The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The power of platitudes

(this one happened a few weeks ago, but for whatever reason, I'm just now getting around to writing about it...)

She'd been having increasing amounts of trouble going to bed over the past few nights. Over and over again, she'd call me, requesting a drink of water, a trip to the bathroom, all of the usual kids' stall tactics. I was getting frustrated and concerned that things were escalating. And so finally one night, I stood in her doorway, hands on my hips and seething with fury after yet another "urgent" request that I knew wasn't really urgent at all. "Julia, what in the world is wrong with you?"

The response was immediate and seemed to shock even Julia with its intensity. She was suddenly hysterical. Uncontrollable tears ran down her face and she sobbed as if in physical pain. "I still REALLY miss my paci," she wailed.

Wait, what? We did the paci thing well over a month now and it was no big deal. She'd even told me a few weeks ago that she didn't even miss the thing any more. So what the hell was this? I was totally caught off guard. It was clear that this was no stall tactic, though -- the child was as truly distraught as I've ever seen her, crying both with pain over her loss and with relief about having given voice to that pain.

I sat down on the side of her bed and began to rub her back as I quietly reassured her. "It's good to cry and to talk about how you're feeling," I told her. "I wish you hadn't waited so long to tell me that you were feeling this way. Feelings get worse when they stay all bottled up inside of you. I know that you're going to feel so much better now that you've had this good cry." I tried to sound confident and calm and soothing. But my well modulated voice barely hid the panicked thoughts running through my mind. "This is such bullshit I'm feeding her," I thought frantically. "No one could possibly believe these trite lines and platitudes. I can't believe I'm even saying this crap. The kid is in agony. She doesn't need to cry, she needs a paci. Oh, God, my baby girl is so unhappy. I can't stand this. I'm going to have to give her back her paci. How in the world am I going to explain why it's reappearing?"

As my mind was racing and my hand was slowly rubbing Julia's back, her sobs were slowly subsiding. And just as I'd made up my mind to abandon Operation Paci Fairy until the child turned 21, she smiled at me. "You're right," she said. "I feel a little better now." And she rolled over and went to sleep.


At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe because that hits so close to home, but I am all choked up and it gives me even more of a reason to let her decide when to get rid of it. But nice line Mommy ;)

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous heather said...

ok that was me, not sure what happened

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Gretchen C. said...

Maybe she just needed you to validate her feelings. (I can't believe I, the famous curmudgeon, just wrote a sentence like that, but I think I'm on the right track, so in it goes.) Maybe she was trying so hard to be a big brave girl, and she just needed to know it was okay to be enough of a baby to miss her paci. Not quite need it back. As sometimes miraculously happens to a mom in situations such as these, I think you handled it perfectly and gave her exactly what she needed.


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