My eight year old daughter hates the sound of her mother’s voice. My voice. It fills her with rage, with a fight or flight response so powerful, I may as well be holding her down, a knife at her throat. When I say, “how was school today?” or “buckle up your seat beats please” I am never sure if this will send her into a door slamming, screeching, hair pulling, kicking rage.
It began in earnest last summer, after a long distance move from our landlocked state of Colorado to the northeast. We rented a beach house for a few weeks, while waiting for the closing of our new home, and the moving truck to arrive with our junk. She began interrupting incessantly in the car, not allowing me to speak a full sentence. This obnoxious behavior was not a new one, but much more extreme and persistent. She demanded that I stop “whispering” or making strange clicking sounds with my tongue as I begin my words. She asked as sweetly as possible, if I could just stop using the letters C, K, S or T. She hated how I did those especially.
I had no idea what she was talking about. What I did know was her behavior was obstinate, demanding and unacceptably disrespectful. Rick and I tried to be understanding of the enormous strain the move had placed on our middle daughter. She had been beside herself with emotion, saying goodbye to my parents, her cousins, friends, teacher, school, home. Her acting out was to be expected. At the beach house, she began to leap from her chair during meals, knocking it backwards as she plugged her ears and screamed that I was disgusting, the way I ate my burger. She would scramble suddenly and dramatically away from me, like I had just sprayed mace in her face. And she did everything loudly. Stomping up the stairs, slamming doors, singing obnoxiously without stopping, interrupting incessantly. We were constantly telling her to stop (fill in the blank). Every normal thing she did seemed to be amplified and inappropriate.
Rick and I vacillated between correcting it, or ignoring it and accepting the misery of the rest of the family. The absolute worst behavior was in the car, where she was so loud and attention seeking and defiant, a trip to the grocery store had Rick and I dangerously close to losing our minds. Several days into our stay we drove the kids up to see our soon-to-be new house and the kids’ school, about an hour’s drive. Lydia totally lost control, kicking the seats in front of her, screaming and crying and yelling. At one unbearable point, my calm, sweet husband turned in rage and bellowed out a tirade of pent up frustration in a way none of us had seen before. The roar of her father stunned Lydia and her sisters into silence for about 3.4 seconds. His wildly out of character loss of control was the only thing that calmed me. I knew one of us must remain in control. We were approaching our new town, according to the GPS, we were just a few miles away.
“Look! Let’s calm down and look out at our new town! Pay attention! This is where we will live! Look out the window!” I said, and then like magic, we turned from a beautiful view of the capital building with it’s glowing copper top, to ghetto. The street we were on was unrecognizable, and I did not recall seeing anything like it during our house hunt just two months ago. People were loitering on the street corners, a few women were pushing stolen grocery carts full of trash bags across the street. There was garbage in the gutters and bent chain link fences caging in a school we passed by. Now ferocious with hysteria, Lydia began pointing at the unseemly scene, and crying “What? Is that my SsssCHOOOL!?? Is that my house?” I wanted to reassure her, but my insides reflected her outer behavior. I wanted to screech in disbelief, noticing that we were just 2 miles from our house. “IS THAT OUR SCHOOL!?” She continued to scream this repeatedly, pointing out run down buildings that lined the street. Just a few course correcting turns later, we arrived in front our soon-to-be-new home in our tree lined, quiet street minutes later. We emerged from the car feeling wrecked, all five of us were crying. The true battle was just warming up.