Hindsight Parenting: Learning to Love and Leave
I’m Doing it Again
I am doing it again. I guess the admittance makes it different this time around, but it doesn’t help at all. I am doing it again. I am not sure what it is about me as a mother that makes it hard to leave my children with a babysitter. When the boys were growing up my excuse was that since they weren’t with me every other weekend, it’d be selfish of me to go out on the weekends that they were home. And…at the time, that was a good enough reason for me. However, it helped to contribute to the idea that mom would always be there for her sons no matter what; that mom was perhaps an appendage of their bodies, minds and souls and not a individual with other interests and hobbies and focuses in her life besides her children. But that pesky divorce guilt got me every time. Invitations to friends’ houses, movies, dinner out, parties, heck any invitation was met with a “no thank you,” or canceled last minute because I was overcome with guilt leaving those boys who already didn’t see their mother as much as kids in “married” families did.
However, I find myself getting that same ‘ol panicky feeling when it comes to leaving Ila as well. And just like before, I have a good reason (or so I think). You see I am worried about her perception of loving and leaving. In her short two years on this earth, that beautiful little girl has lost more than the average adult, and when I say “lost” I mean completely and utterly gone. Through no fault of hers, those that she has loved the most have completely disappeared seemingly never to be seen again. Her beloved brothers are gone, have been gone for several months, and since they’ve been absent so have their friends who had become like family to her. Very often, still, she’ll wander around the house opening doors and asking for them by name. We calmly state where they are and try to reassure her that she’ll see them again someday. When car doors slam outside of our house, her ears will perk up and she’ll gaze at the front door for just a while, and it makes my heart feel like it’s in a vice when she realizes that no one is coming through that door. But, sadly and predictably, because she’s so young, over time I have seen memories fade. She looks at that front door much less, and utters their names rarely. Although ideally, I’d love it if we could all be together, it seemed a blessing that her young age allows those mind snapshots of hers fade over time. We thought she was adjusting. That is until a few weeks ago…
That’s when her constant companion, Vixen, our lovable black lab passed away. My husband whisked the dog out of the house early in the morning before Ila woke, and for a few days we were able to keep her occupied enough that she didn’t notice her absence. When she finally asked about the dog’s disappearance, our first explanation seemed to be satisfactory–God had taken her to fix her “boo boo” so that she could finally run and jump and catch cheese like she used to. But days later, she asked again about that missing dog. We restated what we had stated before, reiterating that it was perfectly alright to be sad and that we’d do anything to help her through that sadness, and I hoped that she would accept our explanation and we’d be able to distract her from the subject. Alas, that is not what happened at all. In fact her subsequent reply was something that I don’t think I will ever forget. She said, “But my doggie didn’t say goodbye. Why didn’t she say goodbye? No one said goodbye.”
Those words, those soul stabbing words, haunt me. To me they are somehow an indication of what her very young mind has held onto with all of this losing and leaving; that loved ones go and they don’t say goodbye. This idea, these utterances brings about such an overwhelming guilt that it keeps me from leaving her in the hands of a babysitter or loved one. Intellectually, hindsight tells me that it is a mistake to parent out of guilt. Nothing good comes from that, and yet I cannot seem to leave her even every once in awhile. I know from experience that the less I leave her, the older she gets, the more of a “we” we’ll be and the harder it will be to go anywhere without her. And I guess that is the problem, this hindsight that I have–this parenting with experience may help me to realize what is best and right for my daughter, but it doesn’t change the deep ceded feelings that keep telling me not to listen to my head, but to instead go with my heart.
I have this image of her agonizing if we do ever leave that we may not return. After all, that has been a norm in her life. Loved ones leave and they don’t come back. On the other hand, if we never leave, how will she ever learn that we will come back, that not all people (or dogs) depart to never return. When it comes right down to it, I think that she has had a lot of heartache and feelings of abandonment and I can’t bear to add to that burden. I can’t bear the thought of her hurting or worrying or feeling sad or panicked because I have a need to see the newest flick at the local theater. Although, yet again hindsight whispers that I can’t shelter her from hurt and sadness. Hindsight wants to remind me that my job is to teach her that pain, worry and sadness happens and while there is no escaping those feelings, I will be there for her whenever they come.
I vowed to learn from my first go round of parenting, and so I guess I need to push myself out of my comfort zone and by doing so push Ila out of hers. I’ll start small, first leaving her for a half an hour perhaps for a quick grocery store run. Then maybe I’ll even go out to dinner. Perhaps someday maybe I could even take in a movie after a dinner out. Who knows, maybe by the time she’s 8 or 9, she’ll be ready for summer camp! The question is will I be ready? Well, if hindsight is always right, then the answer unfortunately would be “no.” Loving and leaving is something this mom will never get used to.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Vicki & Chuck Rogers]