yesterday was one of those days of emotional intensity -- probably to be expected when a mom at the very end of her pregnancy and a two-and-three-quarters-year-old toddler, each with their own incomprehensible emotional swings, join forces.
mixed in with lots of joyful playing with her cousin (we'd stumble upon them having created their own tea party in the playroom, or snuggled together on the couch looking at books together), eva had four big breakdowns yesterday. these were the sort of things that can be frustrating to a parent because on the surface they appear to be about nothing -- because the asked for soap was placed onto her hand one half inch to the left of where it should have been, because i put pita chips into her bowl (the way she had asked not five minutes prior), because the of the two towels offered after her bath, one was too small and one was too big. but after a retreat to our room, lots of screaming and sobbing, and a few deep breathes, the return of toddler language ("use your words", indeed) would clarify to me that in her perception -- which really, is no less valid than my own -- she had a perfectly good reason for being upset. it turns out, i then recalled, she had asked that she be allowed to have the whole bag of pita chips rather than just a few in her bowl, and i absent mindedly responded with a yeah-sure-whatever, then failed to deliver. that's a reasonable injustice in a toddler's world. granted, she could have pointed that out (with words!) rather than throwing the chips and screaming, but really, maybe she couldn't have. she is, after all, two. something i struggle to remember throughout the day.
apparently i need all the opportunities i can get to be reminded. after each of these intense interactions, i resolved to do better next time. i respond in anger at first, then calm down, which is better than staying pissed off and acting accordingly, but i'd prefer if i could just stay calm in the first place. on the first of these two events, larry and i "traded off" after the first aggrieved parent needed to breathe (and i mean literally aggrieved -- she bit my hair and pulled (what is that?) and later unintentionally kicked me in the belly; another time she bit larry's shoulder hard enough to leave a big red bruise). trading off isn't always an option, of course, and i was pleased that i managed to calm down the times it wasn't. if only i could avoid that initial burst of anger... only one of us needs to act like a two year old, and eva gets dibs on that.
eva, however, is actually doing pretty well at coping with these situations (given her age, that is). she starts out screaming and sobbing and hyperventilating, even throwing or hitting or (the new lovely development) biting. but quickly, through the screaming, she'll say "i'm so angry! i feel like throwing things at you! i'm very frustrated right now!". or, through the sobs, she'll say "i can't get calmer. i'm having trouble calming down..." she said that then looked up at me with a face mixed with anger and a longing for comfort, and reached her arms tentatively up toward me and immediately dropped them and looked at her feet, seemingly unsure what to do with herself and even more unsure of how i would respond. i reached across the literal and figurative space between us (that in her tiny wisdom she had begun to bridge) and scooped her up into my arms. her breathing immediately began to slow as she sank into my shoulder, the two of us a mound of spent emotions and belly.
this may at first sound like a tangent, but on days such as this, where we find our connection split apart and rejoined an exhausting number of times, i am so thankful that we still co-sleep. i know the benefits (facilitation of breastfeeding, reduced SIDS risk, extra sleep for mama, and so on) may seem to end after the baby stage is over, but i swear we get as much out of it now as we did then. without realizing it, i developed a ritual long ago of reconnecting to her as she sleeps, and i absolutely rely on that now. probably around the time all the toddlerness began, i found that i would lay down to join her in bed (after she had been asleep for a few hours already), and just stare at her sleeping face and breathe it all in. i smooth her hair back, and as i gaze at that peaceful face, all eyelashes and cream, how could i be irritated or stressed? watching her chest rise and fall, i subconsciously match my own breathing to hers and am reminded of her as her baby self, when a different intensity of emotion prevailed, when i was overcome with a physical need to hold her. the stillness is broken a bit as her jaw clicks around, squishing up her quiet lips, a remnant motion from her days as a nursling. there she is, my beloved tiny baby, growing into a child, into a person. each day she will travel just a little farther from me, needing me less, until one day all of this is a slightly blurry memory. even in a matter of weeks, my nighttime attention (like all of my attention) will be split between two. but for now, i can end each day -- whatever that day may have brought to us -- with her sweet face as the last thing i see as i drift off to sleep. soon enough i hear through my eyelids, "it's a beautiful day, mama, let's wake up!" and after a night of jumbled legs and arms, physically as well as emotionally reconnected, we're both ready to do it all over again.