Alternate working titles for this post included:
Attachment Parenting Can Bite Me
Is 4 too old to introduce a pacifier?
Please Find Someone Else to Bond With
It’s been a little bit frustrating over here in this house full of females who depend on each other for varying levels of EVERYTHING. Not that I’m at my wit’s end of anything.
I am positively radiating patience from every (oversized) pore on my (tired) face.
To understand a small fraction of my frustration, please picture the following scene:
It is July and I live in one of the hottest parts of this hellhole of a city. It’s still 85 degrees outside when we go to bed.
I am sound asleep in my own bed with my wife. One dog has plastered herself to the entire length of my back from my neck to my ass. The other dog is curled between my legs. I am sweaty and sticky, but I am finally deep asleep.
A cry rings out in the night. “BIG MAMA! I NEED BIG MAMA! BIG MAMA! I NEED YOU!”
This is our routine, now. One of us lays with her until she falls asleep, but she calls for me (only me) every night around 1 or 2 a.m., and I’m too tired to do anything but crawl into bed next to her and pass out.
So, I am jolted from my beautiful, deep, sweaty sleep and hurry down the hallway to spend the rest of the night in my daughter’s bed. I pull back the sheet and scoot in beside her. I wrap my arm around her middle just so because any other position is NOT ACCEPTABLE.
She reaches for my arm and rubs her hand against the exposed area near my shoulder. Her hand abruptly stops moving. She yells, “I NEED THE COLD ARM!” It is total hysteria. My arm is not cool. It is hot. Because I am hot. There is no cold arm. She is beside herself, screaming and screaming about needing the cold arm.
What the actual fuck is going on here?
Catch comes running down the hallway because she thinks I died on the way to Charlotte’s room or something. “No,” I explain. “She just wants my arm to be cold, and it’s not.”
The child is clearly not 100% awake. She’s out of her crazy little mind, and I’m honestly surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police because she sounded like a torture victim.
It takes some time and a lot of tears, yelling (all her) and frustration, but she finally agrees that she will be calm if she can lay in my lap. So now it’s 2 a.m. and I’m sitting upright in bed with 43.5″ of newly four year old limbs and torso splayed awkwardly across my lap. I wait as long as I am physically able to before I shift her ever-so-slightly toward the part of the bed that is not occupied by me. She wakes with a start and freaks out. I wait some more and try again. Nope. Repeat a few more times. Eventually, I try to appeal to the caring, nurturing little girl that her teachers always tell me she is. “Baby, it is very late and I really need to sleep. Can we just snuggle in bed like usual so we can both put our heads on our pillows and close our eyes?”
Well fuck you, you little asshole.
I mean, “OK honey. I’ll give you a choice: You can move over to your side of the bed and we can snuggle, or I will leave the room and you can sleep by yourself.”
I know it wasn’t as easy as that. I’m pretty sure I had to make that declaration a few times before she realized that cooperation was in her best interest, but hell if I remember from that point on because I was so damn tired.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg with this kid. She is obsessed with touching me. I am her lovey. Or rather, my skin is her lovey. Dog forbid she can’t rub her hands up and down my bare arms whenever she feels like it. Dog REALLY forbid if my upper arms are not cool to the touch like she prefers them to be. It is all Big Mama’s bare arms all the time, and it is driving me up a damn wall.
I have tried the basics. I have told her that I don’t like it when she touches my arms like that. I have reminded her that my body is mine, and her body is hers and that we get to decide for ourselves who touches our bodies. Sometimes it will work for a few moments. This morning, she was actually holding her own arm to keep herself from subconsciously rubbing my arm. It was sweet and I give her points for effort, but the minute she’s feeling tired or vulnerable again, she loses the ability to control her actions.
The bizarre touching on top of the midnight wake up calls have lead us to a point where we feel out of control. We feel like this level of attachment is not serving any of us well, but we’re not sure how to set an effective boundary in a healthy way. We’ve decided to consult with a reputable child psychologist we met in the parent & me group at preschool when Charlotte first started there. We know we appreciate her parenting insights from our time in that group, and we feel like she’ll be a good fit.
I’m not looking for advice. Let me be very clear about that. I’m putting this out there because it felt important to document my feelings and concerns. Obviously, this is more complicated than I can really convey in a simple blog post, and there are many, many factors that have contributed to our decision to seek professional help. We’re following our gut instincts that something’s not right and that we need help to feel safe and comfortable fixing it so that she can feel safe and comfortable while we correct the problems we’ve created.