Her face scrunched as she expelled all the contents of her lungs. Her mouth wide, tears in her eyes, and the hanging, pink epiglottis danced violently at the back of her throat. Her stance said she was ready for war, but my mind said I was too as it raged and raced at the child before me. I understood her position, but I thought it no excuse. My temper flared. Hers sprouted wings and soared.
Internally, I cursed myself for all the mothers I judged for not having better control of their toddlers. This was impossible. You would think I have the upper hand but I don’t, and deep down, we both knew it. She demanded she be heard. She demanded her rage be felt. She demanded our understanding. Her tiny body launched at me, seeking comfort even after the betrayal. Frustrated, unable to verbalize the extent of her feelings and thoughts, she still wouldn’t let it pass. She needed us to know. So, she lashed out. She swiped at the gifts I’d brought, knowing fully even at two years old that they were bribes. In the moment, she hated them and possibly even hated me.
The weight of what I’d done sat in my heart and in my back, paralyzing me. She screamed, I screamed back. She collared me, wrapping herself around my torso and burying her face into the crook of my neck with renewed strength as I tried to peel her off me. She wouldn’t budge. Briefly, I wondered if this strength was normal, what did I feed her on to make her this strong, and where could I perhaps find the source of her stamina. How long would she keep this up? I didn’t have it in me to go on much longer. Irritated and frustrated, my mind churned. Suddenly, it occurred to me to try a different approach.
I talked. Calmly, betraying my true feelings. I had tried talking before, but this time, instead of admonishing I expressed empathy and understanding. I explained. Ever so slightly, her cries fell an octave. I kept going. Soon, the crying reduced to the likeness of an idle engine. Her grip on my body slackened, but still refused to be undone. She was listening. She wouldn’t let me look at her face yet. I kept going.
Eventually, I reached the magic words, and the crying stopped. They were “I’m sorry.”. I was. I’d never left her for so long (eight days) to go anywhere before. When we’d left her with her Nana, she barely spared a thought when we’d told her bye-bye. We knew, she thought we’d be right back, as we usually were. We took advantage of that. The video calls were okay. By day three, she had looked visibly irritated to see us on the phone and not back yet. Day four, she’d refused to talk to us or look at the phone at all. And then I said it and she looked at me.
” I love you.”
She’d needed to hear it. She’d felt betrayed, abandoned. She needed to express her feelings. We called it a tantrum, but for her, it was the only way she knew how. She accepted my apology and my reassurance. She echoed my words, released me and stayed close. Then pointed at the gifts. She accepted them, loved them, played with them.
But, we’d bred mistrust. The bathroom door couldn’t be closed. Grandma would have to settle for a wave goodbye. Whatever happened, we weren’t leaving her sight again, and she wasn’t giving us the chance to leave her. Before she let that happen, we’d have to peel her off of us with a crow bar. If it wasn’t the car seat, she wasn’t letting go.
I realized then. She wasn’t wrong, even if she wasn’t right. What she was… was a carbon copy of me. Karma knew my address, breathed life into human form and her eyes stared back at me. Loving me, challenging me.
She is mini me. And I am her mother.
Story a result of Instagram post won by @roxinewynter