Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Separation, A Detachment.

She wakes up early, chanting Moooomeeeey, Moooomeeeey from her darkened bedroom. My insides already are working themselves into knots over what's to come:

A separation. A detachment after months of dependence.

I gather her warm, sleepy body into my arms and snuggle silently while we both take what we need of the other - she calmly nurses while I memorize her round cheek and wispy hair; her blue eyes only for me.

As we go about our morning, getting ready for her first day away, I would swear she's behaving as if she knows I'm abandoning her to the care of others. She doesn't chatter quite as extensively, she purses her mouth into that shy smile. The one that says, you are doing a fine job of pleasing me - only keep trying and you'll be rewarded with a perfect grin. She toddles around warily, clutching her blankie to her chest, and I'm suddenly terrified of causing her to feel fear.

Her sister wakes up unreservedly cheerful; prepared to take on the day. I watch as the older daughter's excitement infects the younger daughter, and remember how much fun there is to be had in life. We are ready now.

We go.

I am overcome with a feeling of leading a lamb to the slaughter. So irrational, and yet so firmly felt. I do not believe that today will go well. I believe, instead, that it will go so badly that I will have reason enough to withdraw from the program, to try again in another semester.

As we enter the room she will be staying in, she wraps her wary self around and through me, clinging to my well known solidity. Shutting out the unknown space and people around us. I speak to the teachers again, explaining her blankie. Her lambie. Her shyness. They understand; this is their life: walking babies through this transition.

I play with my child. I help her settle in, hoping - praying - for her to enjoy this time, rather than fear it. But not being able to trust in that hope. Because if I cannot approach this experience without fear, how can I expect my child to?

The time comes that she is engaged in some exciting new object. I know this is my moment to go. I do not sneak away, no. She must know that I've not disappeared. She must hear me say that I'll be back soon. In the pit of my belly, the knots are tightening, expecting to be torn apart by her confused expression - her wobbling chin.

I bend down one last time and quickly brush a kiss past her temple, into the place where her warmth and baby-scent are the most strongly concentrated; I will not go without taking this last necessary action. Selfish, yes, expecting to be comforted by breathing her in, and knowing that she will not have the same opportunity. But necessary nonetheless.

I tell her goodbye. I tell her I'll be back very soon. I start to walk away. Everything in me is desperate for a longer goodbye - more snuggling, more holding, more. But I know that will only make it worse.

So I leave.

Expecting the worst. Yet not altogether displeased by that, because I know I will have been granted the excuse I wish for to remove her from the class. My feelings will have been justified by her helplessness. Selfish, again. My fatal flaw.

I peek into the window as I go, to observe her reaction: she is playing. She is looking around, noticing I am no longer with her. She moves onto another toy. She studies a crying playmate. She cradles her blankie, and I wait for the inevitable -

But it never comes.

She is happy. She plays.

Unexpected.

But perfect. I find myself to be lighter. I float away, wondering at her strength, wondering at her adaptability. Two traits that have not been present in myself on this occasion.

She is happy.

I am happy.

19 comments:

  1. Wow. Beautifully written. I love this post!

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  2. This was so sweet... It'll be great for her to read when she's older. I'm glad everything turned out okay :) (Did you grab a donut afterward?)

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  3. Lenae - No, I didn't get a donut, because I was slightly sick to my stomach from the uber-sweet chocolate pancakes I made as a 'first day of school' special breakfast. YUM.

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  4. So glad it went well....beautiful post!!

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  5. Oh that is so sweet. So glad that it went well today.

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  6. Yay, so glad she was willling to give it a try. Lovely post!

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  7. Chocolate chip pancakes, or chocolate pancakes? The former are a staple for us when we have our girls. mmmmm.

    I'm glad it went well. I wouldn't mind something like that for Rhett; I think he needs the amusement.

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  8. Rebecca - The pancakes were just chocolate. It was a 'recipe' from a boxed devils food cake mix, and it did call for chocolate chips as well but I was pretty far out of my normal healthy breakfast league already, so I skipped them. I need to find a choc chip recipe, though. That does sound good.

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  9. What a big girl! And Lauren did great too! Glad to hear everything went well. Hopefully she will continue to enjoy her time there.

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  10. Oh, I'm so glad it went well! It's always a relief when it's harder on us, isn't it?

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  11. Beautiful post!

    I've left my girl at the child care center at the YMCA a few times. And I always struggle with saying goodbye. Do I wait until she's busy with something and slip away? Ask a teacher to distract her? Sometimes she's perfectly happy without me there; other times she cries nonstop until I get back...

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  12. Wow, you are a brave lady. I don't think I could've done it, but I'm very glad it went well for you guys. Now I'm all affected by these last two posts, though, because I'm thinking I must be the only parent who is cool with her kids not being totally, comfortably independent in new social settings. Thanks a lot, Sarah, my brain is going to be occupied with this for awhile!

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  13. I'm so glad it went well! All those prayers were certainly answered!

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  14. Diane - No, I'm totally cool with them clinging to me and not being independent, too :) Only, now I'm also learning to appreciate their small bursts of independence. For today anyway. When college comes, I may have a different attitude. Something along the lines of PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME!

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  15. Oh, this was wonderful. And so sad. And I TOTALLY know the feeling now.

    I let my daughter walk to class by herself for the first time today and it just about killed me.

    Being a parent is so much harder emotionally than I expected!

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  16. So sweet and painful. Thanks for putting those feelings into words and for sharing them with us. I'm glad it went as well as it did for you both.

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  17. oh i have GOT to try the chocolate pancakes. clara would be in heaven.

    for chocolate chip pancakes, just add the chips while they are frying. easy as that!

    p.s. i posted my birth experience/thoughts on western birth post today, but it is long.

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  18. Beautiful post! You have a real talent for capturing complicated feelings, and I am so glad things worked out so well!

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  19. I'm glad it went well. It's wonderful that you have the chance for your daughters to get used to being away from you for short periods. My son went from being with me all the time to being in daycare 10 hours a day when he was 18 months old and I had to start working out of financial necessity. Leaving him there crying was one of the hardest things I've had to do as a mom. Fortunately, he only had to be in daycare for about two months, but they were probably the worst two months of my life (and his).

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?