In the past few weeks I have received a couple of emails from people who have referred to their regression as an affliction or as a stumbling block. While we prefer not to think of being regressive as a disorder or an affliction or any other such negative terms, it is also true that sometimes it can still be exactly that.
My baby is one of those deeply regressive children who throughout his life has had moments where the infant overwhelms the adult, sometimes to the extent that the adult almost ceases to be for a short period of time.
Just like any behaviour, AIR (Adult Infantile Regression) is not intrinsically wrong nor a dysfunction, but it does need to be kept in perspective and in balance with the rest of life. What we do for Joanne is to give her regular measured baby times every day as well as occasional more expansive times of infantile experience. And now that she is in cloth nappies and baby plastic pants 24/7 there is always an infantile aspect in operation in her daily life. As many of you know, we also maintain a parent/child relationship where part of our dynamic involves me being a mother and her being a baby. All these things combine to take the sting out of regression. The regression is perhaps more common but it is shallower and more enjoyable. And in return I get a child that is much happier, far less stressed and pretty much in balance. And the irony is that in dealing with the infant’s needs, the adult is far more capable as well as more content.
But like all recipes, you sometimes cook up a disaster and you never really know why. So it was for us a couple weeks ago.
Joanne was happy and content and her infantile needs were being well met. Then one overnight there was a storm. My little three year old is terrified of wind and storms at night and so we had night-time tears, fear and when morning came, there was just a scared little infant in bed and the adult was as far away as he has ever been. Joanne was thoroughly and irredeemable regressed and she would not and could not grow up. We had plans for that day. Adult plans. They were cancelled as there was no adult there – just an infant behaving at her youngest age level of 12 months old. The photo I have posted was of her playing with her two dollies, Alice and Cinderella and I took it because it typifies who she is and how I so often see her.
It was a difficult day. It was the deepest regression and it was difficult to communicate with her beyond limited baby talk or gestures. By evening she was communicating better but the following morning there she was again, very little and quite regressed. I felt like we were still back in the nursery level.
It took two full days for her to really return back to her place of balance and peace and I am reminded again that just as in the parenting of physical children, you can do all the right things and still get bad things happen. Joanne is normally a delightful and happy child when regressed and it is an exciting and happy time for her and for me. But those two days were difficult for us both because for at least one of those days, we had lost control over the regression.
I know some of you have similar experiences and it frustrates you. I still believe in the parent/child relationship and in its power to heal difficult circumstances, to save marriages and to bring order to disorder. But like everything else in our lives, sometimes it all just goes wrong…