Parenting on Purpose: Mothering and Mental Health

She is clinging to my leg and my skin is crawling.

“Mommy is just getting you a bowl of cereal, darling, I can pick you up in just a minute.” I am hoping she can not hear the rising panic in my voice. I make sure to speak pleasantly and slowly; I work hard to stay in control of things that are not her fault.

Her voice is escalating. She demands to be held now. The whining pitch burrows under my skin and invades individual nerve endings. I stop trying to take a step forward. I drop my head back, close my eyes and take a deep breath. She tugs on my pajama pants and pleads, in her way, for me to hold her.

She is not being bad. I worked an unusual four days in a row and she has missed me. She is craving connection and reassurance.

I am not being bad. My moods have begun to shift down over the last couple of days, I am tired, and I’m weaning off of a medication.

We are two individuals. Each of us with needs that demand to be met in this moment. She is craving connection. I am craving escape.

And so I breathe. I take the full minute it requires to focus on my breath and leave her screeching, unrelenting, below me. I envision getting in the car and bringing her to my sisters. Leaving her at the front door and driving away. I visualize her face watching me drive, imagine her tiny body growing smaller in the rear view mirror and I wince, my heart squeezing. I envision speaking sharply to her, demanding with words and tone that she leave me alone and go play. I imagine her crumpled posture and the tears that would come as her request for connection, phrased as only a toddler can, is denied. I take a deep breath.

I still want to be left alone. I still want to spend the day nurturing myself in peace and silence. But my moment of breathing and visualization has given me pause. I will not hurt her for the sake of myself. I will not deny her what she needs so I can have what I need. When our two demands meet head to head, it is always she who must win.

I am the adult. I have grown. I can now think past the here and now. Even reeling from medication weaning, and navigating the difficult road of parenting with bipolar ii, I am the adult. I take another breath.

I have relaxed. My posture is welcoming as I bend to where she cries and scoop her into my arms. I snuggle her close, bringing the awfulness of that whining pitch near so that I can kiss and hug it away.

“Mommy missed you, too, my darling. Breakfast can wait. Would you like to read some stories?”

She smiles. Snuggles in. Remembered. Comforted. Connected.

It will not be the only battle today for either of us, but for now there is peace to enjoy.

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