I’m not sure how other parents are affected by the arrival of children in their lives, but for me, it was like a switch got flipped the second my firstborn took her first breath. In that flicker of time, my nurture-and-protect mechanism went from fairly non-existent to full-tilt-boogie.
Now, between the ages of newborn and two or three, no one bats an eye when you go into vicious-mama-bear-protecting-her-cub mode. It’s expected. But then our little darlings start to branch out. Start sniffing at the new world via preschool and playdates.
One of the hardest things for me to figure out as my girls have grown is knowing when it’s time for me to cut another thread on the apron strings.
Yesterday, I cut another string. And, frankly, I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
It was the dreaded moment any working couple faces:
Can’t Miss Meetings at Work + Sick Kid + No One to Cover Sick Kid = Oh, Shit
Now hubby is more than happy and able to help out covering kiddos 99.9% of the time, and I’ve got a wonderfully flexible employer, which makes the “Can’t Miss Meetings” few and far between. But yesterday was the perfect storm. I was already at work, tasks lined up deeper than I feared I could tackle, when my ten year-old called me crying so hard she could barely talk. It was her stomach.
Now, I’m pretty good with triage. It’s one of my strengths. My brain leapt to the occasion and in about a nanosecond processed that hubster and I were in deep doo-doo. He had auditors to lead around at work and I had a guy coming in from out of town for an interview. No way could I get home to cover until mid-morning at the earliest. So, we tried something new…
The ten year-old flew solo for two hours.
Longest two hours of my life.
I worried that something would happen before I could get there. That she’d open the door to some stranger even though she swore she wouldn’t. That someone would pick that particular moment to break in and see if we had any Christmas goodies yet. That she was suffering from appendicitis instead of a stomach bug and would be dead before I could get there.
Ok, so maybe that last one is a bit melodramatic. But I don’t think I’m the only mom who churns up worst-cast scenarios when it comes to their kids.
In the end, everything was fine. I got home to find her curled up, asleep in bed with the dog cozzied next to her. I got her up and shuffled her off to the doc who assured me all was well and good with my girl except for a stomach bug.
<Insert very deep exhale here.>
I’m still processing leaving her alone. Hubby, who’s way less emotional about this stuff (thank God), said, “See, I told you she could do it.” He’s usually the stronger of the two of us when it comes to cutting threads to the apron strings, but this (for me anyway) seems to be a REALLY BIG STRING.
Has anyone else struggled with this? Determining the “just right” time in a kiddo’s life where you think they can really fly solo? When you know they’ll make good judgment calls without you there to guide them?
I’m sure I’ll have more opportunities to deal with this in the near future. Kiddo has now had a taste of flying solo and isn’t nearly as nervous…but I think mommy’s gonna need a breather before we give it another go.
T.D. HartDecember 4, 2013 at 10:16 am
You nailed the feelings I had the first time I was stuck in the same I’m-a-crappy-mother boat. Hard enough leaving a kid home alone the first time. Magnify that by a BILLION when said kiddo is puny.
We’re still judicious about who gets to stay home, and for how long. And the rules are strict: No answering the door or phone (unless it’s me), no going outside to play, and no cooking (not even the microwave.)
But I will say this. There’s a new feeling of freedom knowing your ‘chicks’ can survive without your presence for a couple of hours. Now I make solo runs to the store, to the gym, and to pick up the rest of the brood from school or games without having to herd the nestlings (amid much squawking and pecking) to the minivan.
Next step: Save the minivan for long trips and get Momma Hen a hot ride!
RhennaDecember 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm
Can totally see you in a ‘vette.
Gretchen WingDecember 4, 2013 at 10:24 am
It is so hard because kids are so individual. You can get all the advice you want–including some really bad advice, and some gems–but in the end it still comes back to your own kid, his/her skills, your particular neighborhood circumstances, your own comfort levels…all that fun stuff. That’s why each of us has to go through this on our own! (I wrote a song about this…”Hard to Let Go.” It’s about swallows, nominally…like your picture.)
Jackie KramerDecember 4, 2013 at 2:13 pm
Did you forget you RETIRED PED NURSE buddy? Why didn’t you call me?
RhennaDecember 5, 2013 at 6:33 am
D’oh! I will not make that mistake again. Gotta see how you and your shiny new knees are doing on stairs first though. My stairs will give you a workout. 🙂
CJ BurrightDecember 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm
For me, once I dropped my daughter off at preschool and she basically blew me off instead of clung to me and cried, I knew she’d be fine flying solo. She’s turned out to be a confident, independent, amazing (if I do say so myself) young woman, and now it’s more about getting her to come home once in a while from college. Funny how those roles reverse… 🙂
SusanDecember 5, 2013 at 7:22 am
When my oldest son was ten or so, we had chicken pox. (Is that how you spell it?) Anyway, I’d stayed home for a week with #3 (at that time a three-year-old) then another week with #2 (at that time a five-year-old). When #1 (10 years old) came up spotty, I HAD to get back to work. There was too much stuff I hadn’t been able to do at our Pharmacy.
We lived in Pryor Creek, about four miles from work, in a neighborhood just outside of town. So every morning we’d go over the rules again–don’t open the door to ANYONE. Don’t go outside. Don’t cook. No science experiments. I’d go to work, come home at noon and feed the boy, go back to work for a few hours, then run home again.
By the time all three were better, I was exhausted! 🙂 But we survived. (I haven’t heard how traumatized he was by the time it was over, but I’m sure I will.)