At only eleven months, Beatrice threw the tantrum of all tantrums Saturday night. She's been having more and more difficulty getting to sleep lately, and as she's just on a mattress on our floor and not in a crib, I don't really have the option of putting her somewhere to just settle in on her own (and freak out safely). Our house is very small and the only bedroom door is the one to the boys' loft upstairs, so I've moved quite far from the "cry it out" techniques I may have used on some of my earlier children. Now I use what I call my "Little House" model, which is to keep the peace in the house as well as possible, to use the outdoors when really big tantrums occur, and to overall teach the other children to just sleep through it as best as they can. I think that the model works, as a general rule. But I also recognize that all children (and probably all adults too) reach the point physically and emotionally when they just WON'T respond to coddling anymore. They don't want to be held and rocked and shushed back to sleep. They don't want to go halfway to Freak Out and then recede. They want to just hit the punching bag as hard as they can and wail for a while and then feel better and get past it.
Haven't you seen that, too?
So here comes Bea with this tantrum that has been building, and she's been growing like crazy, and cutting her first teeth, so I know there's a lot of pent-up energy all in there. She wouldn't take "no" for an answer. She didn't want to nurse, to rock, or to sit. I put her down on the carpet to play with some toys and she crawled over to me and cried. If I picked her up and held her, she cried. So finally I did what every good mother would do: I set her in the exact middle of the room and walked away. She lost it. Justin paused our movie and we sat on our couches and just watched her. She hit it good. She screamed, she flailed, she rolled over and over. She knew that we were there and that we were watching her, but she didn't come to us...even though she could have, easily. She just let the world have it. She kicked her feet and yelled her little heart out, getting out all that extra growing energy that was stuck somewhere inside of her. She hollered for probably twenty minutes, and we just sat and watched her and let her have her say.
Finally, she started to quiet and began to make her way over to me. I picked her up and walked into our dark front room. She clutched me and was still crying, gasping. I sang to her then, the first chorus that sprung to mind on that dark night:
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well
With my soul!
Oh, this daughter of mine. I have come to call her "Sister" more often than Bea or Beatrice; what began as a simple family name (I often call any of the boys "Brother") has become a sacred name with deep meaning to me. Yes, she is my daughter and not my sibling, and yet I feel that much of my role as Mother to her is to teach her the things that are common to all women---joys and sorrows that we will someday share as sisters in this world. Certainly the loftiest of all these lessons is to learn to bear the weight of vast joy and sorrow; as a woman she will know heartache, groan through the pull of labor pains and grit her teeth against the burdens of dirty dishes, diapers, and the overturned toy basket that never seem to cease. She will counsel her husband and hope that he listens to her wisdom. She will give the same instructions to her children hundreds of times just before lunch. She will know the ecstasy of looking into a newborn's eyes that she just convinced herself would never deliver, she will be caught speechless at an unexpected blessing, and she will wish fervently during a fleeting moment on Christmas morning or at a toddler's dance recital that time would please just stand still and allow her to stay in this happiness forever.
Our circumstances do not define who we are. This precious moment, this stomping of feet, this beautiful wailing that my daughter indulged this past weekend is just the first of many. What a sacred thing to witness, the tantrum of the soul; yet I pray the day will come when she will be able to look into my face and say
Whatever my lot
He hast taught me to say
It is well, it is WELL
With my soul!