For 2½-year-old Amelia, it’s been a tough few weeks, to put it mildly.
I love my daughter with every fiber of my being, but the tantrums, ear-piercing screams and general defiance have reached an all-time high.
Her rap sheet now includes time-outs, and the loss of goldfish, cookies and a ride home. (OK, I waived the last punishment, but only because it was raining when we left school.)
The last straw snapped this past morning, when Mia strolled over to her 1-year-old sister and bopped Gabriella on the top of her head.
Amelia whipped her red curls around and stared a hole through my head, as if challenging me to a duel.
I returned the look, accepting her challenge. Little Gabbie furrowed her brow in disbelief, as if to ask, “What the heck did I do?”
“Amelia,” I hissed. “There is absolutely NO hitting in this house.”
A smile spread across her lips. A SMILE. My blood boiled and steam shot out of my ears, but I somehow kept an even tone.
I picked up Gabriella, who never uttered one complaint, and walked into the kitchen to get ready for school. I couldn’t look at Amelia, let alone say anything, because I knew I had entered the stratosphere at that moment. We drove to school in silence.
That afternoon, Amelia’s day care sheet revealed that her troubles continued. That night, my husband, Brent, and I racked our brains. What could it be? What is she so angry about, and how can we quell the monster inside of her?
I decided to spend some one-on-one time with my oldest that night. We did each other’s hair, we picked our outfits for the next day and we talked.
Slowly, Amelia confided that she missed me and was mad I didn’t pick her up that day. I explained that I had to coach lacrosse, but it didn’t matter.
All that mattered was the fact that my baby girl was hurting inside, and it was because she perceived that I spent more time with her little sister and everyone else instead of her.
My heart splintered into a million pieces, and the guilt trip was unbearable. I pulled her close, and tried to put into words how much I loved her. (Any parent knows how difficult that is, let alone trying to reason with a toddler.)
The next morning, Mia had a much better routine and the three of us made it out the door in record time. On the drive to day care, I concocted a plan to (hopefully) derail the anger.
Before we walked into the breakfast room, I whispered to Amelia that I had a secret. Her eyes widened, she moved in closer. I kissed her right palm twice and then quickly shoved her hand in her pocket.
“That’s a Mommy kiss just for you,” I softly said, as I planted one her other palm. “When you feel mad or sad, just reach in your pocket and know that I’m never far away. I promise.”
“OK, Mommy,” she hoarsely responded, shoving her hands in her pockets again, and we walked to breakfast.
“Are they still there?” I asked right before leaving.
Amelia opened up her right pocket and peeked inside. “Yes! I see them, Mommy!”
I let her teacher in on the secret pact before heading to work. It took everything in me not to call during the day, but I really couldn’t bear to think of my little girl hurting for another nine hours straight. I figured I’d take the lumps when I returned home.
But then my Amelia showed her true colors. Her teacher explained at pick-up that Amelia had a wonderful day. In fact, she shared her Mommy’s kisses with a couple of other kids who were crying that day. My Mia even doled out one to her teacher.
What a caring, generous and beautiful child. I knew she was a good kid, but I just couldn’t figure out why this monster reared its ugly head so often.
She simply needed a few extra moments of “us” time, and I realized I did, too. Now, the challenge is to figure out where to hide my kisses.
With summer on its way, that fleece jacket is going to get hot.
Wishing all of the moms, grandmas, aunts, step-moms and women who have been like moms a wonderful and blessed Mother’s Day!
Laura Burkey is a full-time working mom to 2½-year-old Amelia, 1-year-old Gabriella, 7-year-old Lucy the beagle and wife of five years to Brent.