This morning, I was laying in bed after Brock and the kids had gotten up. Snuggled up against Rory, who was sound asleep, I was drifting back off for an extra hour of sleep provided by my generous husband.
I heard the growing thump, thump, thump of Ryder’s feet coming up the stairs. In his usual fashion, he busted into my bedroom and ran over to my side of the bed. Without modulating his voice, he asked, “Mama? I have boob bed?”
Following our daily script, I told him, “No buddy. You have boob couch when Mama gets up. Please go back downstairs.”
On a typical day, Ryder would immediately run back out of the room and pound back down the stairs until I woke up… or until he got impatient again and we would repeat the entire ordeal.
Today, for some reason, he decided to shout, “NO!”
I stayed calm and told him that he doesn’t get boob bed in the mornings, but he can have boob when I get downstairs. It just so happens that I was sleeping shirtless and didn’t have my bra pulled up, so there was actually an exposed boob present. He crawled over to me on the bed and started begging, “Please mum. Please I want boob bed. Please?”
At this point, Rory was stirring. I told Ryder very firmly, “We don’t have boob bed in the morning. Go down to the couch.”
As I was speaking, he lowered his head down to my breast and latched on despite my words.
It was like touching a hot burner. Like when something sweet contacts a sore spot on a sick tooth. Like when you step on a lego. INSTANT. Without any sort of build up or warning, my brain went from tired and sleepy to MAD.
I immediately threw him off of me and yelled. There seems to be no self control, no regulation in this state of anger. I can’t convince myself that I’m waking the baby more, or hurting the feelings of the child that is acting like a child. There is no rationality and no moderation.
“GET OUT OF HERE. YOU MAY NOT DO THAT. THIS IS MY BODY, AND YOU DO NOT GET TO TOUCH ME WITHOUT PERMISSION.”
Ryder immediately starts crying, a mixture of sorrow and fear. Some small part of my brain tells me to grow up, he’s two and he wants boob. But the angry part of my brain is louder and shouty-er. I tell him to stop crying and go downstairs.
“Mama, I just want a hug,” he sniffles through his big tears.
Empathy still can’t break through the anger. “I don’t want to hug you. I’m very mad.”
He leans over to me and hugs me anyways. “Mama,” his broken voice implores, “You’re breaking my heart.”
“Yeah well,” my anger snaps back, “mine’s already broken.”
Crack. The anger cracks. Finally, regular Mandy comes back and empathy is present. I hug him back, and smell his hair. I stroke his arm, and tell him I’m sorry.
“I shouldn’t have yelled, Ryder. I’m sorry I made you cry.”
“I just want you to be a nice mama,” he tells me sadly.
“I know buddy. I’m trying to be a nice mama.” Regret and sadness. Immediate painful remorse. “Please go downstairs,” I request sadly, “and we can have boob couch when I get up.”
Ryder struts back downstairs, seemingly none the worse for wear, but I can’t help it – I wonder if I have put yet another notch in the armor of his psyche. I wonder what small damage I have caused this time. I wonder how hard it’s going to be for him to recover from a childhood where his mother is like a live-wire, and the unpredictably of her response is a minefield.
That instant hot second, the one where the anger goes live and takes over… I need to find a way to interrupt that. To block it. To pause before the rage, and insert some compassion. Some peace. Some ANYTHING. Because I have to be better than this. I have to be bigger than this.
A birthing affirmation comes to mind about contractions – how they are not stronger than me because they ARE me? My anger is not stronger than me because it is me. My rage cannot control me because it IS me. I can fix this because I can. It is me. And I will.