We have entered the full-fledged separation anxiety stage … and it flat-out sucks.
I don’t get nearly enough time with Maya each day as it is, and since last week, she’s been crying and clinging to my leg — arms pointing “up” — as soon as she sees me go for my coat and laptop bag. She stands at the gate to the kitchen and cries. It’s absolutely heart-breaking. As soon as I pick her up … the tears stop but I see that tomato-red face streaked with tears and my heart heaves … a lot. Eventually, though, I need to get to work or I’ll be late.
It’s become a daily struggle and it’s not ending any time soon. Apparently, between 18 months and 2 1/2 years it levels off — we just happened to get to this stage pretty late … for better or for worse.
Each workday (except Fridays, when I work from home with my peanut) Luis does drop-off and I do pick-up because it’s what makes the most sense for our family (we live closer to his work than mine; daycare is a mile from his office) but also because, frankly, I can’t handle the idea of willingly leaving her. I’d much rather pick her up at the end of the day.
This system has worked for us from the very beginning … but now even at pick-up, she’s often hysterical when she sees me. One of two things happen.
1) She’ll see me and burst into tears immediately …
2) She’ll be mid-play, hear my voice, turn around with this huge grin on her face, run toward me … only to dissolve into real tears as soon as she gets into my arms. And every time this happens, a piece of me dies. It’s like she worries I’m here, and fears I’m going to leave from the same door from which I came.
This weekend was a huge test for us. I was a bridesmaid in my BFF since 6th grade’s wedding in the Berkshires (Massachusetts). Well, it was the same weekend as Luis’s real MBA graduation from University of Michigan (the December graduation Maya and I went to on her birthday was actually the winter commencement, not the Ross Business School’s graduation in particular) so he stayed behind with Maya and went to his graduation and they had a lovely daddy-daughter weekend … but it was my first time away from her more than 24 hours, and certainly my first time being so far away from her geographically.
Given the recent spate of separation anxiety, I had deep hesitation about going. Fortunately, my flight was at 5:40 AM so it’s not like she was awake to see me leave, but it was a really bizarre feeling to be SO far away from her.
As it turned out, we didn’t have cell reception at the venue (where I stayed two nights) so I had to trust that things were OK at home and, when we went into town, I was able to connect with Luis and confirm that things were, indeed, fine. I did like hearing I was missed by both of them 😉
Unfortunately, when she heard my voice on the phone, she cried. It totally crushed me. Luis said she was tired, but I knew better. She knew I wasn’t there. I forgot that this same thing had happened in February when she and I went to see my family and he had stayed here with Rocco — she cried when she saw him on Skype. Kids know who Mama and Dada are, and they know when they’re not there!!! In a way, it was a tease to her — to hear me, but not be able to see me. ;(
Anyway, this is a whole new phase for us. I know the best way to deal with it is the Band-Aid method, but it’s so hard to just walk away when you know how needed/wanted/loved you are. As a mother, you’re your child’s everything … and there’s truly nothing more powerful than that.
Last night, she was rubbing her eyes at 6:30 so after dinner and a little play-time, I put her in her crib and rubbed her back. She seemed to be asleep quickly so I tip-toed out. I heard silence, and then ten minutes later, some whimpering. Whimpering that, had I not been away from her for two nights, I probably would have let her cry it out.
So I went in and put her over my shoulder. She lay there, breathing into my neck that sweet baby breath that touches ever fiber of your being. She was definitely sleepy, so we moved to the rocker where I cradled her in my arms as she curled her legs into a comfortable position (chubby ankles crossed).
[I couldn’t help but remember days when she was so itsy-bitsy tiny that she’d slip from my arms while breastfeeding, had I not had the Boppy pillow in my lap].
Within minutes, her eyes were fluttering. I looked down and smiled at her and she just let out the world’s biggest, double-dimpled grin I’ve ever seen, the smile playing on her lips, as if saying to me, “I’m OK now that you’re back, Mommy. I had fun with Daddy, but I missed you. I’m happy now.”
With that, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
It’s moments like that when I realize I’d suffer through all the separation anxiety and teething drama again if it meant we’d have precious moments like that.
How about you? When did your kids experience separation anxiety, and how did you handle it? Any tips for this mama?