A child who protests when her parents leave can’t be unusual. It’s logical, really. The bond between us has been nourished by hours of rocking, holding, singing, settling, playing, of just being together. This bond is strong and meaningful. This baby is my life. Yet, I have an other life too. So does her father. Our lives apart enable our life together. These things are linked and enmeshed — our life is plural. It seems only sensible that our child, now older, more determined and aware, should recognise and prefer more strongly her parents to any other human beings offered her. But the routine of our emotional separation at daycare is intolerable and constant. Her resistance is strong and voluble. I wash in guilt. I recognise the authenticity of her need, the sincerity of her cries for us to stay, to not leave her. Even though these women are wonderful, and at other times, she speaks their names lovingly and says goodnight to them in an evening recital, they are not her mother. They are not her father. This bond we have been building between us, between parents and child, this bond we have been caring for her whole life sustains through these separations. She is not angry or distant when with us (as a book I read recently suggested would be the case—thanks Christopher Green, you twat). But it still hurts to leave her while she cries.
I wrote this on an undated piece of paper, but it must have been in about April of this year (six months ago now!), when S was getting used to new carers and friends at the daycare. She’d moved up an age group, and it was an exciting but emotional time. We all kept brave faces for her, but by the time I got to work I would be in tears. Aching from leaving her, stressed at the workday ahead, I would ring the daycare to check and be assured, in kind and helpful voices that made me want to weep even more, that she had stopped crying very quickly after we left. It only made me feel slightly better. It took a few weeks for her to adjust, for us all to adjust. But adjust we did, and ‘Toddler house’ is as much a part of S’s life now as going to the park or the beach – and something looked forward to just as much as those special places! She does not cry anymore, not even a little bit. It’s astonishing in some ways, the degree of her adaptation. The staff tell me of other kids who never adjust to that moment of separation—years of morning tears. I am grateful for her strong spirit, for the faith in our bond. I am grateful for choice, even if sometimes it means our tears.
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