“DON’T GO, MOMMY,” she sobs, as I close the door to her room, my heart seizing as the door goes click. I make a beeline for the stairs, to hide in the part of the house where I can’t hear.
I am bereft. After an idyllic time reading books and cuddling together, why does our night always have to end like this?
Ten minutes later I dare to turn on the monitor, my whole body wired with fear. It’s quiet.
My daughter is two years old. I remember the first week she was home from the hospital, my mother-in-law told me I was going to have to get used to her crying. “It’s only my first week!”, I said at the time. Well, over a hundred weeks later, I can tell you, it doesn’t get any easier. If anything, the more she becomes a person — a talking person — the harder it gets. When she cries, it feels like my life is on the line – or as I put it once before, like someone has pulled a fire alarm.
I need to get over this. I can’t spend the rest of my life as a nervous wreck whenever she cries, or whenever she’s sad. She’s a human being, and the thing about us is, we get sad. We cry. And then it passes. As our household’s recent mascot, Daniel Tiger, says, “It’s ok to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you’ll feel better again.”
But when she wails my name, in seeming anguish — how can I let that roll off me? I don’t know the mechanism for that.
If anyone else I loved expressed that much pain, I wouldn’t tune them out. I know, she’s a toddler. Maybe these tears are just what she needs to unwind, to release before she can relax. Maybe she isn’t actually filled with existential despair at the thought of my leaving the room.
But what if she is?
What if in her skin, it really feels that awful, every single time?
When she was an infant, I was better able to accept the idea that she needed to “cry it out.” But now that she can talk… now that she can cry my name… detaching and thinking of her “just” as a baby who’s crying and not my Alison, is just impossible.
Wrenching. It is wrenching.
And I am needing. To detach.
This week she’s graduating to the big-kid room at daycare. On Sunday night, lying in bed, I wept. It took me off guard; I didn’t know I felt so strongly. “She’s been with them since she was three months old,” I sobbed to Jordan. “They love her. What if the women in the new room don’t love her?”
What if she’s scared? What if she feels alone?
Pain. Motherhood is so much pain.
Why isn’t my first thought, “What if she loves it? What if she’s stimulated and amazed?”?
I think those things too — but later.
Motherhood is forcing yourself to feel more than fear, more than pain.
Last week we had a blueberry picnic in the park. She gazed up at me, and said, so tenderly, “Mommy, your hair is so soft.” Then she sang me a song about my hair.
When I make her laugh, she says, “You a silly mommy.”
Sometimes, she bosses me around: “Mommy!!! Carry me!!!”
And then sometimes, she asks me, “Mommy? You ok?”