A constant need

My middle child misses me. When I’m there, when I’m not there, when it’s time to go to bed, when it’s time to wake up. Over the past several months, she has developed a constant need to be right next to me ALL THE TIME.

While this is sweet in lots of ways, it’s also other things at times: sad, heart-wrenching, frustrating and just not realistic. Or possible. It’s not possible for me to be available for her every second of every day.

I wish it was.

Really, I do. I love her just as much as she loves me. Maybe more.

I had lunch with a new friend today, a soul sister whose life has not mirrored mine but has had similar bumps in the road.

“What would you do if you could?” she asked.

“Teach yoga, write books and be present for my kids,” I said.

Neither one of us thinks this is actually a reality, but it’s the truth, my truth, and no matter how much I tell my middle child that I really would be right there for her all the time if I could, it doesn’t seem to help.

Separation anxiety among children isn’t uncommon. I remember leaving each of my first two babies at daycare when they were little and leaving my heart with them as they cried, arms outstretched toward me. But they were always fine. And sometimes, they weren’t even ready to leave with me at the end of the day when I came back to pick them up.

I wrapped my mind around that being a good thing.

But this current phase of anxiety, of neediness, is worse than I’ve seen before. My son didn’t have it. My middle didn’t have it before, but now, at 6 years old, she does. She’s taken to sleeping on the floor next to my bed. We have hardwood floors. She asks me to leave the bathroom door open when I go in to shower. She calls my name from the other room just to see where I am. Earlier this week, she refused to go into gymnastics (after we’d driven 20 minutes to get there) because she wanted to spend time with me.

Twice a week, I go to yoga teacher training classes in the evenings. Most departures are marked with tears and pleas to please take her with me.

It is sad and exhausting and heart-heavy. I feel bad when my babies are sad.

Last night, I crawled into bed around midnight and noticed a folded piece of white paper on my nightstand. I opened it to see a pencil-drawn heart with “M + P” in the middle and a note that said, “Mom, this is for gymnastics. I love you, Paige,” and a $50 bill she’s had in her piggy bank since Christmas.

It made me want to wake her up and swing her around and snuggle her and stroke her hair and tell stories as long as she wants and laugh and love and live with that sort of carefree spirit all day long.

Instead, I went to sleep, and this morning, I made her breakfast and packed her lunch and kissed her goodbye and went to work. Today, I will leave early to be there for her dentist appointment and after that, we will try going to gymnastics again.

Because all we can do is the best we can.

M + P in a giant, can’t-be-popped heart.


2 thoughts on “A constant need

  1. My middle child, also a daughter, had this reaction when we moved from one home to another. It was only a few blocks — one neighborhood to another a mile south in Omaha — but her reaction was a separation anxiety worse than any she had in babyhood. I had to start arriving at school 15 minutes early because, when kindergarten let out, I had to be RIGHT there to greet her. She panicked if I was still walking from the car or was a minute late. It was the same at dance class and birthday parties.

    All I really could do was assure her, keep showing up, keep our schedule consistent, etc. We also visited our old neighborhood and walked our new one, to give her a sense of where she was in her world. It will pass, I’m sure, with time.


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