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Where is the Joy?

It is easy to talk about positive thinking in calm moments. When the sun is shining and the sky is blue, positive thinking is like drinking sweet nectar from flowers growing beside your head. But when the wind is howling outside, and there are dark scary shadows on the walls, what happens then?

winter surfing at barley cove

Last night, Claire went to bed in a fury of over-tired two-and-a-half-ness. A Taurus, born in the year of the earth Ox, she is one STRONG little kid, and as she grows that strength is beginning to show itself in various ways. Including tantrums. But she’s my second baby and I’m a little less upset by toddler tantrums now than I used to be. Tom & I tag-teamed our way through the stormy bedtime and went to bed ourselves.

Fast-forward to 1am. Claire wakes up howling, scared from a bad dream, angry about us trying to comfort her and not at all interested in cuddling, talking or even being touched. My mama instinct says, “hold her!” but she screams back at me, “don’t want you! don’t touch me! you go ‘way!” I try holding her anyway, and she fights and kicks and I don’t want to wrestle her down and pin her to the bed so I back off. I start thinking about how I haven’t even gotten to sleep myself yet, and now my toddler is inconsolable and can’t stand the sight of me. I think about leaving her in bed alone, as she’s asking me to do, but I don’t feel right about leaving her when she’s so obviously upset and scared and angry. She’s screaming and I’m lying there trying to think of something to do when a thought pops into my head. Where is the joy here?

I check in with myself. I stop paying attention to the screaming and raging for a moment and discover that deep inside I’m remarkably calm. Claire is angry but I’m not. Claire is scared but I’m not. I know that it’s normal and developmentally appropriate for little kids to go through a phase of having bad dreams and monsters under the bed. I realize that I am joyful about loving her, about being calm in this moment and about trusting that right now what she needs is to hide under the covers and scream while I’m nearby.

You know what? After I thought of all the reasons I had to feel joyful in that stormy moment, the energy shifted. Claire started making sad sounds instead of mad ones. She gradually calmed down a little. I reached over to comfort her and she snuggled up close, then went right to sleep.

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