Thursday, September 6, 2007

:: Two Gifts ::

First, I give you this, which had me in stitches yesterday:

Evan after yesterday's afternoon nap.

This is Evan, also known as the Great Swaddle Escaper. He did this in complete silence yesterday while he took a wonderful hour-and-a-half-long nap. I went in as he was waking and burst out laughing. What spirit! What strength! What a baby! I had to run for my camera because I just couldn’t believe this latest feat.

In case you don't know, this is what it's supposed to look like:

Evan waking up very hungry one morning. Poor kid.

We’ve gone through standard 30x30 receiving blankets, homemade 45x45 receiving blankets, and now the small SwaddleMe. Time to move onto to the next larger size SwaddleMe. I give it a month before he can escape that one, too. Which is perfect, because I suspect he’ll be ready to sleep swaddle-free by then.

You might be thinking: Um, I think he’s ready now, Julie. You would think so, right? Except that he actually still loves being swaddled. It calms him and helps him sleep. In fact, he still can’t sleep without it. Even if it is being worn like a cape instead of a sack.

God, that cracked me up yesterday afternoon. Babies are great for belly laughs.

Second, I give you this:

A Short Poem That I Will Call “Love,” Composed
While on a Walk with My Son After a Very Early Morning

I am angry because I cannot control you.
I am angry because I cannot show you I am angry.
I am angry because when I walk into your room –
too, too, early – your smile will turn into mine.

Is yours the story I am meant to tell?
Anger is not something I express very often. It’s not something I feel very often. When I do, it’s usually directed at people I don’t know (other drivers, politicians, the parents who stuck their child’s hand in boiling water as punishment) or at abstract ideas (injustice, lying). Growing up, it was sometimes directed at my parents, of course.

Anger is an emotion that really scares me. It’s an emotion that hurts people, that leads to yelling, to pain, to insults hurled. Maybe because I’m from a now-divorced home where there was a lot of anger, both expressed and unexpressed, anger scares the shit out of me.

And it also, usually, feels really useless. There are so many more productive and healthy ways to deal with the people in our lives. Anger is an emotion directed outwards, usually used to distract the emoter from (a) communicating his or her needs or (b) acknowledging more difficult, more elusive emotions he or she is feeling.

It is an emotion that grows.

But I think that sometimes, it’s better to express anger, to keep it down to size so that it can’t grow. It’s hard to feed an anger that is out in the open. Anger feeds on our insides, not on our surroundings. Letting it out causes anger to go hungry. To shrivel. To die.

This morning Evan woke us up very early. 5:47 a.m. I had not slept well and was not pleased. I kicked my legs in a little tantrum and sat up and threw my pillow on the bed with a growl. I was so mad. It was anger that grew not out of indignation or out of righteousness but out of pure, plain frustration and discomfort.

Brian’s sleepy response, which I heard as I closed the bedroom door behind me and headed downstairs for a bottle, was “That’s not going to help anything.” Downstairs, I burst into tears. I bawled and bawled and bawled. I went upstairs with the bottle and sat in the glider while Brian changed Evan’s diaper and I cried some more.

Brian left to shower, get ready for work. And as I fed Evan I thought about it: I think expressing that anger actually did help something. It helped me get it all out on the bed, so to speak, so that I could see it there, own it, and acknowledge that it’s OK to be angry at the same time you’re in love. It’s OK that I got upset this morning because in the end, as I snuggled with Evan while he ate, and as I talked with him as he played on the floor later (we’re having very deep, meaningful coo-versations these days), it was all gone. And when I threw my pillow, it was in part because I knew that the anger would be all gone before I knew it. But I felt like I needed it. I needed to feel it. I needed to express it at its very first poke between the eyes so that it couldn’t grow.

Because I cannot nurture anger against my son. I cannot allow that to happen. I can’t feed it. I have to let it go. And I have to do it when I’m not with him, because I know that once I see him it will slip quietly below the surface of our interactions until it resurfaces at another time, another place. And who knows when it will appear next, and at what strength, and directed at whom.


bubandpie September 6, 2007 at 11:25 AM  

Yes. This is how I think about anger too.

When my children were babies (and since then) I have had incredible moments of rage. Not usually directed at them - often directed inward, or at the cat, or simply pure free-floating rage. And it does help to find a harmless way to dissipate it - ripping up a magazine, pounding the pavement with angry feet.

And the SwaddleMe! How glad I am I found that in time for my second baby, if not my first.

Christina September 6, 2007 at 5:30 PM  

I've had more moments than I can count of pure anger. Generally it's not at my daughters, but at the situation at hand. And like you, getting it out in some safe way usually helps me get over it and move on.

That picture of the SwaddleMe cape is hilarious. We've already switched to the Sleep Sack with Mira, because she broke out of the swaddle every single time, leaving her with cold feet.

oh amanda September 7, 2007 at 9:33 AM  

Really really good post! I love that you said you can't allow anger to grow towards your son. Such a good position to have.

And the swaddling--my daughter loved it. I used it as loooong as possible!

Julie September 7, 2007 at 10:12 AM  

bubandpie -- YES! the cat! Poor creature, she definitely gets the brunt of much of my re-directed frustration. But then she pees on something of Evan's in revenge and all my frustration is legitimately directed at her. But then I have to pet her a lot and love her for a few days so she won't do it again.

Tere September 7, 2007 at 10:24 AM  

We were swaddlers, too. Actually, we're fans of "the happiest baby on the block".

Lisa September 7, 2007 at 12:51 PM  

You have a little Houdini baby there. heehee. He's so precious. And yes, dealing with anger, to me was one of those "things people never tell you about."

Toni September 9, 2007 at 4:38 PM  

Thank you for being so honest about this topic. I very much agree. Anger should be allowed out. It should be acknowledged so that it does not grow out of control. Just this week, Brother intentionally threw a Thomas train at Sister ... while a cable man was in the house. There were tears galore from Sister, no penitence at all from Brother and much embarrassment to me. With pursed lips and clenched teeth I spoke slowly and softly to Brother. "I am very angry with you right now. You need to leave this room." At these words his defiant little look changed to a penitent one, he whispered, "Okay." and left. I took care of Sister and dealt with Brother later. But the point is even though I was really was angry at that moment the very act of saying so made me not so upset.