She’s an addict to the bottle. It’s her safety blanket. Her crutch. Her obsession.
The bottle lures her at all hours of the day and night when she needs soothing.
Of course, I’m talking about my two-year-old, Rory.
During the day, it’s not such an inconvenience. But she’s awoken by the urge to suckle in the middle of the night and screams until she gets her fix.
It’s been a recurring problem. We’ve weaned her off the bottle (on the street, it must be called ‘bah-bah’ — or, at least, that’s what she calls it) a couple times before. We thought we had it kicked last month until a babysitter re-introduced her to it. That snowballed into the teachers at preschool hooking her up whenever she gave the ‘bah-bah’ command.
I couldn’t believe they provided it for her. But they did.
Before we knew it, she was a full-blown addict again. She’d down the bottle and then nod out — going unconscious for hours until she’d come to, wondering where the hell she was and only wanting more milk, more milk, more milk…
Last night, her mother and I decided to intervene. No matter how tired we were, we decided to not give her the ‘bah-bah’ when she woke up.
Giving in would be easy. A few hits — erm, sips — and she’s back out again. And we, too, could get back to sleep.
But we’re her parents. And this must stop.
So we did it. At 1am, the first craving hit. Alex was first up on the rotation. She laid with her through her withdrawals. The screaming lasted for a seemingly unending 20–30 minutes.
The wails were painful.
At 4am, she awoke to another craving. Now, it was my turn.
When I laid there comforting her through the gnashing of teeth that is bottle-addiction, she screamed for bah-bah, and would push me away when I tried comforting her with a back rub or a cuddle. She wanted nothing to do with me.
Only. The milk.
As aware as I tried to remain through it, I couldn’t help think that she was mad at me.
She hates me right now, I thought. A couple times I almost caved. She even showed signs of choking and vomiting she cried so hard.
Yet here I lay. Her father. Doing nothing as my little girl screamed in terror — withdrawals surging through her little body.
But then, it happened. Something I thought was particularly peculiar…
Like a demon was exiting her soul, she stopped. Abruptly.
She sat there for a moment, the nightlight revealing a peaceful calm to her expression. And then, she laid next to me and gave me a huge happy hug before falling asleep, her cheek on mine.
It was over. All was fine.
Was she still angry at me? Was she ever? How can this little human have such emotional intelligence to put her anger and terror aside towards the fully capable adult laying passively next to her who refused to give her the one thing that would make her misery go away?
So many times I’ve taken her rage personally. But, this made me reflect. I realized that most every time she’s had an episode like this, when she stops crying, she always follows it up with love.
It’s almost like she’s not angry at me, but just needs to be angry in my presence.
At what age does this go away? When do we stop leaving ourselves an open exit door from the hurt? When do we start holding on with white knuckles to our suffering?
It’s almost like she’d say — if she could — “Dad, I’m super pissed right now. You get it, right? Okay, so, can you hang here and stay with me through it until it fades? I’d really like that…”
As I rolled her over onto her pillow, I looked at her peaceful face and whispered, “Always, kiddo. Always.”