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.