Epic rage

source: PD-USGOV-DOC-NOAA; PD-USGOV-NOAA.

Yesterday I almost killed my own child.

I woke up foggy headed after a lovely evening out with Rosie. We went to a friend’s wedding at a stately home in Hampstead. It was pitched perfectly. An intimate gathering, a short ceremony, some live piano accompaniment and a special reading, which turned out to be the Owl and the Pussycat – the perfect combination of whimsy and romance. Continue reading

Mad and bloated

Ugh, will my rage never end? Today I hate myself. I am not a good person. When my hormones are raging like this, anyone (read: Rosie – poor thing) is in for it, whatever s/he does.

  • Let a chocolate bar wrapper be whipped away in the wind? – Immediate telling off for lack of civic pride
  • Fail to use soap while washing hands? – Stern imperatives coupled with prophecies of doom (where doom = worms and/or Norovirus)
  • Lost school jumper? – Guilt-trip in which price of lost article is repeated a minimum of 15 times, followed by promises that a replacement will not be forthcoming.
  • Half-eaten lunch? – Protracted moaning about feeling unappreciated plus prophecies of doom (where doom = rickets)

Oh yes, I am a bad, bad person. My volume is at one setting (the one where my throat feels hoarse by the end of the day), and the fact of my corporeal self – my physical self – fills me with loathing. There is simply too much of me. And to make matters worse, I keep eating, so that there is even more of me to despise.

Rosie has every right to batter me every now and then, because when I turn into this thing – this person who only (in her words) uses her ‘shouty’ voice to talk to her, well, that thing deserves a boot to the bum.

It’s times like these when I think that certain tribes had it right after all. I do need to be sent away around this time of the month. I should have a respite somewhere, far away from other people. That way, we’ll all be safe, especially Rosie. Except that ‘this time of the month’ inevitably lasts about two weeks, so that’s not feasible, is it?

By the way, a couple of days after my last post, Rosie and I were laid low by suspected food poisoning. Poor kid just lay on the sofa watching telly while I was comatose on the couch next to her. Every few hours I heard her say, “Mummy? Can I have something to eat?” To which I would answer: “Yes, darling,” and then promptly fall asleep. This went on the whole day. Thankfully, she only threw up when I was conscious. At some point, Ben texted me and discovered we were ill, whereupon he said he would come over to help… then turned up about five hours later. You know, when I was feeling a bit better and the urgency had passed. “Why didn’t you ask me earlier?” he said.

Anyway, to his credit, when he did come back to visit again, he helped out a lot – cooking, cleaning, doing laundry. He even woke up on Monday morning and helped Rosie through the dressing phase. That’s about all he can manage, but it’s a big help anyway (even if I have to remind him to do it).

Whatever it is, he is helpful from time to time. Today would have been a day for me to take a back seat and for him, had he been here, to take the lead. When I’m feeling like this – like I could drop kick a tornado – the back seat (preferably in a car going full speed in the other direction) is the only place to be. I don’t have that luxury though. So here I am, driving from that impossible position, and getting more and more pis@ed off.

“I HATE you, Mummy!”

It’s such a common phrase around the house now, I find I hardly blink when she says it. The other morning, I woke Rosie up for school and the first thing she said to me was: “I hate you.”

Anything can prompt these three little words. I might refuse her a piece of cake before dinner or tell her she has to tidy a mess she’s made or simply try to brush her hair. It makes little difference to her. If she’s unhappy about a situation, those are the first words out of her mouth and they are only ever directed at me.

Let me remind you that she is not yet 4.5 years old.

It isn’t just the I hate you’s either. If she doesn’t get her way, she will go from 0 to 100 in mere seconds. She will scream, throw herself on the floor, launch her little body at me head first, pummel me, punch me, hit me in the face and bite me.

This morning, she did all of the above because I told her she had to wear her underpants. To be fair, she has had an underpant issue for months – nothing seems to fit her, aside from those puffy bloomers usually worn by babies still in nappies.

Still, 28 pairs of underpants and about £50 pounds later, I’ve found a style that does fit her. I have checked them thoroughly, but she is so fussy (she can’t abide creases in her dresses or uniform shirts) that the slightest discomfort (and I do mean slightest) will send her into paroxysms of rage.

So, this morning, I insisted she wear her underpants and not the puffy ones which, let’s face it, won’t fit her soon and then what will we do? No, she has to get used to wearing regular underpants and the ancillary discomforts that come with them.

She didn’t shout, she screamed. On and on and on and on. I didn’t know what to do. I thought the neighbours might ring the police. I threatened to walk out – I wanted to walk out. I stood there and watched her thrashing on the floor and a strange cloud descended over me. I got my coat and thought how easy it would be to walk down the stairs, close the door and just go to work, leaving her behind. For the first time, I felt like I didn’t like my own child. I felt like I didn’t know her.

Ironically, she, too, kept saying that I wasn’t her mummy, that I didn’t look like her mummy, that she didn’t have a mummy any more, and that she was all alone.

I wanted to hug her, but she was so angry, so full of rage that I couldn’t – she would have hit me or worse. The last time she bit me, I had a bruise for up to a week. Right now, I have a bump on my arm that came from somewhere at some point this morning – I can’t remember how.

It is all so disappointing and dispiriting. It is also a source of deep shame. I haven’t written about this until now because I am ashamed. She is only 4. She has seen too many things she should never have seen, has experienced too many upheavals for her little lifetime. Her father is an alcoholic. Her mother is most likely depressed. Why should I be surprised that she is acting out now? I just didn’t do enough to protect her from what was happening at home. I failed.

You see, if I really de-construct what she says: I hate you. Shut up. Go away. If I really listen hard enough, I can hear myself. These are exactly the same phrases I used on Ben. I have shouted at him, hit him, pushed him. I’ve done all of these things in moments of rage, when I found him pissed and witless on the couch or in the doorway. Sometimes, I did them in front of her.

There. I said it. I failed to protect her. I let my own rage take control and now my daughter is damaged goods.

She blames me for “sending Daddy away”. She says: Mummy was mean to Daddy. And Mummy is bad. To some extent, she is right. At the same time, when I scold her for doing something naughty (like flinging her yoghurt around the kitchen this morning), she says: “I’m a bad person. I’m a bad girl. Mummy won’t give me any more stars.” And she weeps.

We are trapped in a dark and despicable cycle. First it was Ben and me. Now it’s Rosie and me. And the common ground in all this is… well… me.

I accept responsibility for where we are, but I also need to find a way to repair  the damage I’ve done. All I want is my child back, snug in my heart. But each day, she seems to recede further and further from me. Each day we crawl into this well-worn trench and battle it out, spitting and raging at each other, ultimately losing hold of one another.

source: dancingqueen65.blogspot.com

Rosie

“Mummy, when I grow up, can I be a mermaid?” Rosie is wearing one of her princess costumes – a pink velour tabard with tulle tutu. (It’s a hand-me-down from her cousin. I’m against all things pink and princessy, but I’ve given in for now, hoping it’s a passing phase.) She’s twirling about on the landing while I prepare our dinner.

“Yes,” I say, and she does a few quick skips. I then wonder whether I shouldn’t inject some realism into this discussion. What if she’s crushed by the disappointment of not becoming a mermaid later in life? I think, rather irrationally.

“Actually,” I say, “I think you have to be born a mermaid. You can’t become one.”

Rosie looks at me with serious eyes. “Why?”

I immediately regret my candour. “Well, actually, I don’t know. Maybe you can. Let’s see.”

“Ok!” And she leaps off, lost in a world of glitter and roses.

I’m amazed at how resilient she has proven to be. She “loves big school” – for now – and seems to have settled into her new routine quite quickly. My child minder asked me the other day whether I have to pry the smile off her face when she’s sleeping (actually, she’s pretty sour-faced in slumber). I wonder whether it is obvious to anyone that she is the child of an alcoholic dad, and a mum who has been battling rage for so long that shouting has been, until recently, her default volume. In the face of all this, Rosie’s ability to adapt and carry on is admirable, remarkable even.

But beneath all the mirth and general silliness (she says “poo” at least 30 times a day) beats a bruised and sensitive heart. As we were walking through the park today, she collected some maple seeds (“aeroplanes”, she calls them). “When Daddy comes back from the doctor, I can show them to him,” she said. Later, she told him about them on the phone. “I hid them in a special place, Daddy,” she said. “I’m not going to tell you. It’s a surprise.”

As we get ready for bed, I remind her that we won’t be going to see Ben this weekend. “Why?” she asks.

“Because you have music and then ballet, and Mummy’s tired,” I say. “Is that ok? Will you be ok?”

“I’ll be ok, Mummy,” she replies. “But poor Daddy.”

And then, as she is dropping off to sleep, we talk about the future. “Mummy might have to work every school day,” I say (at the moment, I work four days/week). “But maybe by then, Daddy will be better and he will be able to collect you from school. So it won’t be so bad.”

Rosie is quiet for a bit. Then she says: “But maybe Daddy will start drinking coffee again.” (Somewhere along the way, Rosie has confused coffee with beer, and I’ve not bothered to clear up the confusion.)

“Are you scared he will drink coffee again?” I ask.

“Yes. Are you?”

There are many answers I could give to this question. I could pretend and say something reassuring. But we’re not talking about mermaids any more.

“Yes,” I say, and give her a big cuddle and kiss goodnight.

Within minutes, she is asleep.

 

 

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Rage

Every day I make a mental note to ring Ben from work. I do it to:

  1. check up on him
  2. make sure he speaks to someone other than himself during the course of the day.

I do it in the belief that time spent speaking to me is time spent not drinking. But every time I ring him, I ask him whether he has been drinking. And when he says he hasn’t, I accuse him of lying.

I know this isn’t the way to do things. I’ve spoken to the folks at Al-Anon who say that I need to let go and simply trust that things will improve. From time to time, I manage to do this, but all too often, I don’t.

Ben spent the entire Easter weekend on the couch, shaking like someone with advanced Parkinsons, throwing up water and anything else he tried to consume. Yesterday, I woke to find the bathtub caked in vomit. If it isn’t vomit, it’s faeces. If it isn’t faeces, it’s blood. And each time I’ve had to clean it up, wherever I’ve found it.

I went mad. I didn’t care that he was lying on the couch sweating. I didn’t care that Rosie was crying because she thought I was angry at her. I just kept shouting, filling the flat up with my vitriol.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to apologise to her, explaining that it isn’t her, that I just get angry sometimes because I have too much to do all the time. I wonder how many times I will do this and when she will stop believing me, even though I’m telling the truth.

Today, I picked Rosie up from her child minder after work. We wandered through the park. She climbed the trees in front of our building. When we got inside, the kitchen was exactly as I’d left it: dishes in the sink, no attempt at dinner, flat still a mess. Ben was crashed out on the couch, exuding that noxious beer odour. And then Rosie refused to wash her hands with soap.

I sent her to the corner. She refused. I shouted. And even as I was doing it, I knew that I was angry at him, that I was punishing her because I couldn’t punish him. It’s all so obvious – a grotesque cliché – and I can’t seem to extricate myself from its boring predictability.

How to control the rage? Count? I can’t even breathe at these times. All I want to do is lie down in the road and let the cars run the rage right out of me. I don’t, for Rosie’s sake. But for her sake (and mine – even Ben’s) I need to find a way to check my anger.

Maybe this is one way of exorcising it.