The relief is palpable

Today when I picked MZ up from daycare, she volunteered, I cried. This is unusual because she often asks for P. between visits, and is pretty cheerful on drop-off and pick-up, plus they had a birthday party for her, so what could be better? I asked P. about it and she said she was a little weepy, classic two-year old stuff. Since she’s been a little sensitive with us lately, I didn’t think much about it.

We took our usual stroll before we got in the car, talking about the rest of the afternoon, and the one errand we needed to run. Then, on the way to the store, she said, That place is not for touching.

I caught myself from whirling around in my seat to stare at her, and tried to be as nonchalant as possible when I asked, What place is not for touching, MZ? She’s two, so I think the next thing she said was something about Puppy, and I asked once more, as gently as I could, and let the conversation go.

Then, in the store while we were waiting in line, she wandered away from me a bit, turned around and looked at me and said what sounded like, You broke your word. Wha-at?! Trying not to completely freak out, I walked over, picked her up, hugged her and kissed her and asked her who broke their word? What word was broken? How did it break? … hoping to land on something that would kick her esoteric thought process into something recognizable.

All the while I’m thanking everything I can for this verbal child, because what would she do without words, and wouldn’t we be able to puzzle through this eventually? I tried to think of all the various contexts in which this could be said, and who might speak this way. Her daycare speaks primarily Spanish, so that’s probably not it, right? Right?

I brought it up a couple times before R. got home, during a diaper change and while we sat on the sofa reading a book. Is your body not for touching? Is there something not for touching? A place? I told her that she could always tell me anything, that I would always believe her first, that no one could tell her not to tell me something – it was up to her to decide. Does she understand any of this? I have no idea but it seemed worth saying.

When R. got home, I related all this, and watching him control his rising panic was like looking in a mirror. We were both jittery, trying to be calm as we worked with her to open the last of her birthday presents, occasionally pitching what we hoped was a softball question that would lead us where we needed to go.

She had what for her is a tantrum as we tried to get to the dinner table, refusing to help set the table, refusing to sit at the table, insisting on going downdairs, and ultimately dissolving into tears. When I tried to talk to her, she said clearly, Go away, Mommy, and I left her to her father.

Finally, she asked for blueberries and we got her to sit at the table and eat them. And R asked, What place is not for touching, MZ? And she said, clearly, The store.

And then she proceeded to devour everything in sight, scooping up enormous spoonfuls of hummus and Greek salad and pita.

Of course! That oddly formal phrase is from me! I said that last Friday as I prepped her for an errand to a wine shop – something that had to be done kid in tow, despite my better judgment, in preparation for her birthday party.

MZ internalizes all these directional phrases, I already know this. And she seems to background process everything, so of course when I said we had to go to a store, she processed through our last visit and relayed everything she could remember about going to a store: This place is not for touching. Of course.

R and I were practically giddy as we finished our meal, so extreme was our relief. I don’t think either of us truly believed that someone was molesting our daughter, but it was the first thing that occurred to both of us, and our fear had to be part of what triggered her tantrum. MZ has always sensed and reacted to tension. That, and that she was clearly hungry.

That still doesn't explain the You broke your word, but I think the I cried was simply an effort to verbalize her day, and really, I’m just so freaking grateful that there’s nothing more to say. Except thank you.


At 26.1.07, Blogger The Big Pugawug said...

What a huge relief. My heart began to pitter-patter as I imagined the unimaginable affecting your family. Don't scare us like that, MZ!

This is one of my big fears as the parent of a girl, how to shield her from abuse. Particularly with people (and, frankly, men) who are familiar, but who I don't know really well, there is a seed of mistrust at the back of my mind. Would I trust her alone with a (hypothetical) sister's new boyfriend or a distant male cousin? Maybe not.

When is the right time to teach her about OK touching vs. when to shout for mommy and daddy, I wonder?


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