I have become a broken record. It has been like the movie Groundhog Day since Groundhog Day over here. I have been retelling the same series of events approximately 12 zillion times a day, every day.
For. A. Month.
February just turned out to be a great month for freaking out my child. And now she is processing. And processing. And processing.
I primed the pump early in the month with a brief viewing of the movie Brave–an ironic title, as I would learn, about twenty minutes in, when Hooly started whimpering turn it off, turn it off, it’s too scary!
Then I subjected her to a Lunar New Year celebration, during which the dragon dancers, whom I thought she would just love, made her sob and beg to go home, because undoubtedly they were coming to get us directly. And just as I’d diffused that situation with the distraction of face-painting, simulated machine-gun warfare commenced, as every fire-cracker in the state of Texas was set off at once.
A day or two later came what I now refer to as the red car incident, which has been the most troubling for both of us because of my role as the apparent tormentor. Basically, Hooly bumped her red car into the wall and it made a very loud noise, which scared her. I was not in the room to witness this, but I heard the noise, and let’s be real, I assumed she was getting into something, and I yelled (or “called out loudly” as I prefer to say in my endless retelling) What’s that noise?! And, as I would eventually decipher after the first 400 times we talked about it, the tone of my voice really upset her even further, compounding the initial car crash fright and obviously making a serious impression.
All of this was crowned by watching a Sesame Street segment of Bert and Ernie, in which Bert gets angry and yells at Ernie for waking him up. One second it’s all sunny days sweeping the clouds away, and the next second Hooly is sobbing I don’t like Bert and Ernie! I don’t like Bert and Ernie!
So, yeah. That. All of that. One thing piled on top of another. The damn multiplier effect.
And now we are stuck in this loop. Tell me about my red car. What about Bert and Ernie? I have an idea, dragon dance. And tell me about my red car. Over and over and over again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for processing. Of course I want us to talk things out, now and always, and I think it’s amazing that she is able to articulate I want to talk about it some more. But fuck me, a month?!
I have tried changing my phrasing and vocabulary. I have focused on different elements of each story. I have explored different endings and alternate conclusions, thinking that maybe I had missed the key resolution she was needing. I have asked how each event made her feel, and I have named my own feelings. I have apologized for the voice I used during the red car incident. I have assured her that Bert and Ernie are still friends.
No change. Still on the hamster wheel.
I talked with one of the teachers at her school, and she suggested that I bring up the red car story myself once or twice, and ask Hooly to tell it to me, just as a way to sort of shake things up a bit. She also recommended a book called Feelings by Aliki, which I ordered immediately (though the shipment got delayed due to weather, and it still hasn’t arrived. Of course). Hooly seemed quite tickled when I brought up the red car story, and got a look on her face like hey, how did you know I wanted to talk about that! And talk about it we did. Maybe a thousand more times that day.
The teacher (who is amazing and wonderful) also followed up with a child psychologist friend of hers, which I really appreciated, though it did give me that quick flash of crap this must not be normal because you are talking to other professionals about it.
The message back to me was that Hooly is validating her experiences through the repetition of these stories and building trust in the world through trust in me. So yes, keep retelling them, myself or in tandem with her, as many times as it takes. And they assured me that it will not take forever.
Hearing all of that saved me a little. It has become my anchor. A way, actually, for me to process this extensive processing, and not just feel like I’m lost in the deep end, screwing up my kid. And just in the last few days, I’ve started noticing progress, signs that this loop might not be, in fact, eternal, and that some day soon, this record will stop repeating, and a new song will be able to start.
Clearly my girl has been hit hard with a couple of big world lessons.
SOME NOISES ARE REALLY LOUD AND SCARY.
And the deeper, messier, more difficult one,
PEOPLE GET UPSET AND YELL AT EACH OTHER.
These are heavy lessons. Real stuff. It’s a lot.
And in an effort to maintain some shadow of grace and not completely lose my mind, I’ve started trying to focus on the big world lessons that I can be reminded of through all of this.
MIND THE TONE YOU USE.
And the deeper, more difficult one, THIS TOO SHALL PASS.