I made lists and mulled them over in the middle of the night. How much of Dash's behaviour was normal for a boy his age? How much of it was because he hadn't seen me that week or that month? How much of it was because anger flowed through the Hart household like lava? How much of it was me, my "overprotectiveness"? I would get down on myself as the clock ticked toward midnight. I tend to obsess about things. I'm probably just obsessing now. Maybe the experts were right to choose Peter over me. Have I so misjudged Dash's needs that he clings to his father? Dash is my first child. Have I done a bad job?
Then I'd swing back the other way. Surely the five years Dash and I spent together meant something. You can't pour your heart and soul into a child, spend every day with him, introduce him to music and food and have him nurtured at your breast, and have it go this badly. I had given him everything I had to give, all my security, all my confidence, all my love, and he had responded to it as children do. He had been happy. Most of the time he was still happy with me. When I saw him. I mulled it over and over and over. I read books on parenting. I talked to other moms about what I should expect from a eight-year-old boy. Each weekend when Dash didn't visit, or did but was withdrawn or angry, I would go to sleep with only one thought in my mind: If Dash was living with the parent he most needed to be with - Dr. Elterman's “excellent parent”, Dash's “psychological parent” - why wasn't he thriving? Why was he running from place to place and avoiding his father's home? Why did I never hear from him except when I called? Why didn't he need his mommy? Why was Dash's tolerance for ordinary discipline so low that, at the first sign of a rule, he ran off and hid behind the couch? Why had Dash's entire personality changed so radically in the space of three years?
But I could mull all I wanted. I needed help.