Tonight, my child lost her Skittles.
Completely lost them.
As I sit here recovering from her first rage in over three weeks, (Silly me, I thought we may have jumped that nasty “r” hurdle and left it in the dust) my mind is racing, my head hurts, my body is tired and my emotions are fluctuating between sadness, frustration and confusion.
What could I have done differently? How could we have de-escalated this situation before she snapped? Did I say something wrong? Were her siblings chiming in too much, as they often do, trying to help? Could I have given her more choices? Did I have to take away her Skittles? The Skittles. The damn Skittles. It was the flippin’ Skittles.
But I know it’s not about the Skittles. And yet, it was about the Skittles. Tonight, anyway.
I was out of options, you see? I didn’t want her to lose the Skittles. I wanted her to have them. I wanted the day to end on a positive note. Everything was going so well.
Why do days that are going so well have to take this sudden and abrupt turn toward hell? Why?
While I did, I really did want her to have her Skittles, I also wanted her to stop kicking the back of my seat while I was driving. And I wanted her to stop pinching her brother. And I wanted her to quit talking over everyone else and disregarding the wishes and boundaries of six other people.
I asked her to stop being disrespectful. Three times. I asked her if she heard me. She said nothing. I asked her again, if she heard me speaking to her and telling her to stop talking over her brother, who was trying to say something.
She didn’t respond to me, completely ignoring me but continuing with her disruptive behavior.
So I pulled out my trump card. The Skittles.
I didn’t want to pull out the card, I wanted it to stay neatly unused, tucked away in my deck. I wanted this situation to de-escalate like it would for normal families. I could even handle a little tantrum and whining. I could handle some protest. But that is not how these scenarios play out.
Trauma mamas know what happens next. And it is never pretty.
My words, “You lost your Skittles” pierced through the other chatter in the minivan. She heard those words, absorbed them, and reacted like any child who has experienced trauma would. She took the literal Skittle loss and trumped that by throwing in her metaphorical Skittles.
The unraveling was swift and strong. The screams became louder, the kicks stronger, the pinches harder. She was no longer able to be rational and I dreaded pulling into our garage.
Dammit! It has been three weeks without an episode. Why are these battles for control so relentless? When will they end? I gave her every chance possible to self-correct. I didn’t raise my voice. I used the techniques we are learning. I remained calm, but in control. What else could have been done?
The next hour was predictably draining. For everyone. I called in reinforcements and three big people kept watch over one little person. Because that’s often what it takes in these scenarios.
Upstairs, one child was busy reading and yet another was crafting his own scripture. That made me smile and then he made me laugh out loud by telling me that cacti can be taller than 5 feet, which means they are taller than me but I shouldn’t be offended “because it’s really ok to be short, mom!”
I wanted to stay in the laugh, read stories, pray together and fall asleep. Yet downstairs was a rage that was slowly simmering. I wasn’t even going to attempt to ask her to help clean up the mess she made. I just didn’t have it in me.
As she began to cool down and her eyes began to return to the beautiful and engaged browns I love so much, I asked her to come sit on my lap. I cradled her body in a towel, hugged her tightly, and reassured her that I will never leave her. I reminded her how much I love her and that she is not alone.
We talked about ways we could handle this situation better in the future. We talked through everything that happened. I asked her how she was feeling.
And that is when I was sucker punched.
“I miss my mommy, mom. Where is she? When can we see her? I have food now. She wore something around her head and had a nose ring.” (The nose ring was new information for me.)
My heart sank as reality set in. I have no answers that will ever fill the God-sized hole in her heart. I never will. I can make no promises that the pain will go away. I am so incapable of doing what only God can. I can just be a mom and promise to find all the resources possible to help us be healthy and happy. All I can tell her is that I love her, that I love her, that I will never leave her.
Is that enough?
And when she brings back up the Skittles, as I knew she would, I am reminded that God’s mercies are new every day. I take a second to breathe that in and am reminded that her hurt runs deeper than I can know most days. I am reminded that her behaviors are all rooted in fear. And loss. And grief. She is not malicious, but scared. She does not want to hurt anyone. She just doesn’t want to hurt herself, or lose control.
Even if the only thing she can control is her Skittles, she will fight for them will all her might.
And I am beginning to understand and accept this odd, quirky and yet completely logical truth.