Wednesday, 11 January 2012
It's the end of a long morning at the end of a long and sickness-filled week and John is screaming on the floor. He's been screaming on the floor for hours. It feels as though it's been days.
"What's the matter?" I say, for the fortieth time that morning, the gentleness in my voice deliberate, unconvincing.
"No!" screams the boy, his face scarlet, his body stiff, a long stream of snot smearing his burning cheek.
"Come for a cuddle" I say, trying to scoop him up in my arms. "Come here..."
"No Mummy!" he screams, thrashing his little arms and legs about in a frenzy, the blows landing on my arms, my chest, my face.
"Do you want some water?" I say a little desperately, retreating to the safety of the sofa.
"Do you want some food?"
"No Mummy! No Mummy!"
"A banana? A pear? Some bread?"
"No Mummy! No, No, No, No!" He flings himself backwards and rolls about on the floor, his little face pulsing with rage.
"Come on," I say, trying to pick his unnaturally stiff body up off the floor, "Come and have a look at this book with me...Look it's the one about the train!"
"No! No Mummy!" he yells pulling the book from my hand and throwing it to the floor.
"No!" I say sternly, my tolerance slipping dangerously, and anger spilling through the cracks in my semi-patient facade. "You don't throw books. Now get up. Come on!"
"No Mummy!!" he yells arching his back violently so that he crashes back onto the floor with a thud, his re-fuelled screams filling the air afresh.
"What's the matter?!" I cry out in desperation, my patient facade crashing to the floor and the frustration slipping out in tears. "What is it that you want?!"
I bend forward with my face in my hands, allowing the tears to trickle self-indulgently into my palms.
"No" says the sobbing boy, picking himself off the floor and coming over to wrap his arms around me.
He buries his face in my lap and clings to me with all his might. He crawls up onto my lap and buries his hot wet cheek in my neck. I feel his whole body shuddering as he tries to catch his breath and then slowly he grows still as he settles himself into the hug.
For ten long minutes we cling to one another in a fierce sort of embrace and when he finally pulls his sticky cheek away from my neck, he looks at me and smiles.
And I realise that for this brief moment in time, whether he knew it or not, the only thing that he wanted was Mummy. And the knowledge makes me feel humble and powerful and whole, and at the same time exhausted, because I offer him my whole self every minute of every day and I have nothing more to give.