the toddler in your head

There’s a whiny, panicked toddler inside my head.

It’s 3am and I am jolted awake by a massively painful leg cramp. The kind of sudden, unexpected pain that makes your eyes water and throws your whole body into a panic – even more so when you were deep in REM sleep just seconds before. I get up and put my foot flat on the floor to stretch the calf muscle. I’m a grownup; I know what to do.

The pain is excruciating, and in the back of my mind there’s this toddler whining “make it stop, it hurts.”

I’m trying, damn it.

“makeitstop.makeitstop.makeitstop.” whines the toddler.

Give it 5 minutes and it will be gone. Just gotta soldier through it.

“no, it will never stop, never… make it stop. it will hurt forever!!!!!!” wails the toddler.

I begin to feel that creepy sort of unraveling feeling of the muscle loosening up again. Little twitchy spasms roll up and down my calf muscle. The toddler is softly whimpering now, “ouch, ouch, ouch.” Eventually, it seems I can move the leg without blinding pain. Yes, it’s over. I crawl back into bed and the toddler curls up and goes back to sleep.

In times of stress or pain, that toddler in our head often takes over and causes us to behave badly, act out and make bad decisions. That toddler is fear, plain and simple. Fear of the unknown, fear of pain, fear of attack, fear of change – just blind primal fear. Like any toddler, the toddler in our head needs to be given recognition, respect and compassion – but never control.

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