“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
~ Arthur Somers Roche
I have something of a publisher’s block this morning. It’s not writer’s block. No, I’ve got plenty to write. In fact, I have plenty that I’ve already written. There’s the farting Jesus story (oh yeah, that’s a doozy), there’s the post about Brooke using the last of the missing “W” words (hooray!), and then there’s the one about a small victory that wasn’t so small (in which my girl WILL. NOT. GIVE. UP.) But I just can’t bring myself to publish any of them.
You see, my baby’s struggling this week. Really struggling. And I don’t know why. I can’t fix it or even help her fix it.
And so, really – funny stories, celebrations of words and small, not small victory dances feel awfully out of place.
Like Pigpen in a cloud of dust, Brooke has been walking around in a bubble of raw, smoldering anxiety. At the slightest provocation, the door opens on the past. Gone is the little girl with so many tools and so much language, replaced – at least for a brief moment – by the one with no words. The one with overwhelming fears that reduced her to a living breathing mechanism of self-preservation.
The moment Luau or I step near the stove she starts. ‘No noises. No noises. Dad, no noises. Mom, no noises.” A couple of days ago, I warned her that I was going to turn it on. The gas makes a crackling noise as it starts up, but it abates quickly. Her real fear is of the vent, which I assured her I would NOT use. I told her three times I would NOT turn on the vent. She was apparently not convinced. In tears, she grabbed both of my hands and physically PULLED me away from the stove.
Walking into her room she yells back down the stairs, ‘NO butterfly birds.” She waits for reassurance that indeed, there are no butterfly birds in the house. I dont have the slightest idea what a butterfly bird is. A moth maybe? I just know that my girl needs to know (and needs to be told again and again and again) – that there aren’t any in her room.
“No noises at school,” she says all weekend long, every weekend. “There won’t be ANY noises at school.” She is terrorized by the possibility of another fire drill at school. We have plans in place. They’ll warn her, get her out of the building before it begins. But I can’t promise her that there will never be a fire ‘drill’ at school. What if there’s a fire?
“Cookie Monster isn’t here anymore,” she told me yesterday.
“No, honey, Cookie Monster went away a LONG time ago.”
Brooke was three when we did away with the devil spawn talking Cookie Monster doll. She was terrified of the damn thing so we had hidden it away in the far reaches of an upstairs guest room. One day, Katie meandered up there and found it. She began playing with it and made it talk. Brooke heard it and lost it.
All she knew was that she had heard Cookie Monster’s voice come out of the room her sister was in. For the next forty eight hours – two DAYS – she was scared to death of her sister. She could not be in the same room with Katie without shaking and crying. And so, with much fanfare to assure that Brooke knew he was gone, we sent Cookie Monster away to the great Sesame Street in the sky.
“Cookie Monster is all gone. My dad made him go away,” she said yesterday. THREE YEARS LATER.
“Yes baby, he did. Cookie Monster’s gone; I promise.”
“He’s not here anymore.”
No, honey. He’s not here anymore.”
The old self-soothing behaviors are back. The crying, the shrieking, the sensory seeking scratching, the picking at her skin, the scripting in force.
Three of the past four nights, she’s cried at bedtime. Just cried. I’ve laid down beside her in the dark, as I always do. I’ve asked “Baby, why are you crying?” and in so doing have taken the first step back into the labyrinth where we used to live.
“Because I cried.”
“Sometimes when I cry, it’s because something hurts me. Does something hurt you, honey?”
“Is something scaring you, love?”
“Brooke, what can I do for you? How can Mama make it better?” The old questions, the old insecurities. My life as Encyclopedia Brown – always looking for clues to unlock the mysteries.
“You can hug me.”
And I do. For as long as she’ll let me.
So maybe tomorrow I’ll hit publish on the funny. Or on the new word. Or maybe the small victory that wasn’t so small.
But not today.
For today, Mama’s just trying to make it better.