Separation Anxiety

I’m a bit maudlin today. Earlier this morning I stealth cried into my daughter’s hair while listening to a Kimbra CD (the emotional equivalent of crying at a Disneyland).

You see, I’m having a hard time handling Riley’s maturation.

I know what you’re thinking. “You, Kelly? But you handle everything with such ease, hardly a ruffle in your outer veneer of total competence.”

I know. I too am baffled. I actually expected to enjoy this part of parenting quite a bit. My mother seemed to enjoy it. And during those sleepless nights when my babies only wanted me to hold them I thought wistfully of their future independence. Both of my children were very attached to me.

True, Conor would sprint toward traffic if given a moment’s chance. But that was only because he knew how much I enjoyed the heart attack and subsequent chase, while toting a diaper bag and insensible shoes. He’s a thoughtful boy, that one.

Riley, however, would hardly leave my side to play at the park. You could always count on her to stay close in stores or any other public forum. She craved my closeness. I appreciated her attachment, but at the same time I wanted some confidence for her, some sense that all would be okay if she wasn’t holding my hand.

So here it is.

This weekend Riley slept over at her best friend’s house two nights in a row. She prefers to sleep at their house. They have a pool. Totally understandable. Riley now prefers the company of her best friend to mine and then spends whatever time she and I have together talking about her best friend and what they did together. I get that. I remember how that was. I am happy that she found some assurance in the world outside of my arms.

Well maybe happy is too simple a word. If you took happiness, added misery and heartbreak and then mixed it up into a muddy swirl of ambivalence you would be closer to how I feel about my daughter’s mounting independence. My little girl is separating from me. It reminds me of the time my mom had to rip off the rest of my big toe nail after a gruesome toe-stubbing. Only this is bloodier and deeper and hasn’t been followed by a trip to The King’s Table buffet restaurant.

And I know that further separation is inevitable and the thought of it eviscerates my tender mommy emotions. Dang it! I hate being a needy pile of mush. Please tell me that I’m not going to spend day after day staring out my bedroom window while singing George Michael’s Careless Whisper badly and full of feeling.

I am, aren’t I?

I can’t say I wasn’t warned, hadn’t watched other women go through this or listened to them talk about it. But I honestly didn’t think it would apply to me. I swear to God, I thought I would handle this transition sh!t smoothly. In no way did I anticipate that I would miss her so badly while she was still living in my home. Nor did I see myself mooning over her baby pictures, longing to smell her baby breath once more.

Ah, baby breath. It smells like love dipped in sweet cream. And there is absolutely no way to save it for posterity. I have Riley’s first shoes in a box, but what I really want is her baby breath in a bottle and the smell of her baby head on my pillow at night.

I am psychotic.

I’m not the only one who’s suffering here. Conor is also struggling with the changes in his sister. He’s baffled that the girl who used to dote on him, suddenly doesn’t want him around, doesn’t want to include him when she’s playing with her friend, doesn’t think anything he says is cute or funny. When she spends the night elsewhere, Conor asks where she is. Hourly. His heartbreak is second only to mine.

Maybe we can sing a duet of Careless Whisper. I should teach him the words.

21 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety

  1. Christine says:

    Damn it, Kelly. You made me cry. This scares the crap out of me. I am just a year or so off from having my turn at it. Know that her confidence and self-possession are the direct results of your love and affection in her formative years. You must be a damn good mama if she is already spreading her wings.

    p.s. Kelly, huh? I thought it was just Fathead.

  2. Somehow my toenail started to ache hearing about your daughter’s independence… Ouch, maybe you could put in a pool?

  3. Courtney says:

    I agree with Christine. And your singing Careless Whisper to yourself while staring out the window CRACKS ME UP! This reminds me of Sandra Tsing Loh saying in one of her books that she would sometimes touch one of the ‘leaves’ on a potted cactus at her house and sigh to herself, “Ah, me.”

  4. You so perfectly captured that moment when they start growing up. It is tough. That’s not really what’s going on in my house. My Little One actually cried this morning when he found out I wasn’t leaving and asked if I could “please leave”. Thanks son. And the Teen never wants to be around me anymore. You get used to it, not all the way, but enough.

    • When you talked about waiting for your daughter to get home without texting her a bazillion times being harder than dealing with a colicky baby, I thought, “yes! That is so true!” I do hope I develop a thicker skin where she is concerned.

  5. Kathy V. says:

    I would leave you a nice long comment, but I have to go hug my baby now.

  6. “Ah, baby breath. It smells like love dipped in sweet cream.” Totally gorgeous. Beautiful prose all around. Like Kathy V I’ve gotta go though, the ankle biters are driving me nuts and I need to find some kind of farm camp or something to send them to next week…. =)

  7. Awwww, Kelly. You nearly made me get emotional just now. If it makes you feel any better, Riley and her best friend will eventually have a spat and she’ll be back in your arms, begging you to console her. And then she’ll find a new best friend. This pattern will repeat itself until she is one day settled into her career and partnered up – and then she’ll start calling you daily and you’ll become her best friend. I talk to my mother at least once a day. She drives me crazy but she’s one of my favorite people in the world. All you can do now is be there for her when she needs you. Deep down, you will always be her favorite!

    BTW, did you notice that you won a shitload of awards over on my blog? Come collect them, my dear!

    • I so hope that one day she will call me daily over her Ketel One cocktail. She’ll cuss like a sailor and it will make me giggle through tears when I remember the first time she said, “fucking around” when she was just 3.
      Coming to collect my awards. Does one of them come with a car? I could really use one of those.

      • Erm, I one is the Kreative Blogger Award, so you’re welcome to be Kreative-with-a-K and create a new award graphic for one…that includes a photo of a car. I’m afraid that we’re a one car family. Should I be on the lookout for a used pair of roller skates?

      • If you can hook a motor on the back of those roller skates, I’ll take that. I’ll just strap the kids to my back (with helmets for safety).

  8. Colleen says:

    Beautiful blog Kelly. Your writing is just amazing!

    They grow so very fast. Then they have a sweet little angel girl of their own. And you will hold her the way you held your daughter, shower her faces with kisses and hear her giggle.

    I know it is hard now…but one of these days…it will be all worth it.

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