Today I screamed at my daughter. I don’t mean “yelled;” I mean call-social-services-I-could-not-have-generated-more-volume-had-my-life-depended-on-it screamed.
Things evened out a little between my daughter and I as she became two, then three. The fall of her third year I enrolled her in a full-time preschool. It was an in-home program. Every morning she got a hot breakfast and a homemade lunch. It was wonderful. Until everything fell apart.
I got an email one weekend saying that the preschool was closing. Choosing someone to hand your very small child over to every day is a stressful endeavor. I wanted to call my mom and hear her say that everything would be fine and that she would take my daugher until I could find another place. Except that my mother was recovering from the heart surgery she had had the day before. The DAY before. And that very weekend was when she had a stroke which changed my relationship with her forever. I felt totally alone. I was pregnant with my son, nauseous 24 hours out of every day and so, so tired.
I found another excellent preschool, but my daughter was having a rough time. After she was born, I don’t know how much of her fussiness was a reaction to my depression, or vice versa. Now I didn’t know how much of her inability to adjust to the normal transitions inherent in the day was a result of my emotional state at the time. She would start to yell/fuss/complain as soon as we got in the car after preschool. During the 20-minute drive home I could not do or say ANYTHING right. If I said, “okay” to her, she would become irate. If I said, “yes” instead, she would become irate. If she dropped something on the floor of the car, and I told her she would have to wait until she got home to retrieve it, she became irate.
By 8 or 9 at night, I was sick, tired, and tired of feeling sick. I needed time to myself. Except that my daughter was having trouble falling asleep at night. She would wake up at three or four and want to sleep in my bed with me. When I told her she had to wait until morning, it did not go over well. This time I was the one who was irate. I knew I was teaching her horrible methods of dealing with her emotions.
After my depression was treated, I was able to hold my feelings in check a little better. My daugher would often complain for an hour or more. Her emotions would get away from her, and the result was complaint after complaint until some unseen force placated her. I was never that force. On the meds I was able to take the tantrums for an hour before I exploded. I used to try to explain to her that she couldn’t just push and push and push and think that others could just take it. She was four at the time. She didn’t get it, and I did not then and still do not now have the ability to absorb it with calm composure. I think she needs more from me than I am capable of giving.
So, at some point a long, long time ago, I reached my threshold when it comes to my daughter’s moods. Now I have little or no tolerance when she throws a tantrum. That well is dry, and I desperately wish I knew how to fill it again.