I start to notice anger. Hers and mine. I assume it’s just her age; her iron will; her desire to express her newfound power, or simply to thwart mine. But I seem to be getting more angry at my two-year-old, more frequently, since I weaned her.
Does the ending of that continuous symbiotic relationship that carries on in its different forms, from the moment of conception, allow me to see her as a separate being and therefore more able to feel anger towards her? Does the drop-off in mothering hormones contribute to my rising level of irritation? Is she expressing her anger at the separation or just asserting her newfound independence, which includes being able to express anger at me. Or is it just that the weaning happened to coincide with her second birthday?
I lie in bed next to her, trying everything in the arsenal to coax her to sleep, remembering that the arsenal of one (or two, breasts) that worked mostly beautifully for two years is now defunct, and am amazed that despite my efforts to just let it wash over me, I am struggling to control my rage at her no-sleep antics.
She throws herself around the cot, bangs her head against the bars, sings, shouts, lunges at me with fists, teeth and nails, all in a spirit of mad delight, but desperately staving off the dreaded sleep. She is determined to win this battle. I sing (‘don’t like that song!’), stroke (she pushes my hand away), cuddle (she rears as if struck), play dead (she sticks her fingers up my nose and forces open my eyelids).
Distraction is the only key. The right story, with enough repetition, told in a voice just above a whisper, slow enough to be soporific, fast enough to keep her attention and she lets down her guard. Her eyelids begin to droop. A bout of wriggling, then she’s mine. Just as she dozes off she reaches for me (‘hold hand’). Her breathing slows, her limbs jerk as she slips into deeper sleep – my cue. I lie there and look at her, all anger dissolved and wonder at the power of this tiny person to raise me to such heights of emotion.