Let me preface with saying that I don't have this all figured out. You know, this whole 'mothering' thing. It's one of my dreams to be able to write a book and when people ask, "About what?" I usually respond with, "That's the problem, I'm not quite sure." Being Mom is one of my greatest passions, but in their mere three and four years, I don't feel like I have quite enough to say to write a BOOK. Perhaps I'll get there though, simply with documenting and sorting out thoughts here? Time will tell.
Anyway, since I have been home with my kids, no longer working a Monday-Friday eight hour day, things look vastly different from what they did. Our kids have always had an in-home sitter, albeit a few different ones over the years, but they've never had to be cared for outside of the home. [Minus the first few months of Pierson's life when my generous mother-in-law watched him.] Both kids have always been fine with us working, because that's all they've ever known. Leaving and coming home, no tears or fussing or emotional messes, but that's all changed. My daughter Reese is three and a half. She is bold and daring and brave and adventurous, but another side has appeared since I've been home--and that's her anxious side. To us, it doesn't make sense; we are baffled, confused, frustrated and often emotionally exhausted because of her lately drastic tantrums. "Over what?" you may wonder. Well she's not having tantrums and whining about toys, clothing, or food...
She's anxious about me.
Heaven forbid Mom leave her sight, especially once her dad comes home. Maybe she feels the need to compete for my attention when he walks in the door? I'm not really sure what she is feeling because she can't communicate well enough about that specifically yet. She's bright as can be and actually socially advanced for her age; but when I ask, "Reese, why don't want Daddy to put you down?" she responds with, "Because I want YOU, Mommy."
Recently I turned to Facebook, (what else do you do as a Mom in this era?) and made a general status inquiry. Any other moms' kids have anxiety when away from them? And by golly, you better believe it was a ten for ten YES. Today I went to a Moms' Day Out group with a friend and not knowing more than half of the women, I decided to ask the same question. Pretty much all of them have had or have something similar going on with their kids; usually in the 2-3.5 age range, but none of us could really pinpoint WHY. Why is it always mom? At least with one of the kids? My son definitely still prefers me with some of our routines, but I think that's just how children are wired in their chemistry? Maybe I'm wrong, but I really feel like all the kids I know want their mamas at bedtime, mama to tuck them in one more, mama to check on them in the middle of the night. But he's at least better about my husband DOING things for and with him.
Like giving him a bath. Taking him out of the bath. Brushing his hair. Getting dressed. Getting put to bed. You get the point.
But my DAUGHTER won't have it. When I'm home and physically present in some room of the house, she begs and pleads and let's just call it for what it is--she DEMANDS me. "Mommy come in and give me a bath. Mommy get me out of the bath! Mommy brush my hair. Mommy put my jammies on. Mommy put me down."
I actually wrote a post in January 2016 titled Mommy Put Me Down, and here we are, one year later, and it might actually be "worse?" Worse isn't the word perhaps, I just mean it's increased, and there's an anxiety about her that hasn't quite been there before; or at least that had gone unnoticed? There's something about me being home, that translates in her mind, while I am physically in the house, I should never be away from her. If I'm downstairs finishing things up or tidying up dinner for example, she checks with my husband constantly, asking, "When will Mommy be up? When will Mommy be done?"
My mom says that I was this way as a kid as well. I had a lot of anxiety and always wanted to be near her. But she always thought it was because she was gone a lot to take my brother who has special needs, to things like doctor appointments or school meetings, etc; and I was always nervous about when she'd come back. Well, I don't have obligations like that? I'm here, all the time, and Reese doesn't ever have to worry about the places I need to be. And actually, when I DO have things like photo sessions or meetings out of the house, she does fine. The childcare at the gym? She doesn't bat an eye. She gives me an extra hug or two but loudly yells, "Bye, Mommy!! I love you, Mommy!" and goes on to play. It's just HOME. And when she knows I am here, she doesn't think she needs anyone else.
She needs me.
If you're reading this and nodding your head; if you're like, "Oh yes, this is how it is in my household too," then maybe we just need to lean in on each other. I think about the children who lose their mothers at a young age, and those thoughts freeze me emotionally. I don't want my children to suffer with anxiety. I don't want them to deal with grief or trauma or turmoil. But I don't get to decide that. I don't pick and choose life events, I don't have a clue the experiences they will go through.
All I can do is be enough. When you are all she (or he) needs, just be there. I'm twenty-eight and clearly I don't suffer from separation anxiety from my mom; but I do still NEED her. I'm not sure if other adult women talk to their moms as often as I do, but I sure hope and pray that Reese will need me the way I need mine when SHE'S all grown up!
This season is hard. It really feels like we are in the trenches of parenting Reese, and constantly I pray that God would teach me how to be EXACTLY the mom she needs. A lady from the group this morning shared something SO powerful I wanted to tell you all about. She said her eight-year old recently has been struggling with extreme anxiety when they have to be apart. She's read a lot of books and said she's always been the mom who ravishes her girls for being strong and brave and bold; but that she doesn't spend a lot of time focusing on them also being beautiful. That's kind of the generation we are currently in I think, because most of us women are like, "You're pretty but that doesn't matter! Look how SMART you are!" In a recent book she read, she learned something new that drastically gave her sweet daughter peace. This woman said she sat down with her daughter in a recent panic episode, and told her this:
"You are brave and smart, you are kind, and wonderful. You are beautiful and you are LOVED."
I almost started to cry when she shared, because what a benediction of sorts those words are. Inside all of us [ME included!] there's something that needs to be reminded of those two things: beauty + love. Maybe Reese needs me to be more patient and understanding when she goes into a panic. Maybe I too, should remind her of all the GOOD truths that she is. Perhaps it is necessary that as a 3-year old, she is told OFTEN not only how great she is, but also how beautiful and LOVED. Maybe she needs more words of affirmation than I give?
Maybe she just needs me.
And today I'm breathing a little easier telling myself that that may be okay. It might be tiring (exhausting) and I may want to hand her off to someone else so I can have a 'break,' but it won't always be this way. Not to this extreme. And I want nothing else than my baby girl to always want to lean on me.
**Mamas of young ones, do you have experiences similar to this? Do you have any tips or suggestions for putting your little ones at ease over being away from you? I'd love to hear from you, so comment below or shoot me an email [in my contact page!] As always, thanks for reading, thanks for being here with me, and I pray you find peace and comfort wherever you are in this stage of life!**