I’ve been sick for a week. What started as a blah not so unbearable cold type thing progressed into horrible chest congestion, sore throat, and a fever. I plugged along for two days fighting fever with ibuprofen and getting everybody where they needed to go. On the third day, I couldn’t do it anymore and crashed on the couch.
Life being what it is, the rest of my family went about their regular lives, leaving me alone with a fever and two traumatized kids swimming in a big ole pool of terror. And it was raining.
With neither yet able to verbalize their anxiety or its roots, they showed it to me and it was up to me to figure it out. I can only hypothesize, but here’s my take.
Theory #1: In the world of addiction, “sick” is likely code for other conditions that lead to kids being neglected and abused. Even at the peak of my illness, I continued to supervise, feed, and even read to my kids, but it didn’t matter. I was down and not getting up anytime soon and the trauma alerts began firing.
Theory #2: Perhaps they feared my illness was more serious than it was and they were worried about losing me. I am usually a very active person and NEVER lie around. The trauma alerts began firing.
Theory #3: A combination of Theories #1 and #2. The trauma alerts began firing.
Whatever the reason, they were freaking out and not afraid to show it.
My son expressed his anxiety by compulsively declaring his love for me every couple of minutes, needing constant physical contact, climbing on me, clinging to my appendages with a death grip and rubbing his face all over me.
My daughter took a different approach. She rolled around on the floor kicking the couch I was lying on while loudly complaining about being bored. She pushed the furniture around, she teased and tormented her brother and the animals, she whined, she pulled off my blanket, she yelled, and then she complained some more.
After lunch, I asked them both to find a quiet activity so that I could rest for awhile so she began slamming books on the floor. When I sent her to her room, she began screaming and didn’t stop until my husband got home two hours later. She turned it off the second he pulled in the driveway. She’s good like that.
That was several days ago and all though I’m feeling much better physically, I haven’t recovered. I’ve gone over that day’s events in my mind over and over again. I know rationally that her behavior was not personal. I know that I am their rock and seeing me weak was scary. I know Mom lying around may have stirred up lots of resting dark memories of other Moms whose behavior was very different than mine.
I know, I know. I know it all. It still hurt my feelings.
This leaking vessel of a child that I’ve been pouring love into despite her inability to return it kicked me when I was down.
My husband and I have had lengthy discussions with our daughter about her behavior for which she has yet to show any remorse and probably never will, knowing full well that our words were for our own release and would have no impact on our daughter.
Having taken the following day off, my husband asked her “Do you know why I stayed home from work yesterday?”
“To take care of me,” was her deadpan response.
She starred at him brow furrowed in disbelief when he explained,
“No, because Mom needed me.”
The concept of someone else’s needs coming ahead of hers is beyond her grasp. This is not new information, but this time it got me. And she knows it.
In the following days, she was smug and delighted, walking around singing and humming to herself as she always does when she knows she’s knocked someone off balance. It’s been a couple of months since she’s been successful and she’s feeling pretty proud of herself.
For me, this is the greatest challenge of parenting a child with Attachment Disorder–the twisted glee they experience when they know they’ve hurt someone.
Despite hundreds of hours of training, 8 years of on the job training, having read every book on the market regarding attachment disorder and developmental trauma, and the full conscious knowledge that her behavior has nothing to do with me, I was wounded.
So now I have to find the strength to get over myself, to get my feet back under me, take back control and carry on choosing loving acts despite it all. I will. I always do.