The babe was bouncing inside his mommy’s tummy and it was close and warm, and he loved it. He loved to suck his thumb and listen to the gurgling and burbling as life for him bounced along. He rolled and tumbled over and over jolly and warm, safe and close, and things kept getting smaller around him, smaller and smaller.
One day he took his thumb out of his mouth and pushed on the tummy, just a little tiny push. The tummy pushed back, a tiny little push, and he gave it a bit of a kick, and the tummy pushed back, a tiny little push. It was a fun game, and the babe worked hard at it, until he slept and slept.
When he awoke, the tummy was rumbling and rolling, and he knew, he just knew something was about to happen: He reached out to touch the lovely tummy once more, and aimed his thumb back to his mouth. Suddently all the lovely moosh disappeared from the womb, the tummy began to spasm in a slow rhythm and then faster and faster- it pulled at every cell of his body, pushing and pulling, gurgling and burbling louder than ever before. He lost the beloved thumb and the warm soft womb expelled him into a stinging cold yellow hospital room, surrounded by staring eyes.
Frederick was born with eyes wide open, mouth wide open, splayed and crushed, pushed and pulled. He was grabbed by the nurse and big cold hands, and he peered through a red haze to see. No more the soft warm rosy womb he adored. Now bursting into the freezing yellow he searched everywhere- “Where’s my mommy? Where’s my mommy?”
Frederick’s mommy was so very tired that even her thoughts stood still. And in that moment, because her own mommy never taught her any better,
She looked at Frederick, looked at those wide dark searching eyes, and the thought like air rushed into the vacuum of her mind, “Where’s my baby? Where’s my baby?”
Frederick’s eyes kept searching the room, searching for the warm familiar flickering red and bouncy soft womb, but it was nowhere, and he was sad. He was so so sad that he cried.
Frederick cried day and night for seven days and seven nights, only pausing to slurp greedily at the breast stuffed at his lips, so like his warm thumb, but wet. No one could soothe the desolate babe, he was lost, and his mommy could not be found. Panicked with tiredness and sadness, he cried and cried.
And on the seventh day, Frederick found mommy. Flickering and rhythmic, loud and red, it was the television playing a video: “Baby Einstein.”. That was the first peace in the house since Frederick had been born into the world, and the mom and dad both collapsed on exhaustion. What had they birthed? Baby Einstein?
At the checkup the doctor was threatening. “This child has lost nearly a pound in weight! He’s not getting enough milk. He needs to eat more!” He’s crying because he’s still hungry, they thought. So the mom and dad got a baby bottle and formula and fed the baby breast and formula, every four hours as often as they could. And the baby still cried. It’s colic the doctors said, but the nurses said no, he’s fine, he’s just crying...
Now, usually a baby crying sets off a mom to go to and hold the baby, bouncing and comforting them with soft words and gentle hands. This mom knew that was what she ought to be doing, but she didn’t feel like comforting the baby, she felt like putting her hand over its mouth. This mommy had trouble with crying because her whole life she’d been holding back all her tears: she was not allowed to cry. Her own mommy had been sick and died when she was just a toddler, and people had been hush hushing her ever since. Crying was not allowed . And now this baby did nothing but cry. It was torture.
The daddy did what he could to help, but he resented the baby’s cries too. The baby crying all the time stopped them from having the pastel loving couple picture that he had always wanted, and he was deathly jealous whenever the mom touched her son.. He just hated it, and he knew it was wrong to hate it. He held the baby and he felt afraid of this child; it felt like an alligator that was going to eat and destroy the one woman who loved him, and secretly he was very very angry.
And the baby kept crying. Everyone was very sad, and the baby did the crying for them all, for he was a special child, and he felt their pain.
The mom and dad were good kind people, despite all the horrible feelings they were having, brought on by this terrible crying child. They learned to pick up the baby when he cried, to change the dirty diapers, to kiss and hug the baby, to play him videos, dvds and television to calm him, and they continued to feed him, clothe him, and buy him things.
But as soon as the baby stopped crying, they put him down in front of a screen with bouncing lights and images, colours and sounds that overstimulated his nervous system and amped the adrenaline with every loud and glaring shock.. With mouth wide open, he bonded to the screen, he learned to recognise the loving characters and the smiley faces, and he loved the flickering screens.
As the baby grew, mom and dad didn’t understand how to deal with this superbaby. Where was the sweet goo goo gah gah child they saw in other peoples’ baby carriages? Theirs was a monster, and they were afraid. He never sat and played, he ran and broke and jumped on everything, If the front door were open he’d run out and make friends with any stranger in the street, and keep running. He’d sit and rock with his thumb in his mouth watching a video, and that was his parents’ only peace. Sleep happened only rarely, and after hours of crying tantrums, trying to break down the bedroom door. Mom and dad had told him it was bedtime, kissed him and put on the covers, but it didn’t last. Frederick tried to listen, but he needed his mom and his daddy desperately, and always even more when he was slipping into the unconsciousness of sleep.
And then a brother came, and Frederick wanted to murder him of course. Mom and Dad knew from the books that it was normal for toddlers to be murderously jealous, but they were afraid for their new baby, and they constantly had to fend off Fredericks attacks.
To keep the house safe, dad built cages to keep the children in, and child gates and fences were everywhere in the house.
The new baby, named Peter, cried himself to sleep every night, and the parents just ignored it. For Frederick, when he cried loudly enough they would cave in, and he slept in the middle of their bed, between his mom and dad, just where his dad didn’t want him. The fact that he did sleep there helped him know that his mom and dad really loved him, even though they hated how he acted out, no matter what horrible things he did, and that they would protect him forever.
This mixed up love hate place became his favourite place, and he continually sparked power struggles and tantrums so that the mom and dad could explode, feel guilty, and then spend adult time and attention to make him feel better, until they got exhausted and it started all over again. It was a cycle of violence, where the making up after the explosion was the driving force to an incredible array of misbehaviour and parent provocation.
Normally grandma’s and granddads give a baby the kind of unconditional love that they need, and then moms and dads follow along, mimicking at first, and then becoming genuine in mirroring love to the baby. The baby thrives on this sunshine of a parents loving approval, the mirroring gaze, the gentle touch.
But this baby didn’t like to be held or touched, he was overstimulated by everything, and just as his own crying was torture that eventually the parents tuned out, for their own survival, his own need for touching and loving was so huge that when he was touched it was overwhelming and felt like pain.
It was a sorry state of affairs, but luckily the mom and dad were very smart, and they got help. With help, they learned to snuggle and love their children, to have big laps to share with two little boys. They read nice slow books and helped everyone to breath more deeply and slowly. They set up the house with lots of childrens’ activities in mind: a block area, a playing house area, a cars area, and an art area. They got a trampoline and a throwing area in a nice safe corner, and they brought in children who could teach the boys how to play. They even spent time on the floor with the boys, playing silly games and crawling around like little spiders. A big addition to the kitchen was the magnet board where photos and artwork by the boys could be displayed.
Mom learned that picking the boys up early from school meant that they could have extra alone time with each parent, and the intensity of the children’s energy and their nerves began to calm down.
She fed them bananas and fruit, carrots and broccoli, and lots of other healthy foods. Whole grains and organic foods became important, because the children needed more dense nutrients to rebuild their nervous system. At night the children had sleepytime herb teas, and mom found she didn’t need to use the clonodine that had given peace to the evenings for the last year.
At first they continued the medicines the doctors gave them to help Frederick behave and feel calm, but soon they began to trust that he could stay calm most of the time, and when he got upset, or began to get upset, they noticed and helped him to calm down before there was an explosion.
Frederick learned that he could get his parents focussed attention when they were teaching him things, and he loved to learn things from his mom and dad, and became a really good listener. It worked better to help things than demand them, and he got lots of loving attention from his parents and even his little brother Peter sometimes.
Funnily Peter just loved Frederick, despite the poor early relationship, and Frederick could really tell: he just loved his little Peter. As Peter grew, Frederick loved to teach him things, and help him to reach and get things he was too tiny to get. Frederick began to quite enjoy being a big brother.
It didn’t take much for the scales to tip, and Frederick to be getting lots of loving attention and unconditional love from his parents. They started by giving him praise for things he was trying to do, and his big efforts, even when it didn’t really look like Frederick was trying to behave well. They kept track of how well he was able to calm himself down, and how tantrums were getting less and less. When Frederick had a week with only one or two tantrums (instead of the fifteen which were standard), the family made a special trip to the Aquarium to look at the fishes, and they picked out two goldfish to bring home.
Then the parents started to teach the boys to work things out when they were fighting or angry:
“I’m really angry right now! (stamp your foot)
“When my blocks are knocked down I feel so hurt and pushed!” (take a step backwards)
“Next time, I really want you to knock down your own blocks and let me build mine as high as I want. (index finger pointing up) .
“It’s only fair that we keep our work to ourselves, unless we both agree to share!” (index finger pointing down).
They all learned the dance of anger, and it helped them to express feelings safely and not hurt each other, which made everyone happier.
Then they learned the dance of sadness, the dance of happiness, and the dance of silly fun, which was the most fun of all! They all learned that it was actually quite okay to cry when you needed to, and quite okay to be loud, unless it disturbed someone, and then you could work it out. There was always a place in the house for feelings, and that made the house safe and strong.
The mom and dad worked hard to learn new ways to talk and do, that helped the children to know what might happen next, so there were fewer surprises. They learned to go by child time, which is way way slower than grown up time, and it made them feel safer and less worried about everything as well. There was lots of numbers counting to help people to slow down, and sometimes to speed up, for fun! 123 go!
And bedtimes became completely different, but that's another story.
© Copyright 2016 Lorna Culling. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Humor
Book / Flash Fiction
Book / Science Fiction
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