This summer I will start the dreaded process that most stay at home moms who have never left their kids before don’t like to talk about—separation. My daughter is starting preschool in the fall and I signed her up for a transitional summer camp program three days a week for three hours. I am dreading it like a high school reunion I never wanted to attend. Dreading it to the point where I have been bringing the topic up to fellow moms. The conversation goes something like this:
“Ugh, I can’t stop thinking about separating. I mean, I just want to protect her forever.” I’d muse as I hold onto my four-month old for dear life in her Bjorn—she still has time.
“But it will be good for her. It will help shape her and make her stronger.” A fellow mom says as we watch our kids playing with a farm, my daughter stuffing markers through the farm doors and windows, because her farm totally would be a marker farm—girl is obsessed with her art.
“I know.” I say I know, but I am not really sure I really mean it.
I do know some things. I know my daughter will be fine physically separating. It may be rough the first couple of goodbyes and tears will be shed no doubt, but eventually she will be okay and so will I. It will become our new routine, our new normal. If anything, it will probably be me having to get pulled away, maybe a security guard or two will be called, maybe I will camp out and spy on her with binoculars. We will see, but we will both get through it one way or another.
My daughter is very social and active so she will love everything about summer days filled with sports, swimming, other kids—I can’t even make an argument to not let her go. There is one thing I worry about. When I hear it’s good for them to separate the reasons I hear are: so they can become more independent, stronger, it toughens them up. I hate all of these reasons. Why do we live in a world where kids have to be tough? Is it bad that I want my kids to keep their innocence as long as possible? Is it bad that going to school to me means it’s the start of this shedding of innocence process taking form?
I am afraid because I won’t be there to fiercely protect her the way I have been since she was born. The second she was put on my chest and we did skin-to-skin I knew she was the new love of my life. I would do anything for this little being and as a mother I have been. If a classmate is being mean, I won’t be there to pull her away from that little asshole and tell the kid “pushing is not nice. Be gentle.” I won’t be there to comfort my daughter when she is crying, tears racing down her cherub cheeks. I think about this constantly and all I want to do is hold on to these next couple of months, take her back into my womb, and never let her experience rejection of any kind.
Part of this thinking probably stems from my own experiences. I am five years in recovery from a long-standing battle with eating disorders. I used my eating disorder as protection—to numb out when life got hard, a coping mechanism. If I was bingeing and purging, I didn’t have to deal with mean kids or not fitting in. If I was focused on my eating disorder I wouldn’t get hurt. The reality is, I did get hurt, worse than another person could ever hurt me. I always wonder if I were in a world where you didn’t have to armor up–become stronger and tougher—and too nice wasn’t a weakness, would I even have an eating disorder? Probably not.
What if my daughters are too sensitive like me? Now, I am strong because I have been through a lot— I became strong, learned new coping mechanisms, learned how to defend myself and not people please up the wahzoo, but I don’t want my daughters to go through what I went through to deal with this world. I’d love them to be able to keep their innocence yet I know that is impossible.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately as the date approaches.
So when I drop my daughter off and she runs off playing with her soon to be new friends or holds onto me for dear life, I don’t know how I will get myself out of the classroom door. I know she is not me. She is already a way better version. She is sweet and sensitive but has an amazing sense of humor mixed with a little pizazz-girl has some spice! I know she will be okay. I will have to give her a big hug and kiss and be strong for her. I will size up her pint sized classmates and pray they are a nice bunch or call a hit out on each one of them. And I will always be there to support her and hold her hand on the sidelines, guiding her as best as I can, so she doesn’t fall victim to self-destruction in the face of adversity like I once did.
I just can’t help but be sad because I know the day I drop her off it is inevitable that my daughter will never be the same.