Between the Lines

This post gets at something I've been thinking about lately. The post is really about a miserable sleep situation, which hasn't exactly been on my mind, though we may be getting there. What I mean is how she describes her baby's crying:

I do believe that some crying could be endured. But my heart quails at this type. This is the type of crying you do while sitting on the floor of the bathroom after the IVF cycle has failed- the kind that takes over your whole body, with sob after sob. How can I bear to hear my baby crying that way?

First: Point taken. Hearing a baby cry like that is awful all by itself.

But also: Babies' (and toddlers'—er, preschoolers') displays of emotion push parents' buttons in very special ways, depending on who the parents are and where they've been. What Mare said was kind of a metaphor, but also kind of not. It was kind of like saying My baby's crying gets to me because it sounds like one of the worst moments of my life.

Lately, Ingrid's and my hardest times come when she wants something from me (Help me, Mama! Now! With both hands!) and, even after we've gotten through You need to ask nicely, I can't help. I'm holding the baby and/or flipping pancakes and/or brushing my teeth and/or Ingrid knows perfectly well how to put on her shoes so I'm not going to do it. I tell her that gently, and I tell her what I can do (in a second, with one hand, sing to her while she puts her own shoes on), and then her face breaks open and she wails as though I have just sawed off one of her fingers. And that's when I start to have to take deep breaths and leave the room to calm down.

Here's why those moments are the worst of my day: In those tantrums, I'm hearing something that's not there. I'm hearing You are not a good enough Mama. You are not giving me what I need. Not good enough! Not good enough Not good enough!

Sick and wrong, huh?

Because she's not saying that, of course, any more than Botany is staring at a negative pee stick. She's two. She's having some drama and some difficulty sharing me with Iris but she's not blaming me.

Anyway. This isn't the same as Mare's thing. Hers is a sort of compassion (maybe an excess, I don't know), and mine's more about, uh, me and my warped outlook on life.

But do you know what I mean? What do you hear that your child's not saying?


  1. I hear: THIS is why I like Daddy better than you! Daddy pays attention! Daddy is more fun and interesting!

    I really think he might mean it, too.

  2. Huh, wow, honestly I'm thinking about it and nothing is coming to mind. I mean, I feel like my interpretation or gut reaction to her expressions of feelings are pretty much the same as hers. This is interesting. I'll have to think about this over the next few days because it's important and it's also pretty likely that my understanding of her IS colored by something internal.

  3. My 2 year's old crying over "nothing" does not break my heart like my 7 month old's crying. Logically, I know that my 2 year is okay and will understand why I cannot get to him immediately. The 7 month old is a different story. Her cry breaks my heart. But it does not make me feel guilty. I am just doing the best I can.

  4. Don't look too hard, Eva ... It could very well be you're just in perfect mental health!

  5. I hear "You are ruining my life! I was fine and you are BREAKING me!"

    Wonderful post and a necessary point. We project so much of our own *stuff* onto them and respond to THAT. It's very very very difficult to stay mindful to their OWN experience.

  6. Sometimes I hear that "you're not good enough" stuff too, especially when I can't meet both of their complicated needs at the same time. And sometimes I hear, "I am deliberately trying to drive you to the brink of insanity." Which, too, is crazy, because they're just being two-year-olds who don't even know how to think like that yet, and I'm getting mad at them for my own lack of ability to cope. For me, this is why I am a much better mother when I have enough respite to see that.