This evening, it was bed time routine per usual for Little Miss. Bath, milk, book, water, toothbrush, kisses and hugs. Except tonight, she didn’t let go. She pierced my heart with “Mama! Mama!” and with each mama she held tighter. Her daddy had to extricate her from me, which propelled her into a frenzy. I had to tear myself away from her and left the room on leaden feet because that was our plan. She wanted her mama, but she needed her sleep more – only she didn’t know that.
This was the third night in a week that the bedtime routine was disrupted by uncontrollable crying. We think that the next wave of separation anxiety is upon us, but I also think that she too now knows and feels my own anxiety of the last goodnight. Because each night, when I close her door behind me after our final kiss, I do not see her again until 22 hours later. When she wakes in the morning, I will already be at work, and the next time I lay eyes on her will be around 5pm when I pick her up from daycare after my full day at work. And that’s when the clock starts ticking, in fact, blaring into my ears again. Tick tock tick tock – the countdown to 7pm begins. In these two hours – we sing, we play, we talk, we walk, we dance, I cook, she plays by herself, she eats, and it’s bedtime. Again. I see her for the first time in nearly a day and when I blink, it’s over.
I have to admit, these days, these two hours are getting harder for me. She’s not just forming language, she is forming an identity – she’s becoming a little person right before my eyes, and yet she isn’t because it seems like she’s doing most of the growing away from me. And I fear that I’m missing out. I don’t just enjoy being around her because I gave birth to her – I genuinely enjoy her company. With new words, she can easily tell me what she wants, “mek”(milk) “peas”(please), which decreases the tears and frustrations. We are often silly together but she also makes me laugh with her toddlerese – lately she’s been gravitating towards the p sound, so boat is “boap” and book is “boop”, although it sounds more like boob, and of course that makes anyone cackle.
These new words aren’t just mere nouns, but a statement of her preference. The I in identity. When in the mood for a song, she makes a request: “yayo” (short for Old McDonald’s “ee i ee i oh”) or “bus” (Wheels on the Bus") – two of her current favorites. Sometimes when I’m home with her on days that I’m ordinarily at work, like this past Memorial day, there’s an unmistakable gleam in her eyes when they meet mine – like she knows it’s a special treat. She shoots me a radiant “I’m so glad you’re here mama” smile when I walk in to her room to greet her in the morning that I don’t mind that on weekends I’m always the one to get her as My Guy slumbers away in the early hours of dawn. In fact, I desperately long for these mornings and would even fight him for them.
Often, when my attention is not on her, she pulls a Stewie from Family Guy on me - “Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama” until I finally look at her, “Yes, Little Miss?” and she giggles before moving on to the next task that warrants a new set of mama, mama, mamas.
Yet sometimes, I am mommy. I noticed that when I’m close, she addresses me as mama, but when I’m out of her sight, she calls out to me, “Mah-mee! Mah-mee!” Every morning (or so My Guy reports on the days I’m not there), the first sounds that come out of the baby monitor are “Mommy! Mommy!” but when I walk into her bedroom, it’s “Mama!” with a big grin. So really the difference in designation is by proximity, or rather, by my presence.
In mama, I hear a deep, tender, trusting love. In mommy, I detect the desperation. The longing. The fear. The uncertainty.
If that’s the case, I don’t want to be her mommy. I don’t want to be the mommy who isn’t there, the mommy who sees her for just two measly hours a day, the mommy who wants to be there but can’t.
I just want to be her mama.