Raising Mary: Separation Anxiety


Raising Mary: Thoughts from a stay-at home mom

PARENTSCANADA ASKED TRACY:
Tell us your experience with separation anxiety.

Separation. A noun. The act or process of separating; the place at which a division or parting occurs.
If you’re a mother, your baby is only completely yours when she is in the womb. She is born. The cord is cut and suddenly there’s space between the two of you and an inevitable series of separation begins. You can’t keep her for yourself – eventually, you have to send that baby out in the Since I’m home with Mary, she hasn’t had the exposure to other kids her age that children in daycare get. We decided preschool a few times a week would let her socialize and prepare for ‘real’ school next year. (Side benefits are quality time with my baby, Adelaide, and a little more free time for me.)
I prepared for a meltdown when I dropped her off.
“Mommy, GO!”
That’s what I got instead. It was after I’d said goodbye for the sixth or seventh time. So much for separation anxiety.
For Mary anyway.
I was all shaky. I trudged back to the car and drove away, leaving her alone in the care of strangers for the fi rst time. I went to the grocery store and looked through a film of tears as I walked down the cereal aisle, stood in a funk in front of the dairy case.
Don’t worry; I’m not totally pathetic. By the second time I dropped her off, I had gaily embraced the freedom, the ease that comes with caring for only one child. (Now that we have two, we find it funny we ever thought one was a lot of work.) Mary would greet me with a smile at drop-off and pick-up.
P
retty good for a kid who’s only been home with her mother for the first 34 months of her life – a mother who finds it hard to leave her overnight even in the care of loving grandparents, and who has yet to employ a babysitter who isn’t family. I thought we’d gotten off easy.
But, oh, it was coming. We went away on vacation, and the first time I took her to preschool after we were back, it was the worst you could imagine. It was Mary reaching for me with arms outstretched, being held back by the teacher, screeching “Mommy,” tears and snot streaming down her grimacing face. I knew it would be worse if I lingered, so I put on a cheerful smile, told her I’d be back later, and left. (I called half an hour later to make sure she was okay. She had recovered and was painting a picture about a minute after my departure.)
The next few times, her apprehension would begin as soon as a preschool morning would dawn. I’d remind her it was a school day. “But I love you,” she’d say plaintively. In the hallway at the preschool, she’d be cheerful until it was time for me to walk her into the classroom. Then her big eyes would well up, her lips would tremble, and my heart would break a little all over again. At the end of one day, she was playing happily with the kids when I arrived. But as soon as she saw me, she whispered “Mommy,” and wept. “I was sad when you weren’t with me.” We were starting to wonder if she was undergoing deep emotional trauma. This went on for a few weeks, but she fi nally readjusted. The last time I picked her up, she didn’t even want to leave. Phew. First separation, complete.

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