August 8, 2008 by Marj Hatzell
Around midnight he woke up screaming. I groggily got to my feet after DH nudged me. After finding my way to Bugaboo’s door in the dark, I took a deep breath and opened it. He ran to the door, slammed it shut and ran into my bedroom, arms wildly flapping. He jumped up and down while he shrieked and screamed. He was trying to tell us something.
As usual, I told him, “Come sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed.” Sometimes it calms him down. Usually he’ll climb up (it’s a very high bed), position himself between us, steal DH’s pillow and begin kicking his father out of the bed. Daddy tries to snuggle with him but he pushes away. He does not like to be touched in the middle of the night. He does not like to be restrained or held in anyway. In fact, all we can do is sit or stand or snuggle next to him at an appropriate distance, the distance Bugaboo dictates. Tonight he decided he was NOT going to snuggle in Mommy and Daddy’s bed. He was going to do what HE wanted to do. He screamed and shrieked and pulled us both out of bed onto our feet.
We shuffled downstairs as he hopped angrily and bit his hand again and again. He pushed us onto the couch. My head was swimming, my ears were ringing and my stomach churned (a typical reaction to his being awake in the wee hours). My, oh my, that boy is LOUD. His shrill little voice is a wailing siren. They could hire him at local police and fire stations as an emergency alert system, I tells ya. Daddy attempted several times to get him juice, put on Tubbies, get his favorite blanket. Bugaboo wanted nothing to do with any of it. He just shrieked all the louder, jumping angrily on the couch, biting his hand, his knee, his feet, his arm with greater emphasis. His poor little body was then covered with deep bite marks from his teeny teeth.
After what seemed like hours, Daddy and Mommy were beyond weary. We were exasperated. I had nothing left, I had no ideas, I did not know how to calm our little boy. None of the usual tricks worked. Not even m&ms would make him happy. And if you know my boy, you know that is ODD. Daddy then lost his cool and grabbed Bugaboo by the shoulders and yelled, “WHAT DO YOU WANT???? I DON’T UNDERSTAND!!!” I know he was frustrated. I was, too. These are the moments when I feel most vulnerable, when I feel most like a failure. The moments when I do not know how to parent this little boy any longer. I asked Daddy to go to bed, since we were getting nowhere and he was clearly at his breaking point. Amazingly enough, he always starts out with all of the patience when I have none and then when he becomes too frustrated to bear it any longer, I suddenly can take over. That’s how I know we make a good team.
Bugaboo was inconsolable at that point. He was dragging me to the snacks, to the fridge, to the door, to the basement. He did not know what he wanted. I couldn’t get him to use his pictures or sign or even remotely indicate what it was that I could do to make him calmer. I realized at that moment that he just needed to scream it out, even thought I was fairly certain my neighbors could hear him. I decided I was going back to the couch, I knew he would follow. And he did. He sat on my hips while I snuggled under the blanket and kicked and became more exasperated. He pushed me, he tried to drag me off the couch (and nearly succeeded, that boy is STRONG.). I finally began sobbing. After a month of very little sleep I was zapped. I couldn’t believe that this child, who sounded like a wounded wild animal, was my son. He seemed so unfamiliar. He seemed like he was other-worldly.
I had no ideas how to reach him. All I knew is that I longed to be able to soothe him, to cuddle and rock him. I cried while he yanked on my arms, desperate to find something that would make him feel better. But how could I make him feel better when I had no idea why he was screaming in the first place? All I knew is that this little boy was NOT my Bugaboo. My Bugaboo is happy and content and jokes and is light and life. This little boy was screaming with a blank expression, glazed over and thrashing like an animal. The dog must have followed us around the house because suddenly I noticed her glancing at me sadly, licking Bugaboo, trying to help out in her way. He didn’t push her away but did glance at her now and then. Finally, he succeeded in getting me to my feet and shoved me toward the steps. I scolded him for pushing me and he bit at his hands more. We made our way to the stairs while he wailed and shrieked and hopped and he dragged me back to my bedroom. I climbed under the covers once again (third time’s the charm!) and began drifting off as we wailed. He then grabbed his cup of juice, sucked down at least half of it, and began crying again, though less heartily. He was finally beginning to calm down.
Another twenty minutes of this stop-start crying went by. I lay there awake, half-dozing, half-listening to his cries diminish. Bugaboo was finally not screaming. It was after two at this point. He simply curled up with Daddy’s pillow and whispered to himself, giggled and rolled around. Every few minutes he would get as close as he could to my face and make me open my eyes, as if to say, “HEY! I’m not sleeping, so you aren’t going to either!” It took several stern warnings (and another hour) before he stopped giggling and whispering to himself and drifted back off to sleep. It was then that I pleaded and begged and prayed and wished that he would stay asleep until the alarm went off. Which he did. And I ignored it (the alarm) and attempted to wake DH up in the other room, gave up and reset the alarm for another hour. Which is why we rushed around like crazy and got Bugaboo dressed JUST IN TIME for the bus to pull up to the curb this morning.
Sigh. Last day.