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

  1. Jeff replied:

    lovely post. My girls aren’t there yet, but reading about you and the Bee allows me to see the future – mine and my girls – and have my emotions preemptively stirred.

  2. elise replied:

    Thomas is a junior now and college is looming in the not so far distance! I think maybe he’s using reverse psychology on me and is acting uninterested so I will want him to go… Erin who is a sophomore is more excited than him! Sigh.

  3. Library Lady replied:

    It is very strange to me, clearly coming up to the finish line of my reproductive years, and having to coach SC through these first years of hers!

    I think my “baby”‘s turn is still a few years off, but she is starting to show some of the signs and I think that she dislikes it almost as much as I do.

  4. Chef Bill replied:

    Excellent post, Landismom. Could it be that the daily shower is not so much to conform with the health teacher as with the “societal expectations” that the teacher presented? Either way, I think that the Bee will always be fine. She may not be part of your flesh but you are and always will be a part of her.

    By the way, this is your old pal Comfort Addict (in disguise!).

  5. Jody replied:

    We’re in a slightly different place, in that if the girls don’t get that information until fifth grade, I have a sinking/wild/excited/scared feeling that it will be too late, and one daughter probably SHOULD take a daily shower now, but is oblivious to that. Since they’re going through this stuff on the early side, it’s easy for me to displace my mixed emotions on to that aspect of it, and not really think about the wider symbolism.

    But it’s there, for sure. Especially in this month, when they turn another year older.

  6. the five-year mark « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] far this year, I’ve been wondering about kids growing up, and enjoying the things they do […]

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