My child has a life without me too

First weeks at daycare

A dear friend, whose daughter was born a month after Amie and is Amie’s only playdate buddy (I’m not exactly the gregarious type), just survived their first week of daycare.

The first week (for some, the second and third, too) of daycare is awash with waves of despair, glimmers of hope, heartwrenching goodbyes (“I will be back”) and tearful reunions. Our own first weeks, now 4 months ago, are still clear in my mind, and I should write about them soon.

Surprise!

But I want to remark on my friends’ amazement and confusion when she went to pick up her daughter at the end of the third day. Her daughter was climbing (backwards) down the stairs, by herself!

I remember well a similar experience we had. In the third week, we were having dinner one evening after daycare (Amie only goes three days a week). Baba and I were chatting, and Amie was doing a good job feeding herself. Suddenly she looked up from her bowl and said:

“Happy birthday” (sounding something like /happy b-IR-d-day/)

That got our attention – as did and does everything she says and does, by the way. The last time that we knew of that she heard the word “birthday” was at her birthday party five months ago. She must have heard it more recently, but where? Seeing our puzzled faces, she repeated it:

“Happy birthday, Laura.” (/Lauwaah/)

Laura is her lovely daycare provider. Then I remembered, yes, it was Laura’s birthday. It had been mentioned a couple of times last week.

Amie,  clearly encouraged by our insistant requests for confirmation and explanation (like we’re absolute idiots needing everything to be repeated back to us at least five times), piped up:

Cake!” (/kick/) 

And for good measure:

“Laura – happy birthday – cake!”

Again I could corroborate: when dropping Amie off that morning, I had seen a big cakebox. But it was she, Amie, the 17-month-old, who put two and two together.

And so here was, telling us a story about something that had happened. Before, all her chatter had consisted of descriptions of present situations, wishes (commands) and feelings. Now she thought back to the past, and related it to us. What a leap!

Shock!

But when I analyzed the experience later, I realized there was something else that made it all the more intense, and complex:

  • She had told us about something that she had experienced without/no thanks to us.
  • This proved that she is, in fact, a person outside of her home.

Many of you, reading this, may laugh. Perhaps you were never that naive, perhaps you were but have forgotten, perhaps you are like Amie’s Baba, who is wholly immune to such subtleties of emotive analysis… But for me, it was a profoundly disconcerting realization.

I analyzed that big blob of mother-emotion into these elements (there might be more, I’m still working on it):

  1. happy amazement, because she was doing something we hadn’t thought she could do,
  2. pride, that she can do it,
  3. confusion/alienation, because now there is suddenly a side to our child that we are not familiar with,
  4. fear, because it is confirmed now, something we always knew: she is exposed to experiences that we can’t control.

Growing up 

Of course I will realize it again and again, and after a while the novelty and shock of it will wear off. I will start to relish those stories, as they get clearer and more elaborate, and I will no longer be taken aback.

Then a day will come when her experience, and her story (which I do hope she will tell me) , will be so shocking (being bullied at school?) or wonderful (falling in love?), that I will realize it again: my daughter is her own self. A small self, at the moment, but growing, swelling with experiences of which I am not a part. She’s not even two, but she is already growing up.

(That’s rather soppy, I know, and so trite! I assure you am more the cool-analysis-of-my-fuzzy-warm-feelings  type. But this ending is where the post took me. Go figure!)

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