Updated: Aug 1
My three-year old daughter wanted to know why I was crying the other day. I would’ve liked to know myself. For months now, I’ve been looking forward to the day she’s old enough to go to Story Hour at the Library for one hour a week without me. She’s been in a 30-minute mommy-and-me story time for the last year, but now it’s time to move up to the big kid class.
I told her about it the other day, preparing her for when she goes back and I don’t go in with her. I told her how she’d go by herself with the teacher and the big kids. I was completely unprepared for the giant tears that started shooting out of my eyes as I explained it to her.
“Why are you crying, Mommy?”
I stared at her blankly, wondering why in the world I was crying when all I’d been dreaming about was the things I can do with that one hour a week – in town – alone. I finally said, “I think I’m feeling sad because I really like going to Story Time with you. It’s going to be hard for me not to go with you.”
Her response was precious. “Mommy, it’s okay. I’ll be right on the other side of the door. You can just come in and give me a hug if you need to.”
So I cried some more. Because my precious baby, the one I dreamed of and prayed for so long is now three. She’s one step away from pre-school. One hour a week will soon turn into 3 mornings a week. Then 5 days a week. It’s the beginning of her learning how to be independent.
I have to admit that I rarely thought about much more than the joy of BABIES in my dreams of motherhood. I imagined what it’d be like not to sleep because of a newborn, nursing, changing diapers, sweet baby cuddles, the joy of their first steps. But I didn’t think much about the toddler years and beyond.
I’ve taken the advice of so many people to soak it all in, make the most of every moment, don’t take it for granted… I’ve put the electronics away, looked them in the eyes while I rock them, smothered them with kisses, told them a million times how much I love them, and tried really hard not to get too worked up when they make a mess. I’ve tried to listen to every little thing they have to say, so make eye contact and let them know I’m interested in whatever they’re doing, and taught them how to pray.
I’m not sure how to soak in these moments that are to come though. The moments when I give away a little of my child to someone else, relinquish control, allow another person to influence my child. I don’t know how to savor the sweetness of their growing independence from me.
I can see why people keep having babies. There’s something almost panic-inducing when I realize the looks of adoration are fleeting these days. Quick! Let’s get another baby in here to fill up this hole in my heart! And maybe that’s okay. What a gift life is. What a blessing from God. Why not embrace it and fill your life up with it’s precious beauty?
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As I think about how to savor the moments when they leave me a little, I think the thing I need to do is remind myself of what the alternative is. I certainly don’t want them to stay in a state of baby-like dependence on me for the rest of their lives. Part of the joy of parenting must be seeing them make their own decisions, becoming their own person.
I’m so hopeful that when Eliana goes to Story Hour for the first time next week, my tears will have run their course and I’ll be able to leave her with a smile and reassurance that I’ll be okay. My little sugar, my sweet angel, is learning how to function without me. She’s learning to follow the instructions of a teacher. She’s learning to make friends. It’s a good thing. Right?