Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"I Want To Sleep With Daddy!"

Back in freshman psychology class at Brown, I vaguely remember reading about the Elektra complex (in which, according to Carl Jung, the daughter is temporarily in love with the father), and how it peaks sometime in early childhood.

At Late Blooming Mom's house, we appear to have entered the height of my daughter's Elektra phase -- and while not a Greek tragedy by any stretch, it brings with it no shortage of pain.

When deprived of Daddy's presence, even momentarily -- say, when the poor guy has to go use the can and would like a mere moment or two of privacy -- Thing 2 explodes. You moms and dads no doubt have seen the like of it: a feet flailing, throat wailing, wake the neighbors tantrum. Sadly, nothing Late Blooming Mom does or says can stop it. Nothing can end it save Daddy's eventual, though reluctant, return.

Tempers are flaring. Nerves are short. Words are uttered by my just-turned-three-year-old girl that hurt, and hurt deeply. She didn't learn to say "Go away, mommy" and "I don't like you" from us: we don't talk like that around here, though for sure there are moments when we give in to our worst instincts and say stuff we regret. But it's no consolation that she may have picked up these hurtful phrases at school. They still hurt.

You'd think being a Late Blooming Mom, I'd have some emotional maturity and experience to bring to the table in a situation like this, so it might not bother me the way it would other moms. I'd be more resilient. I'd be able to see it as the healthy, though not pleasant to endure, sign of a normal developmental stage. I'd take it in stride, not let it keep me up nights.

No such luck. Being rejected by your toddler sucks, no matter your "maturity" when it happens.

But damage to Late Blooming Mom's psyche aside, it's Daddy who is the parent suffering the most. Our pint-sized Elektra won't let him alone. Bedtime -- when separation from Daddy is imminent -- is her biggest trauma of the day, and thus, ours.

During one of her bedtime tantrums some weeks ago, we let Thing 2 come into our bed -- not something we do often, as we decided long ago the "family bed" concept wouldn't do our marriage any favors . That particular night, though, we were tired, we were desperate. We ignored the advice of every credible parenting book, website, and blog. We caved.

But we quickly realized our mistake. The very next night, when we'd rested a bit and were better able to maintain our parental resolve, we refused our daughter's request for a repeat. Fortified by the memory of her previous success, yet now denied the same privilege, she wailed those telling words: "I want to sleep with Daddy!"

I tried to re-assure Daddy, who was immediately beset by visions of nightly bed incursions, "It just shows how much she loves you." To which he replied, in a tone devoid of humor: "She has a funny way of showing it."

Recognizing that our daughter may be facing genuine anxiety at this nightly separation -- even though she shares a room with her twin brother, so she's never alone in there -- we have recently decided on a compromise. In an effort to meet her very real need, but keep our own bed our territory (barring the occasional need to console a child after a nightmare), Daddy will lie down in her room next to the crib each night, until she falls asleep.

Maybe it's a Hail Mary pass. But we're not above the occasional Hail Mary (even though we're Jewish ... but then, come to think of it, so was Mary).

We're about a week into the new strategy. Some nights it works, but it's not perfect, as was demonstrated tonight when Daddy had to leave She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Appeased to go to the john, and promises of his quick return were not sufficient to avert a melt down.

That was about an hour ago. Tonight's fit is slowly fading into memory. Thing 2 is now peacefully asleep.

Daddy is out having a beer.

Late Blooming Mom is feeling like a third wheel. But I suspect I'll be the one in need of alcohol soon. If only I could remember from freshman psychology: just how long will it be before my son's Oedipal Complex is due?

1 comment:

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