Back up and running

We arrived yesterday morning, and aside from puncturing the milk bottle I’d bought at the airport, and spilling it all over the front steps, things went largely to plan.

The first thing I did was vacuum and do a load of washing. I also cleared the laundry that had been left on the stand since I left for Canada. We did the groceries which, thankfully, are just a bus ride up the road and back, had lunch, and then cuddled up on the sofa. When I folded away Ben’s clothes, it was with a satisfaction I haven’t felt in a very long time.

Amazingly, Rosie managed to stay awake for most of the day. We slept for 14 hours last night and woke up this morning feeling like we had finally arrived.

Having the flat to ourselves – no Ben on the futon, no cans on the bookshelf, no ubiquitous TV noise – has been wonderful. I can sit here in the living room and type in silence. I can go out and come back with Rosie without fearing the worst in between. He’s not here. Let me repeat. HE IS NOT HERE.

And I love it. I love being on my own with Rosie. I love having this space to myself. I love that I finally have some peace of mind.

For Rosie, Ben’s absence is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. ‘Where’s my daddy?’ she asks over and over again. When I explain he’s at the doctor, she asks me why. The why’s don’t stop until she is given an answer she can accept. ‘But why does he need to stay there?’ she asks. ‘So that he doesn’t drink any more coffee,’ I say. (She calls beer cans ‘coffee’). Eventually, she asks me why he drinks: ‘I don’t know,’ I say. ‘Ask your father.’ ‘But he isn’t here,’ she says, distraught. ‘You can ask him when you see him.’  ‘When?’ ‘Today.’ This finally silences us both.

The truth is, it isn’t all rosy with Rosie. She has chucked several tantrums since our return – the screaming, hitting, biting kind that knocks me over and leaves me confused. She has told me she hates me more times in the past 36 hours than she has ever before. In fact, I don’t think she’s ever said it before. She’s four years old.

How do I rationalise these fits? At the time, I don’t. I shout back sometimes, or I take away one and then another privilege, until there is a list of banned activities as long as my forearm. Each time I remove a privilege, she tantrums again. And she says she would rather be with Ben than me.

Today, I took Rosie to visit him. I am not permitted contact with him until later this month, but our phone calls -which are frequent – are dismal. Ben keeps talking about the day rehab centre he attended before. He tells me how much better the group sessions were there than at his current centre. He says he may not stay more than two months. He is thinking of finding somewhere else.

I told him he can’t come back here. I’m not sure how much of what he is saying is dissembling and how much is genuine. Is he serious about recovery? Or is he looking for an excuse not to recover? Whatever it is, it isn’t my problem.

Rosie was much happier when I picked her up from the centre after her hour with Ben. Apparently, they played table tennis on the floor, hide and seek, and had a chat about Canada. She asked me whether she could visit Ben tomorrow. I said, no.

Rosie loves Ben. Ben loves Rosie. Of course they do. But what Rosie doesn’t understand is that Ben is where he is because of Ben. I’m coming round to understanding that one only now. So, how can I expect her to get it?

Years from now, she will look back and realise how unfair this whole thing was. She may even understand why it happened – why I am the way I am. Until then, I’ll have to accept she needs a bag to punch. I guess I’m old enough to qualify, yeah?





12 thoughts on “Back up and running

  1. First, I’m glad you’re safely back home and Ben is still at the rehab centre. Second, Rosie is four and four-year-olds tantrum (at least mine sure did!). It’s just her way of dealing with the myriad frustrations and changes of her young life, and as you say, when she needs a punching bag, you are it. It is quite likely a stage, but she may also turn out to be a girl who just feels everything more intensely (which is what my daughter turned out to be). But cross that bridge if and when you come to it – and try to enjoy your solitude!

    • Thanks, pinklea. You’re probably right. She was pretty jetlagged – and the most severe tantrums happened the day we returned – after she’d had barely 5 hours of sleep. So, I am, as usual, reading more into her behaviour than is actually there. Today, she was sweetness and light.

  2. Glad you made it home, safe and sound. I hope you enjoy creating a wonderful peaceful nest for you and Rosie.
    I hear you about the tantrums. It is hard to bear the brunt of Rosie’s emotions. She has had a lot of changes in the last month….she probably is intuitive enough to pick up on your emotions, and she also has been away from home, come home to her daddy not being there, etc. It’s hard for her to understand and impossible for you to explain it all to her. I remember throwing a couple tantrums myself when my son would throw tantrums. It’s so hard to parent, and to not stoop to their level out of frustration and hurt. I hear you loud and clear!! Been there and done that!
    One thing that I slowly learned to do was to give a “time in” rather than a ‘time out’…This worked better for us, because my son was so strong willed. Rather than sending my son to his room, I finally figured out that spending time cuddling, coloring, reading books, and eventually talking about behavior worked better to get him ‘grounded’ again….but it was damn hard to do when those “I hate you” words came flying out of his mouth and the first reaction was just to react. Anyway…enough unasked for parenting advice! Rosie sounds like a normal 4 year old who is just trying to adjust to all the changes lately. Your love will pull her through, and you are right….some day she will understand!
    I applaud you for telling your husband that he cannot return to your home. His comments about not staying at his current tx center, the other centre was better etc seem like ‘hooks’….trying to enmesh you in ‘HIS business’ of recovery. Stay strong, my friend. Hold your own. You now know what your home can feel like when you don’t have to live in the midst of his active addiction. I am proud of how far you have come through all this turmoil. You are one strong women…stronger than even you know.
    My love and prayers are being sent across the ocean to you!

    • Thanks Shelley in SK. You know, you’re right about the ‘time in’ thing. Much of her bad behaviour stems from feeling neglected. Today, we did lots together, even though all of it was chores (cooking, shopping). Still, she was pretty happy. And it helped that she is finally on London time and not feeling tired. She was so exhausted on Friday. Poor thing! I’m loving the solitude. Thank again for all the good vibes!

  3. Congrats on finally getting that much needed space for yourself. I know how important that kind of space is. I lost mine two days ago and it’s depressing me immensely.

  4. Unanswerable questions. Frustration. Disbelief. Misunderstanding. Anger. Many things Rosie must be dealing with, but using you as a punching bag is not going to help either of you. When my daughter was her age, she didn’t always understand what was going on around her and there was no reasoning with her when she started to throw a fit. I don’t even think she completely understood her own feelings when she got angry. I didn’t know what to do because she has super human strength, and I… do not. I started to think about what she must be going through when she had these tantrums. I wondered what the best way to deal with them was. It was hard not to take it personally. I thought long and hard about it because I knew it had to stop, but didn’t know how to help her see there were other ways to deal with her frustrations. Finally, I discovered that what she really needed was to feel safe. Safe to feel what she was feeling. She wanted to know that it was normal, that it would pass, and that we would still love her no matter what. My solution was to “hug it out”. Whenever I saw things were starting to escalate, I would tell her to come hug it out. Then, I would just hold her close and sometimes rock her or rub her back. I hugged her until she calmed down again-until she felt safe. Then, after she was feeling safe, we were able to discuss her feelings. I would ask her what she was upset about, we would talk about her trigger and discuss ways that she may have handled it differently, calmly-regardless of who’s fault it was. Over a period of time (and yes, it seemed to take forever), the tantrums became less frequent. She eventually learned to just come and talk it over as we hugged it out, instead of throwing a tantrum. I hope you find a solution that works for both you and Rosie, as you both deserve peace-both internal and external!

    • Hey, that’s a good idea. I’ve tried hugging her, but when she’s biting me and pushing me away, it’s not really possible. I have tried talking to her about her behaviour (calmly and in an understanding way) after the fit has passed, and that does have some impact. She is strong-willed and also has superhuman strength (one of my friends joked that she has ‘the strength of 10 men’ – that was when she was 2!). Sometimes I think she is really going to injure me when she flies into one of her rages. Thankfully, today was better. Thanks for sharing that tip. I’ll try it next time – before things escalate to biting/scratching!

      • People laugh when I say my daughter is stronger than I am, but she really can be. She was rolling over her first week home from the hospital, so I knew that she was strong from the very beginning. You could put your hand on her stomach and feel how hard it was (still is). She has muscle definition and muscle control that can shock and stump the best developmental pediatrician! What child can wink-with either eye, by the age of 3? Mine. What 5 year old has chiseled calves and arms? Mine. If we were in a grocery store and she threw one of those knock down-drag out tantrums, I had all I could do to pick her up over my shoulder and carry her out like a sack of potatoes-kicking, screaming, squirming, thrashing potatoes. Strapping her into her car seat in one of these fits was next to impossible. She was literally too strong for me.

        However, it got better. She got calmer. And we hugged it out… a lot. Good luck!

  5. Pingback: An irrational fear of being doorstepped by my husband « marriedtoalcoholic

  6. Pingback: Rosie « marriedtoalcoholic

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