Ok. Gramasylum isn’t always oozing with giddy joy. There are times when you seriously wonder, “What was I thinking?!” This was one of those times.
Laurel Ana, LoLo, had stayed overnight with us on several occasions before. She loved coming to CeCe’s house and usually did not want to leave. But now she was showing signs of attachment and separation anxiety of late so I knew it might not be the same. She wanted to come this time, but she wanted her mommie or daddy to come with her. Wasn’t gonna happen. Mommie was away on business and daddy had school. So LoLo was going to spend Sunday and Monday night with Cece.
The complicating factor was that LoLo had also recently acquired a new skill. Mommie and daddy don’t know where she learned it, but it went like this. She would purse her lips, cross her arms tight, say, “I want _____” (fill in the blank), then raise one leg bent at the knee, stomp it down hard, and just as the shoe hit the floor she would say, “Now!” The timing was impeccable. The message was quite clear. Whatever she wanted she was NOT waiting for. Where she learned it I do not know either. Let’s just say though that it looked like she had practiced a lot.
On this particular occasion the new skill showed up in the middle of the night. Oh, she was priming for it earlier. She expressed the very normal desire to have her mommie before she went to bed, but it was a more gentle demand with just a slight whimper. Then at 1 a.m. she woke up crying. The crying turned to screaming—the kind of screaming that sounds like a child is being tortured and someone should call the police. I was afraid my neighbors might! No matter what I tried to do to console and comfort her it only escalated. So there we were in the middle of the hall and it began. She pursed her lips and crossed her arms. She screamed, “I want my mommie.” Then the dramatic pause, the leg lifted bent at the knee and the foot came down with impeccable timing just as she finished her demand, “Now!” This was repeated several times. I tried to explain to her all the reasons she could not have her mommie now. This all interspersed with the police-summoning type screams. I was beside myself. This is when I began to wonder. “What was I thinking?” Crazy oozing love, insane devotion, barrels and barrels of fun with Cece normally, but at 1 a.m. it did not make any difference.
I had observed her parents helping her calm down on several occasions before. So I tried that.
“LoLo,” I said calmly, “would you like me to help you calm down?”
She replied with her arms crossed, “ I want my Mommie to help me calm down.”
And you know how the drill goes. She raised her leg with knee bent and brought it down as hard as she could and said, “Now!”
I realized at this point I had entered a darker corner of Gramasylum. No amount of reasoning, no amount of love, no amount of fun and games was going to deter this little woman from what she wanted. I knew that only two things would bring an end to this real life nightmare. I could get in the car and drive an hour to take her to daddy or I could let her scream and stamp herself to sleep. The signs of fatigue were beginning to show up. I did not want to be stubborn just to win a power struggle but my grama gut said that she could not keep this up much longer and that we were going to get through this alive. Exhausted, and I might have to explain the screams to a police person if they showed up at our door, but I made the decision to put my bet on her falling asleep before I would be in jail. We would make it. And deep in my heart I knew the oozing love, insane devotion, barrels of fun Gramasylum would return. This little dark corner was not going to take over my Gramasylum haven.
I told her she could call her mommie and daddy in the morning. Of course, she wanted to call them, “Now!” In faithful Gramasylum love tons I explained that that was not going to happen in the middle of the night. But I assured her that as soon as we slept a bit and woke up, we would call mommie and daddy.
She did eventually fall asleep. Sitting up on the love seat. Whimpering, “mommie, now” with her little leg twitching in memory of the foot stamping routine of the night. Once the whimpering and the twitching ended, I gently laid her down on the love seat and went and collapsed on the other couch where I could keep an eye on her and be sure to be ready to make that phone call as soon as she woke up. It was about 2:30 a.m. The entire incident lasted just an hour and a half. I can’t remember if I slept after that. I just remember wondering, “what was I thinking?!” Gramasylum residency is better at feeling than thinking. So much love and affection for this child resides in me that I will try just about anything. Once.
She woke up in the morning. No screaming. No foot stomping. No demand for anything now. We called mommy and daddy. She was going to be all right. But even Gramasylum has its limits. I told her father that he needed to come and get her. I did not want to put her through another night like the last one and I didn’t think I would be very reliable if I went another night with little sleep and a lot of twitching. I said I would be glad to come to their house and take care of her the next day but I did not want to risk another night like this one we had just (barely) survived.
That was over a year ago. Since then, LoLo has stayed at our house overnight again. It took awhile for me to regain my Gramasylum confidence for overnighters! Eventually she stayed for a whole weekend. No pursing of lips, stamping of foot, or demands for anything “now.” I guess that was a phase. And this time when daddy returned to get her, she did not want to go home! Gramasylum returned full speed ahead.
I am sure there will be other times when I find myself doing something with my grandchildren, barely surviving, and wondering , “What was I thinking?!” I think I will just purse my lips, cross my arms, and say, “I want Gramasylum,” and will raise my bended knee and stamp my foot hard and say, “now!”