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“Listen to my mouth!”

"Listen to my mouth!"

Janey overall was having a fantastic day yesterday. She was cheerful and upbeat and fun, loving listening to Christmas music with me and having a car ride with Daddy after a day too snowy for a ride the day before. We were enjoying her company so much. Then, as happens, something changed. She started crying, screaming, freaking out over everything. We had no idea what was going on. I snuggled with her on her bed and tried talking about it, asking the same old questions I’m sure she’s sick of—“What’s wrong? Why are you sad? Does something hurt? How can I help?” She didn’t answer. William came in the room and I asked again what was wrong, and somehow the combination of him being there and my asking seemed to bother her a lot, and she hit me hard. I stayed calm, told her that I didn’t like being hit, told her I wasn’t going to stay snuggling with someone who was hitting me, got up and walked away. She screamed and screamed and screamed.

 After a little while, when I’d gotten her to say she was sorry (with much prompting, and who knows why I ever bother, because I don’t think she means it, but I need to have her say it), I went back to snuggling her. She then looked at me intently, stared in my eyes with a look that was unusual for her, and said, twice in a row “Listen to my mouth!”

I don’t know what it meant. I really don’t. I don’t think it meant to listen to what she was saying. Maybe it did. But she usually doesn’t use language like that, in a slightly indirect way. And she wasn’t saying anything about why she was upset. But it meant something. She took the effort to say it, and you could see it was an effort. I stayed up a long time in the night, trying to figure it out. It finally came to me that it might be related to what doctors say “I’m going to listen to your lungs now. I’m going to listen to your heart” I don’t think she could pull up the words “lung” or “heart”, and she might have been saying something in her mouth hurt and she wanted e to see that, or that she just felt sick and wanted help from a doctor. But she doesn’t seem sick, doesn’t have a fever, doesn’t have low oxygen. In this COVID times, taking her to the doctor when she doens’t seem sick is not really a good balance of safety and health. 

 The whole thing brought out so many issues. Why does she get upset out of the blue? Why is it so hard for her to tell us what is wrong? Why does she hit once in a while? What do mysterious phrases she says to us mean?
 The hitting seems like her way to say she’s really, really seriously not liking something. She doesn’t do it often at all now, and when she does, it doesn’t have the feel of something spontaneous. It feels like a planned thing, at least planned a few seconds in advance. The last time she really hit me was when we were trying hard to do Zoom classes, and I told her it was time for one. I think last night she was telling me she really didn’t like my endless questions. Of course, hitting is not at all the way I want her to communicate, and I need her to know that, but I also need to listen to what issues are upsetting enough for her that she feels she has to hit. 
 The “listen to my mouth”—phrases like that are about as frequent as hitting, not very frequent at all. You can tell she thinks about them before saying them. The way she looked at me was very striking. I could tell she really wanted me to pay attention. And it makes me feel awful that I wasn’t able to quite get her message.
 It’s frustrating so often, figuring out Janey’s needs. I don’t want her to be unhappy, but of course, like all of us, sometimes she’s going to be unhappy. But it’s so hard not knowing why she’s unhappy. Was she just sick of being around me? Did she think about something upsetting? Did something hurt? Was it just too long a day, and she was tired? It’s hard dealing with this, but of course I’m sure it’s a million times harder for Janey, being so upset but so unable to explain why, doing her best to let me know in the way she can but not having me get it. Janey, I will try to listen to your mouth, and your heart, and your mind, and all of us. I am trying hard.
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