On Sunday afternoon, we dropped Elena off at her first sleep-away camp. As I helped Elena label and pack her things into a plastic tote last weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder how we got here.
I can so easily see myself 10 years ago, molded to the couch cushions and nursing her for what felt like the entire day. I’m sweaty, overweight and frustrated. She’s sweaty, tiny and colicky. I hated it so much when more seasoned mothers and grandmothers would tell me to treasure this time, that they grow up so quickly. There wasn’t anything I treasured about sleep deprivation and leaky boobs.
I don’t feel like it went by quickly, and yet I can’t quite believe that we are where we are. That we dropped her off 2 hours from home with people we’ve never met, that we won’t talk to her once until we pick her up on Friday.
You know what I think is so hard about this transition into adolescence? Not knowing how much independence to give them. Some parents struggle with letting go. That’s never been the hard part for me. I struggle with knowing if I’m giving her too wide a berth. Is this the problem parents of independent spirits have? My fear is that we assume she’s ready for things before it’s time. Not camp – she’s so ready for this adventure, but the bigger things. Are we preparing her well or setting her adrift? How does one really know?
Looking back, it seems like despite the sleeplessness and endless diapers, it was easier then. I read parenting book after parenting book. Questions about sleep cycles? There’s a book for it. I had a book on discipline for preschoolers from A to Z. I had books on vaccines, natural health remedies, how to feed your baby and toddler, what to read to your kids and when, potty training.
And now? When the stakes are so much higher? I have nothing. Nothing but blind faith and intuition. Which, really, is what gets you through the early years anyways. You just don’t know it then. The endless manuals were just a crutch. Now we are gimping along without the crutch, but we are still moving.
The first night after I dropped her off I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep. My mind was racing, not just with thoughts of whether she was okay, having fun, missing us, etc, but just pinballing from one parents’ general worry to another. This never happens to me. I’ve been feeling a bit lost and anxious all week.
It reminds me once again of those early days of motherhood. Those first few times I ventured out without the baby felt like this – a bit lost and anxious. I’d go to the store and forget what I needed once I got there. I’d have an incredible urge to wander the bookstore, Target, any place really, by myself, then get my hall pass and feel panicked until I got back. I kept thinking I forgot the baby somewhere … I’d even check the top of the car before driving away to make sure I didn’t forget the baby there nestled in the car seat.
I have to remind myself that as panicky and worried as I was back then, it all turned out fine. I have kids that can feed themselves, sleep through the night, use the toilet, and are generally bright, fun little people to be around. And God-willing, with the same faith, intuition, and well-timed cocktail, these little people and I will make it through adolescence as well.
One day at a time and baby steps, even though these days aren’t spent nursing them on the couch nonstop and their steps take them further and further away. It’s still one day at a time and baby steps.