Her storm. My calm.

My daughter has been experiencing what I can only describe as a storm of emotions.  When she has these experiences, she leaves me feeling like I just took on a tornado.  They are explosive and turbulent and what looks to an outsider like an irrational response to some neutral stimuli.  Like washing your hair.  That’s what did it tonight.

Both girls were in the tub together playing.  Evelyn wanted out so I told her I had to wash her hair  first and quickly did that.  Of course then Annabelle wanted to get out too, so I told her to get her hair wet so she could wash her hair. She stuck her hand out so I could put shampoo in it.  I always put shampoo and then conditioner in her hand to mix together so it’s only one scrub and rinse.  But tonight she took that shampoo and quickly rubbed it on her head.  So I said ok well scrub that out and we can move on to conditioner.  She started whining that she wanted to do them together.  Then she stuck out her hand so I put the conditioner in it.  As she’s rubbing that in and sobbing, she said she wanted to start over and do them together.  I said ok, and got the shampoo and conditioner and put some together in her hand and told her to scrub.

She was sobbing, kicking, screaming…and I told her to scrub it and then she could get out.  I watched her for another minute and then told her it looked good.  Press the drain, pull the bath mat up and get out.  I left the room with the baby to get her dressed.

And the screaming got louder.  And louder.  And louder.  She was kicking in the tub and screaming and yelling for me to answer her.  When this happens, I usually just say “I’ll answer you when you are calm” and go on my way until she’s ready.  Tonight it lasted a long time.  I eventually went back in there and told her to stand up.  I wrapped the towel around her and physically picked her up and carried her to her room.  She was kicking.  I’m lucky she didn’t catch me in the shin and knock us both down.  I set her down in her room, opened her pajama drawer and told her to get dressed. Before I left the room she was pointing to a book with her foot and asking me what the word was in the title.  While screaming.

A few minutes later she came out and asked nicely for a snack.  As if nothing had happened.  And I told her she could have some yogurt.

We’ve been through months of these storms.  Sometimes I can’t identify what started them.  This morning she woke up in the middle of one.  But after I got out of the shower she was all smiles and a completely different person.  They have involved throwing, kicking, screaming, swatting at me…it’s been extreme.  Sometimes I lose my patience and yell back at her, and then regret it, because I know it doesn’t help.  Sometimes if I say I will take a certain toy away she will calm down.  Sometimes that escalates her behavior and she becomes stuck on that, and asks over and over if I am going to take it.  Sometimes I go in and start taking toys and I put them on top of the fridge.  Sometimes she tells me she doesn’t care about that toy anyways.

I’m a counselor.  I should be able to solve this.  But no matter what I do, or what I say, it’s wrong.  In the middle of her fit, she will yell at me that none of my suggestions work, and do I have any other ones to help her calm down?  She doesn’t like anyone to see her after she has been crying. The only person that is allowed to see it is me.  So if we are going somewhere, the storm will get worse as she realizes that it’s almost time to go, and that she will see someone else that may notice her face is red.

She has always been good at controlling herself at school and with other adults.  But lately she has started to struggle with that also.  I am not sure if it is due to the deaths she has experienced, or her sister being so needy towards me, or if she is actually as bored with life as she tells me she is, but something’s got to give.

I am amazed when I can stay so calm during her storms.  Sometimes I feel like I am calm because I have given up trying with her and know that no matter what I do, she will continue to scream until she works herself out of this storm.  I know there will be an end to it.  But I also know that offering her things or demanding things are unreasonable requests when she’s in the midst of the storm.

I took her to see a counselor.  She didn’t want to go.  I went back with her and answered the questions for the counselor and asked Annabelle all along if I was correct.  She agreed with everything I said.  Admitted to her behavior.  She didn’t seem proud or ashamed of it.  The counselor asked about sensory.  And as I started talking about her intolerance of tags and seams and colors in her food and her food touching….I knew where she would send us.  We are headed to get a sensory profile evaluation done to see if she has a sensory processing disorder.  She wouldn’t be flagged for this in school because she is also very intelligent.  And I think this is part of the problem.  Her brain is more advanced than her emotions and they clash together, causing the thunder and rain in these storms.

I’ve talked to a few people who have children with similar characteristics.  It’s so helpful to talk to people who understand this extreme behavior.

Hopefully with the help of this counselor, and answers from the sensory profile, I will be able to help her effectively manage these storms as she gets older.  I can’t imagine they will just go away. They aren’t as easy to clean up as the poop the one year old left on the floor for me tonight…but that’s another story…

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