her that I heard it.
As I listened to her angry shouts, I reflected. I had been distant from her that week as I struggled in bed with the flu. I hadn’t changed her nappy in days. I hadn’t gone to her in the night when she woke crying. I hadn’t even been putting her food on the table. Her father had taken on all these connective care-giving roles whilst I looked after me.
My little one didn’t like it, she was mad at me and was making that clear. This was my opportunity to connect. She was handing it to me on a platter and I just needed to be open to it and accept that whilst it would be nice to connect with cuddles and fun, being there for her in this moment, for her to release her emotions to me and for me to hear her and be okay with it was exactly the repair our ruptured relationship needed.
She needed to know that it was okay to be mad; that I understood and my love for her remained unwavering. That would be the ultimate in connective time spent together.
I acknowledged her feelings: “You sound really upset. [Pause] You seem mad and want me to go away. [Pause] I’ll move back here a little to give you some space. [Pause] I want you to know I love you and want to help you.” I Stopped and waited for her to indicate she was ready to connect. I sat on the floor of her room for about half an hour. We said nothing. If I tried to, she would scream at me in anger.
Eventually, she began playing with her teddy. She didn’t look at me or acknowledge my presence but I knew she knew I was there because she was deliberately keeping her eyes averted. After about five minutes, she brought her teddy to me, placed her in my lap and walked away. She still didn’t look at me so I gave her a little more time. Two minutes later she removed the teddy from my lap and sat herself in her teddy’s position. I tenderly wrapped my arms around her and held her.
We reconnected and she was able to see that no matter how much she yells at me, no matter how much anger she has bubbling up inside, I will be her rock.
Nothing will shake my love for her even when I can’t be there to take care of her.
That night when I kissed her as I tucked her into her bed I spoke with her gently. “You know, I love you even when you tell me to go away. I love you even when you are angry with me. I will always love you and nothing will ever change that.” She gripped my neck as we cuddled and did not want to let go. I sat with her on her bed and drew circles on the palm of her hand as she relaxed towards finding her slumber
She no longer wanted me to go away.
You might also enjoy reading:
Toddler Tantrum Therapy ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)
Go Away, Mama! ~ Janet Lansbury (Elevating Childcare)
Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition) ~ Magda Gerber
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting ~ Janet Lansbury
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame ~ Janet Lansbury