Aurelia’s youngest daughter was over the top that morning. It was worse than the bath tantrum that Sunday night, a forty-five minute scream-fest of refusal to bathe. It was like that now. She would get them, greasy, overtired, hungry; but at least now they were safe. Still, her daughter lacked the ability to understand the anger accompanying the confusion of separation. Was she being punished? He’d promised her punishment in exchange of any kind of retreat from him. Was she being blamed? Surely if she blamed herself enough for her child’s helplessness she wouldn’t be blamed by her children.
It was Wednesday. There were two semi-peaceful days of standard sibling pissing contests and territorial rivalry. The three girls were a handful, but they were with her; they were where they should be. But some days… Was she a bad mother to wish she had some alone time?
This morning alone, there were three incidents and a tantrum that shifted topic from socks to toys to buttons to yogurt to zipping to moving anywhere at all -another one of those days. She wondered how many letters would be sent to management that day regarding unwanted, screaming, children who woke them up before their alarm-clocks forced them into their days. She tried not to think about it; she was already running late and her new goal was to get everyone in the car, strapped, sealed, and delivered.
There would be two stops. She just had to keep them from driving her insane for two stops. When they got to the first, the tantrum got physical when her daughter slammed the buckle from her lap and at her face when she slid open the door. It hit her. Hard. Hard enough to welt; even with all she had survived, she kept the shame of bruising beneath blouses and boots.
But that wasn't the issue.
The trouble started when the car-seat hit her over the head. and started to scream. It was just like him. Suddenly she was in the kitchen, not next to the open door of her minivan, but besidethe refridgerator, wishing for the strength to hold it between him and her, realizing what a terrible idea that was only when he started to grab the bottles... beer, ketcup, and cracked them over the back of her head and shoulders. Suddenly her sweet, sweet daughter was him. She saw her as him.
And she was terrified that it wasn't over. That it wouldn't stop. All the work it took to escape was in vain. Her daughter was her husband. She was crying, confused where she was, at the fact that her four year old had this power, this rage. What did she do? How did they get here?
"Mommy!!! Hurry up! Someone's coming! Someone's coming from the school!" Her oldest daughter saved her not only from humiliation, but probabl from having the kids taken away. She knew she was unstable, that this wasn't how it was supposed to be. She left that world so she wouldn't ever have to go back, and here she was again, perhaps even more scared of this new predicament.
By the time the director came out and confronted her, she had cleared the mascara from her eyes, covered her cheek with her hair and a scarf, and politely said, "yep. Just a little trouble from my little trouble maker."
She flashed an exceptional smile, and it seemed to please the director enough so that the quizzical look softened. Aurelia got up, hugged her youngest, and told her to have a great day.
They reached the second destination in silence.