Yesterday was a huge day for me. A day I’ve been dreading and worrying about for months.
Yesterday F started playgroup.
From now on, every Friday morning I will drop him off there after I’ve taken O to school and I will pick him back up after lunch.
And for the four hours in between I will do… what? Clean, I guess. Do the laundry. Run errands.
I didn’t think it would be this hard. But I should have known, because the thing about F is that he and I are together all the time. I go to work two days out of the week, and the other five days we are together.
And it’s not just that.
I didn’t bond with F when he was a baby. At all. Because he was so unsettled all the time, and because I couldn’t cope, maybe I thought he wasn’t for keeps. I didn’t feel like I was good enough for the job of being his mother. I thought that somebody else could do it better. And then everything started to spiral out of control and it was only on the night when I thought there was real chance that he might actually be taken away from me that I started to realise how much I didn’t want that to happen.
Maybe I’ve overcompensated for those first few months. Maybe I’ve babied him more than I should have done. Maybe I’ve allowed him to be a little more dependent on me than he otherwise would have been.
The simple fact is that I adore him. Which is not to say that I don’t feel exactly the same way about his brother, but the thing about O is that he has always treated me as more of a satellite in his life. He wants to know that I’m there if he needs me, and he has no doubt that I love him, but he also wants to be independent.
O and F are different children. Very different. O sees me all the time, but he rarely gets to spend time with his daddy since he started school. So if he’s given the choice between being with me and being with daddy, he will choose to be with daddy.
That’s fair and it seems perfectly logical.
F also sees me all the time, but he also sees a lot more his daddy than O does. And the fact that I’m around a lot means that F always gravitates towards me because I guess he finds me reassuring.
He needs me so much more than his big brother does.
Or so I thought.
But yesterday surprised me. Because I was terrified about how hard it was going to be to walk away and leave him. I was afraid that he would cry and refuse to settle. I was worried that I would get a call asking me to go back and pick him up.
I needn’t have fretted.
F kissed me goodbye and, aside from calling out to me once as I left, he went seamlessly from constantly orbiting me to stepping out on his own without me.
And yes, I cried in my car after I left him. I couldn’t believe that I had walked away from him.
I felt like I’d abandoned him.
But he had a wonderful morning. He didn’t cry, he didn’t once look for or ask for me. He involved himself in new things with new children and he did fine. Better than fine. The play workers showed us photos they’d taken of him playing and he has a big, beaming smile in every single one of them.
When I picked him up, he was happy to see me. But I could also tell that he’d been just fine without me, that his happiness wasn’t dependent on my physical presence. Once again, he amazed me with how strong and brave he really is.
He also proved to me what I have always been unsure of; that he knows I love him and that he is secure in that fact. I’ve always wondered if he knew, or if the fact that I was a terrible mother at the start would somehow ruin his chances of ever
feeling safe and loved.
It’s a relief to know that I haven’t fundamentally damaged him. That everything I’ve done since those dark days has been enough for him to know.
My baby is growing up, and while that wrenches at something inside of me that I can’t quite put a name to, I am so endlessly proud of him.
I am so privileged to be his mother.