separation anxiety

Remember when this was a blog about little kids? /sigh/ Those were the days.

Back in the day, the separation anxiety was all on the kids. When they would cry as I left them at day care, they worried, but I always knew I’d come back for them, so I didn’t fret. These days, the anxiety is much more on my end, as my kids take the normal steps to grow up—and separate from me and their dad.

Remember when you first had that baby, and she still felt like a part of your flesh? The first time the Bee got hurt, she was a couple of weeks old. Landisdad was trimming her nails, and cut her finger by accident, and it was as if she was bleeding my blood.

As the Bee’s gotten older, my sense of her body being a part of me has dimmed, of course. But it’s only very recently that I’ve started to feel, way back in some old, deep part of my brain, that she will never be mine again in the way she was in those first days. That she owns her body, and while I can stand to one side and make suggestions, it’s hers to do with as she wishes (within legal parental reason).

This week, the fifth grade started having the kinds of health classes where they separate the boys and the girls, and talk to them about puberty, and show movies about the physical changes that lie in store for them. Surprisingly, the Bee came home that day and wanted to talk, not about her period or when she might develop breasts, but the fact that she needed to start taking a shower every day.

We’ve had some struggles about showering recently, so landisdad and I were a little surprised, to say the least. It’s been difficult to get her to take a shower more than twice a week, so for her to suddenly develop a theory that she has to take one every day is a big breakthrough. It’s only been two days since that fateful proclamation, but she has gotten up, dutifully on each of those days at 6 a.m. to take her shower. She’s gotten dressed on her own, and come down to have me brush her hair.

Landisdad joked that we should see if we can get the health teacher to tell her that she has to start doing something else, like taking out the trash once a week, or helping make dinner every night. I’m not sure that would work, though I am hoping that this wave of cleanliness will also make her see brushing her teeth as less of a chore.

I guess in some ways, the loss I’m feeling isn’t just about our physical closeness, but the loss of being the trusted authority. I’ve been telling her to shower for a year—and now, in one day, she’s changing her behavior because “it’s what you do.” The Bee will usually be a kid who wants to conform—she doesn’t want to be the wacky kid who misbehaves, she’s more interested in being the star pupil. If taking a shower every day means that she’s performing as normal, then that’s a good enough reason.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I know that she won’t, for example, let someone push her around just so that she can fit in. Her ideas of fairness and justice will trump the need to conform, almost every time. The separation anxiety I’m feeling is my own loss of her—but that loss is ameliorated by the knowledge that what I am losing, the world is gaining.

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January 22, 2010. thoughtful parenting. 6 comments.