"I DON'T WANT YOU!" my three and a half year-old daughter roars, fists clenched at her sides, body rigid, tears and snot coating her face.
"I DON'T WANT YOU!" she roars again mid-meltdown then jumps up and down screaming at the top of her lungs.
I hardly recognize this enraged little person. 95% of the time my kid is joyful, happy, hilarious, and extremely kind.
But that other 5% of the time.
Spectacular, epic, blow-the-roof-off meltdowns.
Filled with rage.
In the midst of these spectacular epic meltdowns my normally super affectionate, loving, huggy girl directs all of her rage at me.
"What can I do for you?" I ask her in my calmest voice. "What can I do for you?"
"NOTHING! GET AWAY FROM ME!" she shrieks, body still rigid, fists still clenched and eyes now closed as if the very sight of me is just too much to bear.
She rejects my attempts to comfort her.
She rejects me with every fiber of her being.
Sometimes her meltdowns last for just a few minutes, but on occasion she can rage for close to an hour. It is so awful to witness her fury and her suffering as huge emotions overtake her.
If I'm honest with myself, it's also extremely painful to have all of that rage directed at me.
It's especially painful because I secretly worry that she rejects me in this way because I'm not her birth mother, K.
Is there some deep part of her that understands that I am not the woman who gave birth to her? Does she subconsciously want K and thus rejects me?
When she screams "I DON'T WANT YOU!" I secretly panic that she will always reject me because somehow I'm not her "real" mother.
I wonder and worry, if K were raising her would Esme just collapse in K's arms and allow herself to be hugged and comforted? Would she let K do that for her when she won't let me? Will she ever let me comfort her through a meltdown?
"I don't want you," Esme says again breathing hard, but she is running out of steam.
"What can I do for you?" I ask again.
"Nothing," she snuffles then walks to the couch where she seizes her beloved purple fleece jacket. She takes her "worry spot" (the bottom front where the zipper comes together) and gently rubs it under her nose. Her preferred method of self-soothing.
I take a step toward her and ask gently, "Can I give you a hug now?"
"Not yet," she says hiccuping, a few tears still rolling down her cheeks.
"OK, I'll come back and check on you in a few minutes."
I walk into the kitchen where I sag against the counter exhausted and hurt, trying and failing to not take it personally. Trying and failing to be confident in my role as Esme's "real" mom.
Wondering and worrying.
A few minutes later I return to the living room to sit down near her on the couch. "Can I give you a hug now?"
She shakes her head, but she moves closer to me and we sit together, not quite touching, in silence for a long time.