Wednesday, March 25, 2009
"Phantom limb" is a well-known phenomenon wherein an amputee experiences sensation (often pain) that seems to emanate from the amputated limb. I have a similar symptom, and I propose that it be called "phantom toddler." When I am alone in the house, I always hear periodic cries of distress emanating from the bedroom - the exact sounds my toddler makes when he wakes from a nap and feels disoriented/cranky/lonely/pee-ish. Hearing this cry while I am home alone is like being awoken abruptly from a pleasant dream by an alarm clock; adrenaline rushes through my system, my body tenses, and I am confusedly dismayed to be so inexplicably, unexpectedly interrupted. The feeling only lasts a split-second, just long enough for me to realize that my baby is not in the house and thus cannot possibly be crying for my attention in the bedroom. My heartbeat slows, and I return to what I had been doing before, but it takes some time for me to feel entirely at peace again. As evening-pickup-time nears, the phantom toddler becomes more and more insistent, and the cries come relentlessly, every five to ten minutes, entirely disrupting my chains of thought and action. When the phantom toddler becomes entirely unbearable, and my tension is ratcheted up as far as it will go, I put on my shoes and coat and go to the babysitter's to pick up my real toddler, who is always waiting eagerly to be brought home.