Sitting outside on the cold front steps tonight, in the dark, petting my prodigal cat, I cried.
You know what I’m talking about: big, fat, tears chasing each other down my cheeks, snot dripping, eyes swelling so much I could actually feel it happening, heat radiating off my skin, heaving, shuddering, breaths…the kind of crying that leaves your whole face splotchy and swollen for the next 12 hours.
Unfortunately, it started before I got out the door, meaning my kid saw the beginning – the watery eyes and quavery voice that told me I was gonna lose it. The crazy was coming out. My kid can not STAND to see people hurt or upset, especially people she loves. And she thought it was her fault.
Great, more guilt to heap on the pile of CRAP that was weighing me down, forcing the tears out.
I don’t know if my daughter has an anxiety disorder. I loathe that label. Detest it. And I want to believe that she’s just a natural worrier. But this is excessive. She doesn’t want to sleep alone. Every night she begs to sleep with us. On the rare occasion that she manages to fall asleep and stay asleep in her bed, she sleeps great for several hours. Sometimes she comes to my side of the bed in the middle of the night, but usually, if she manages to get off to sleep, she rests peacefully. But most nights, it’s a battle, one that I lose because she needs her sleep, and I know that if I relent and let her get in my bed, she’ll drift right off. Most nights as I lay with her, silently (and sometimes not so silently) willing her to go to sleep, she dozes off, but jerks awake every few minutes and checks to see if I’m still there.
This is somewhat normal, right? Separation anxiety?
But she’s 9 years old.
That doesn’t seem normal.
Are you afraid? Are you worried about something? Are you upset? Did something happen at school? Is someone bullying you? Is a UFO parking outside your window and shining its lights inside? Is there a pea poking you in the back?
Her answers range from “no,” to “I don’t know,” to “really, mom?”
I’ve changed her mattress, I’ve tried new night lights. No night lights. I’ve left the door open. I’ve closed the door. Glow in the dark stars. Heated blankets. Kittens – yes, real, live, kittens. I’ve offered bribes. I’ve threatened. I’ve reasoned. I’ve prayed. I’ve scratched her back. I’ve sang songs. I’ve told stories. I’ve made a play list of songs for her to listen to. I’ve begged her to trust me, that she’s safe, that I’m just in the next room, that I will check on her often.
Nothing helps. Nothing except sleeping with me.
For a long time her dad and I let it go, knowing it won’t last forever. She’s not going to want to sleep in my bed when she’s in high school, right? (Right?!) I’ve reasoned that someday she likely won’t want to be in the same room with me much less sleep with me. But now? She’s a 4 ft 2 inch, 80 pound, 9 year old. Her dad and I are not small people. Even in a king size bed, it’s not comfortable. No one sleeps well. Not even her, though you can’t convince her of that.
So tonight, the stress of battle got to this soldier-mom.
I sent her to my bed and tried to flee before the crazy came out. I didn’t quite make it. Just after I came in off the porch, here she came, tentatively padding down the hall, into her Daddy’s arms. I didn’t want her to see the aftermath on my face so I stayed turned away, but then she said, “I can’t sleep when I know you’re upset.”
Motherhood fail number 847,602.