big girl room, the hallmark of which was a twin bed. You loved it. There were little, if any, bumps in trying to convince you to sleep in the new bed. In fact, I don't recall anything at all.
And then three and a half months later we went to California for two weeks in which the three of us, me, you, and Nana, slept together in one bed. Upon return to your room, you decided sleeping alone wasn't cool anymore, so into our bed you migrated. You stayed there until your third birthday, in October, when I created this elaborate scheme to get you back into your own bed. Luna your personal fairy arrived, replete with a fairy door, and a picture of the two of you together while you were sleeping (thanks, Photoshop). Luna also left you a letter in which she explained that she would watch over you as you slept, and that three year-olds are brave and sleep in their own beds. She also left you a new night light that projected stars on your ceiling.
It was a hit, and back into your bed you went.
Until the novelty wore off, and somehow I found you right back at my side again a few months later. Shadows you said. You needed me, you said.
You needed me.
To feel needed is sublime. To know that my presence has the power to cure all your fears is, frankly, intoxicating. You and I both love Wonder Woman, and it's in these moments that I actually feel as powerful. I was never ashamed of the co-sleeping, and I enjoyed sleeping next your warm body. It was equal parts survival and IDGAF. It was, for the time being, working.
Then it wasn't. For a while we dealt with the tossing and turning, kneeing Big Red, and landing elbows on my nose. We were losing sleep. And then it got dramatically worse: you decided the act of going to sleep, at all, was purgatory, and by doing so, took us with you into the pit of hell.
Every single night was an ongoing battle to go to bed. Gone were the calm evenings of stories and songs. In their place were tears and screaming. We bargained, we pleaded. In our worst moments we stomped away frustrated, we yelled. I became angry that I was losing my nights to your hysterics. My darling, I love you in ways words cannot even touch, and yet in those moments, I wanted to mute your cries, to teleport myself out of our sweet home and into someplace, anyplace else. Some nights I was able to call up the patience that you required, and I saw you for exactly what you were: a little girl who felt safe at her mama's side. I would repeat to myself, a mantra: this is what she needs right now, lay with her, it's just a phase, you'll miss this when it's gone. That would get me through a few evenings, but surely as still waters run deep, that ball of anger and frustration would gurgle and rise like a geyser. Again I'd be all rage and fury.
Earlier this month, Big Red and I spoke after a particularly difficult evening and agreed it was time to help you back into your bed. We would draw a line in the sand upon our return from our annual trip to California. I would be as transparent as possible, and we would hold our ground. And by golly it worked. The day you went back into your bed, I told you what would be happening, and true to form, you responded with angry tears and arms crossed over your chest. Proclamations of I WILL NOT! filled our house. I explained there'd be a prize for which to work, which seemed to help.
As the day progressed, I remind you of what would happen. That night we read books, sang songs, and chatted. You asked if I would be in my bed. I explained that I'd be downstairs with Daddy, but eventually I'd go to bed, just like you were doing, and I'd be on the other side of your door.
You have successfully been in your bed since.
The last night you slept in our bed, I watched you and was drawn to the pulse in your neck. The way the rush of blood, sweeping back and forth, made the skin leap up and down. I tried to remain as present as possible, not projecting what would happen the next night, if it would work or not, but rather just being your mama, next to you. You are a fiery, independent, strong-willed little girl, Lucy. In those moments as my eyes traversed the beautiful contours of your perfect face, I thought about how I could best support you. Not just in that hour, but as you continue to grow into yourself, whatever self evolves. I asked myself how to always remain a reflective mama so as not to stand in your way, to never unintentionally clip those dazzling wings. My girl, light always finds you, and I never want to be the one who casts a shadow.
As I wrote earlier, it's absolutely marvelous to feel needed. There will come a day though, when your need for me will change. But darling - you take the lead. I will follow as you are not mine to hold onto; you are your own. Know though, that I am always here, your soft place to fall, just on the other side of the door.
On Sunday I will wake up next to her sweet face (I need to sleep in your bed, mama) as she points to the window and announces that it's morning time, mama, and she will give me a card she made (it's a surprise so she's already told me so). Perhaps there will be a few other acknowledgements, and a sunny day spent together while Big Red grills some steaks. Me and my girl. The girl who made me a mother.
My sweet Lucille, this was not the morning to which I'd hoped you'd wake up. Our country is very clearly still living within the confines of a patriarchy. But - make no mistake - our knuckles have grazed the glass, and while we were unable to completely shatter that ceiling, there are fractures. Someday, my love, someday. Maybe it will be you.
|I sincerely hope I can pull this letter out in four years, and it will mean something in a way it didn't this year.|
And I'm beside you.
In the thick of it all, bobbing and weaving between the pendulum of your emotions.
I'm beside you, and kid, let me tell you, this is punishing. Because in the most demanding way it's not physical, a sore muscle that needs rest; it's unrelenting and arduous, because it's emotional.
Whomever coined the term "terrible twos," clearly had not yet encountered a three year-old. I've become quite familiar with the phrase "threenager," and it seems to fit Lucy perfectly. We've also used, on occasion, Lussolini, as when she gets into a mood, there's no room for democracy, only a vehement dictatorship. I have made many jokes this summer about how I may not survive this year, and while I chuckle, inside, I'm desperate to help us both through this necessary, yet aggravating challenge.
I've reached out to the wiser, more experienced, and they've all returned the same trifecta of sentiments: this is normal, we will survive, and it's only a phase. All three remain close to my heart and nerves, and I repeat them like mantras when the little turd refuses to sit still long enough for me to comb out the rat's nest that has formed in her hair because she refused to let me braid it and keep it out of her face for the day.
Exasperation doesn't even come close.
When researching the psychology and developmental stage of an (almost) three year-old - the stark contrast of emotions, stubbornness, need to feel independent whilst still screaming for mama because the shadows in her room made it scary - I'm not surprised. Watching her deal is one thing, and then experiencing my own reaction is another: one moment rage seethes just beneath my flesh, and the next, I want to wrap her up in my arms and never let her go.
Parenting this little girl strikes me as a parallel to what she's actually undergoing. Maybe that's Nature's way of helping us through this seventh circle of hell? Some twisted sort of empathy?
"I wish I could make this all go away, as it is very stressful. Her behavior is normal. 3 year-olds think they can do it all on their own, especially bright articulate children. Remain calm, loving, but firm...often what they need is recognition of their feelings. It's just a phase. The hard part is not knowing the duration. Surely it will go up and down."
It's a carousel, Lucy. We're on your beloved "carouself," going up and down, round and round. Sometimes the view is spectacular, and sometimes it isn't.
While she's navigating the choppy waters of her emotions, the sharp corners of what she's feeling, overwhelmed and unable to cope, I'm sourcing stores of patience at the bottom of what feels like a nearly dry well. Most days I can manage, but there are plenty when I look at her - screaming in my face about needing to watch Wonder Woman right now and wanting to drink chocolate milk from the blue cup - that I turn from her and walk away. Like actually walk away to another room, telling her not to follow me, and give me a minute.
Then she panics. And follows me, screaming louder, no mama, don't be sad, don't go. She knows. She knows and somehow that's reassuring, that in the midst of all this bullshit, she's beginning to understand that actions come with reactions. The other day, after a series of infuriating behaviors, what they were I couldn't even tell you because they were so inconsequential (but there were about thirty billion that happened in rapid fire succession), I started to cry. Full on ugly cry, right there on the couch. Lucy became distraught, and began to cry herself. She hovered over me, wiping my tears, repeating, no mama, please don't cry, don't be sad, I love you so much. And that made me cry harder.
Because I'm her mama and I want to help her understand these big feelings that are inundating her. Because she's growing up, and I'm desperate to sleep well again and not have to go into her room when she cries out for me. Because I'm terrified she won't cry out for me. Because it's all so big and amazing and demanding.
And then I look at these photos taken this morning, dark images of this little person in between worlds, the light catching her profile, and in that moment, I forget all the yuck.
Because I love her so much.