Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Roller Coaster

Friday, August 29, 2008

Roller Coaster

Yesterday was a roller coaster ride. At five in the morning, Gracie-Cat screamed bloody murder for no apparent reason, as she tends to do, and Erik promptly awoke two hours early, pooping his pants in the process. I heard his voice and winced, hoping he would return to sleep, but he was soon lying on his side on his bedroom floor, putting his lips to the space between the bottom of his door and the carpet and talking as loudly as he could about nothing in particular so I would hear he was awake and retrieve him. He still waits in his bedroom for one of us to open his door in the morning, and this is how he prefers to get our attention.

Erik has two settings: Unconscious and hyperactive. After I changed his diaper, he bolted from the room. I tried to get him to settle down and lie between us in bed. He even took off and returned with his baby blanket and Stinky Dog as if he had entertained the same thought, but he just couldn't lie still. He laughed and rolled around on the bed instead, enjoying our groans of pain as he elbowed us in the eyes and sternums, finally giving up on the idea of a quiet moment of family closeness. Instead, he ran off to play with his collection of monster trucks.

By the time I needed to go to the grocery store and think about working later in the afternoon, Erik was rubbing his eyes and morphing into the personality I fondly call Psycho Baby. We made it to the store, but he kept grabbing at my sleeve and looking at me intently, seeming to silently plead we go home. He is usually happiest at any store full of people, but he was obviously miserable. He even stopped saying hello. Red flag. I knew I was in trouble.

By the time we arrived home and I was attempting to put away my purchases, Erik was spinning completely out of control. I knew his blood sugar was dipping and he needed food, but he was really raging. I managed to get him in his chair, but he flailed at everything in his reach and kicked the underside of his table with his incredibly long legs, growling and screaming, "No!" He kicked me. He hit me. He slapped me. He refused anything I suggested. Even cookies. I reminded myself that he was horribly tired and frustrated and that losing my cool would only fuel the fire. However, after a morning of time out after time out and being assaulted repeatedly as I tried to soothe him during similar episodes, I was plain exhausted.

He continued to yell, flap his hands wildly, and kick, shaking the table. He was absolutely inconsolable. He had returned to that distant place he was once trapped in when he was tiny. The place my words do not reach. The place he can no longer feel my touch. That place that sucks him in and leaves behind an empty, child-shaped shell.

It was then that I snapped.

If molten lava could flow from my mouth at this point, it would have. I was filled with rage myself. I was furious at the universe. How much could one person take? I had enough. A four million decibel high-pitched, scratchy screech suddenly came from my lips. It didn't even sound like my voice. My head snapped around from where I stood in front of my neatly stacked rows of canned diced tomatoes, and I looked at my child who seemed to be channeling the devil himself.

"ERIK! THAT'S ENOUGH!"

His eyes widened in shock. Wider than I have ever seen them. My sweet boy was instantly present, pouring into his own body like liquid soul and pushing the raging thing I saw moments before far beneath the surface. His face reddened. His bottom lip swelled from his face, and hot teardrops began to fall on his crumpled, tortured placemat, which, amazingly, was still atop the table. The cry was silent for a moment, and then he wailed as if I had just profoundly injured him. I suppose I had done just that. I felt two inches tall.

I successfully pulled my baby back from the place he goes, but I didn't feel good about it. I wanted to cry, too. Instead, I went to him and held him until the tears stopped. It didn't take long. I whispered to him that I was sorry I scared him and that I loved him. I rubbed the bumpy line of his spine with the palm of my hand and put my face in his soft hair. He was easily soothed, and I began to offer him a bowl of fruit and some crackers with peanut butter. He quietly devoured them as if nothing had happened, and I picked up the phone to call Brian to confess what I had just done.

After Erik's three-hour nap after lunch, he was a new boy. We played and cuddled. We were alone in the house for the evening. I made a pizza and turned on the first Oregon State game. After dinner, I placed Erik in his bathtub and hauled the vacuum out from the closet. Erik begged me to put the vacuum away, but I was easily able to assure him that it wouldn't be too loud and used it five minutes at a time, checking on how he was doing with it, turning on the bathroom fan and closing two doors between us. He did fine. When the floors were vacuumed and mopped and there was nothing to do but sit on the couch, enjoy the game, and listen to the happy boy noises coming from the bathtub, I did. I talked to Erik as he played. I kept asking him if he wanted to get out, and he told me "just a little longer" or "five more minutes." I laughed and told him that was okay.

Erik then had another surprise that would instantly erase the ugliness of the day.

His bright voice said, "Mama!"

I replied, "Yeah, Erik? Are you ready to dry off?"

Erik repeated, "Mama!" He then giggled, like he had a secret.

"Yes, Erik?"

He said, "Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!" He continued to chuckle.

I found myself giggling and asked, "Yes, Erik? What do you need?"

He said, "Come here, Mama."

Now my eyes became as big as saucers. I sat in absolute shock. I hadn't realized it before, but Erik has never in his almost four years asked me to "come here."

Not once.

I got up quickly and stood in the bathroom door. He smiled up at me and began to do a dorky little spin in the bathtub on his hands and knees. He was obiviously showing off, and he told me how fast he was. I hadn't realized it before, but he has never shown off for me. Not like this.

Not once.

It was a glorious moment of NORMAL. A smile spread over my face, and my heart ached at the same time. How could I feel happy and sad at this at one time? Seeing the pure joy on his face after such a trying day and realizing we had just reached another little milestone most people take for granted, though, I was pretty certain of one thing.

I was mostly happy.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Kerry said...

A roller coater is RIGHT... yet everything gets erased from the beginning of your day because of how your day ended. How amazing :):)

I tell you, I have been there more a few times where I have absolutely lost my cool with Michael... it is so FRUSTRATING sometimes and when you feel like exploding, you can't because it's not their fault. I think all mothers have felt like you did today! I'm glad that it all worked out in the end though. He's such a cutie patootie :)

7:32 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Unfortunately, when Michaela gets "stuck" the only thing that snaps her back is me yelling "STOP!" as loud as I can, and then her reaction is exactly how you described Erik's. She cries, but she comes back and it's over within 5 minutes. Otherwise we keep going at it, and it could go on for hours.
I used to beat myself up over yelling at her like that(I'm not a yeller by nature) but it's the only thing that gets her unstuck when she can't seem to do it herself and she almost seems relieved. The soothing and hugging never work when she's in that state, even makes it worse sometimes. Anyway, that's just my experience with Michaela.
Don't beat yourself up, we do what works in the moment. Plus, there's only so much one person can take.
Xoxo

11:13 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I am surprised this is the first time you have snapped, seriously. My first was recently when Avery broke a bottle of finger nail polish on the carpet. My tone was so intense she was taken aback in a manner that she knew to hand over the bottle and quietly shrink away. I have now found ways to moderate that tone so she knows I mean business. So as sad as an encounter as it was, maybe in the future you can turn it into something positive. Awesome on the showing off! "Look what I can do!!"
xoxo
Amy

11:40 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

awww...that is so sweet about the "come here" - It is the little things like that which give us the power to get through the trying stuff...Glad you day ended "balanced". By the way...molten lava comes from my mouth often : )

12:33 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

We all snap from time to time. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it makes thing worse. That is awesome that he was showing off for you. How cute.

6:59 PM  
Blogger jbgrinch said...

Being a kid and showing off for mom is great.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Okay, I can't believe this is the first time either! Wow!!!
Don't feel bad. I don't consider that an actual snap.
He is lucky I'm not his Mom.
You can only take so much, and I'm sure he isn't dwelling on it. I know Caleb never does :)
Hang on Nancy, this roller coaster ride is wild!

7:19 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Oh, heck, guys, this isn't the first time I lost my temper/cool. It just stood out because of his reaction, and I wrote it down because I was horrified. I'm not even close to being that patient. :)

3:16 PM  
Blogger Jenny B said...

I know exactly what you mean. The first time Louie brought me something and made it known he wanted me to open it. I was floored and overjoyed! Most parents probably don't remember those "little" things - those things that are huge to all of us!

9:04 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

that sure does sound like it was a roller coaster of a day! Whew! I'm glad it ended on such a positive note.

1:41 PM  

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