Three times in the last month, my Bug has had a major freak out over a minor boo-boo.
The first time, he completely lost it and went into full-on meltdown mode when I tried to clip his toenails. Normally, this is a non-issue. He’s fine with it. But this time he freaked out, started screaming, crying, howling and kicking his legs around.
The second time, a large scab on his knee came part-way off and was tugging and pulling uncomfortably. We sat down for me to look at it. When I told him I needed to cut it off so that it wouldn’t hurt him, he completely lost it.
Today was the latest episode. He got a splinter in his hand. He trustingly gave me his hand to look at. When I told him that I would have to take it out, he balled his hand into a fist, snatched it towards his chest, burst into tears and wouldn’t let me near it.
He was paralyzed by the idea of being hurt.
Of course, there’s not much I can do in these situations. Either I wait for him to calm down (which takes forever, if he does at all), or I would have to hog-tie him and pin him down in order to do what needs to be done. Not an option, as it’s probably illegal.
As you can imagine, these incidents are intense, frustrating, and pretty traumatizing for both of us. And even though I try to stay calm myself, I feel rage building inside me the longer his freakout lasts.
And then, just like that, it’s over! The splinter is out, the scab is removed, the toenails are cut–all painlessly.
Someone throws a switch in his brain and he’s suddenly back to being 100% fine. Yes, there are tear tracks down his face, but he’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The child that moments ago was shrieking bloody murder is now gazing at me peacefully, a big relieved grin on his face.
But I’m still mad.
I cannot throw that switch and suddenly go back to all-fine-mode. I’m angry that he nearly burst my eardrum with his shrieking. I’m mad that he didn’t trust me not to hurt him. I’m ticked off that something so simple has become such a drama.
But he remembers none of that. He has moved on to his next moment. Probably a cool leaf, a comic book, or a funny fart noise.
Do all children live so totally in the moment? Or is it just mine? And how can I learn to do that?
How can I learn to let the frustration, the anger and the stress melt away to nothing? To move on so quickly to happier thoughts?
Is my inability to do this part and parcel of being a grownup? Is it some of the magic of childhood that we adults lose?
Or maybe, just maybe, I can learn to do as he does with practice. Maybe I can learn to take a deep breath, look back into his enormous, teal-green eyes and see that the bad moment has passed.
A good one has begun.