Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hand Slip

My daughter just left. She’s left for a week to visit my in-laws, her Grandpa and Grandma. I packed her suitcase, made sure she had two coats in case it gets cold; I packed an extra pair of shoes, her toothbrush and special toothpaste, her hair brush—something she actually needs now that her hair is long enough to get tangled after the bath. I packed some toys, some books, a doll. I took a diaper bag and filled it full of size 4s, and then added three packs of wipes, even though she’s been asking lately—with a point towards the bathroom and a word that sounds like “potty”—to go to the potty. I grabbed her musical elephant so she can sleep at night, and sleep at nap time. I gathered three stuffed dogs, her most precious treasures, and put them in their own special bag for the trip. I packed her bottles and some formula, and with those, stuck in the page of notes I’d made for Grandma detailing her granddaughter’s daily routine. The note said maybe she’ll need this much formula, but it’s OK if you try to give her more milk instead.

This visit was planned in August. I knew it was coming, I agreed it was a good idea, but I never dwelt on it. Why should I have? My mother-in-law asked to take her for a week, and helpfully pointed out that she had taken my son for a week when he was only 16 months old. At 19 months old, my daughter was long overdue. But we’ve only ever been separated for 21 hours before. This time I’m not going on vacation; the higher purpose (for me) of my daughter’s absence is so I can toilet train her brother (he’s 3 ¾ years old) intensively. Really focus, pull him out of preschool, get the job done.

So, in theory I’m OK. I believe in grandchildren bonding with their grandparents even over an extended period. I got to do it with my grandparents, and I won’t deny my children that. But part of me wonders, when so many of my friends wouldn’t even consider letting their children go for that long, am I a good mother?

In Grandma and Grandpa’s car, I strapped my daughter into her car seat. I tucked her pink blanket around her, positioned Dougal (her favourite dog) under her arm. I brushed her bangs across her forehead. I kissed her.

When her hand slipped out of mine, by this I mean the car drove around the corner and out of sight, I went into the house and cried. I can’t quite bear the thought that she’s gone for the week, and I can’t quite bear the sight of the car driving away with my baby. But my tears reassured me, that though I’m willing to let her go, it breaks my heart, and that means I’m not giving her up glibly, or without a sense of what I’m losing.

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