My daughter was all mine for a long time. On her first Thanksgiving, we went to my mother’s house a few miles away. We planned to eat at precisely her nap-time, so I thought I’d nurse her and lay her down to sleep on my mom’s bed.
My daughter, after three months on earth, declared in her baby-way that she was not happy to see the strange faces–my brother and his wife, my sister and her family, my mother. She revved up her engines, filled up her lungs and began to scream.
I couldn’t calm her. Finally, exasperated and frustrated, I left my other children and drove home with her. Once in a familiar environment, away from other people, she nursed and went to sleep.
From that day on, no one but my husband or I could hold her. When church people peered too closely into her blue eyes, she screamed. She cried if someone touched her. She clung to me like a koala bear in a tree when people stood near.
I hardly ever put her down because she’d cry. I cooked with her perched on my hip, I ate with her slung across one shoulder, I carried laundry baskets with one hand. A friend accused me of never putting her down saying, “She’ll never walk since her feet never touch the ground.” (She walked at eleven months, though.)
No one could take care of her but me (and her daddy, though she’d whimper and ask, “Where’s mommy?” as soon as she could pronounce the right words.) I didn’t spend a night away from her until she was three years and three months old.
She’s never had a babysitter, other than her grandma. (She still won’t let her grandma hold her.) She refuses to stay in the church nursery. She’s never been to preschool.
I would explain to people that she was shy, that she was slow-to-warm-up. She was my fourth child and I knew that I hadn’t made her this way. She simply was who she was. Still, I know people thought I was coddling her and quite possibly, ruining her.
Today, she waved good-bye to me and–at her own request–went to her little friend’s house. (Her friend is almost 2 years old–we have been babysitting him since he was a tiny baby.) Yesterday, she went to her other friend’s house–they’ve been pals since they were a year old. I couldn’t believe that my baby climbed into someone else’s car, buckled up and waved bye-bye.
Both times, when I picked her up, she whined and begged to stay. What happened to my clingy baby? Is she really going to go out into the wide world without me? What is this?
I have such mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s a sort of burden to be the sole source of everything for one small person. The house was so quiet tonight without her constant demands. It was strange to relax without being interrupted every three minutes.
On the other hand, hey! Don’t you miss me? Remember me? Your mommy, the one who held you for hours on end and who woke up every two hours for eleven months to nurse you?
My baby will be four in a week and a half. She’s growing up. She’s practically registered her college courses, gotten a secret tattoo (against my wishes), earned her MBA and met the man she’ll marry. Tomorrow, she’ll probably walk down the aisle and have a couple of kids.
At least it will seem like it.