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.
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."
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.
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.