My baby girl was born clasping tight to me. Whether in desperate need for nursing every 3 hours, day and night, or just the comfort of my scent and warmth, she only allowed me out of sight when asleep. Even by 7 months and barely able to sit independently, I’d hopefully prop her in front of the TV with stuffed animals and brightly colored toys so that I might separate myself to start dinner in the other room. I’d no sooner turn the corner before I’d hear a deep yell seemingly coming from a child much older than her, bellowing “MOMMY!”
As a toddler or even later as a preschooler, I’m most reminded of her chubby little fist, usually sticky in one way or another, clasping tight to my pinky as we walked. Her world apparently wasn’t right unless I was in close physical proximity, while mine ached for some space. I still remember her cries behind the pre-school door when I’d left her the first time. My heart ached in turmoil even as I skipped away in anxious abandon.
In elementary, our favorite teacher, with only kindness in her words, politely encouraged me to “back off”. We were so entwined in her schoolwork and play activities, I think the teacher could see the need for a break in the strong cords that bound us. I found myself vascillating between the endearing moments of our togetherness and the aching need to be on my own. Once, while looking through pictures recently, I searched my face captured during that time, hoping I wouldn’t see that angst for freedom. Oh how I loved being involved with my both my children, but didn’t exercise that need to be away. Certainly not with healthy options.
In adolescence, she began breaking away as most youngsters do. Feeling that rip away, like a bandaid’s removal, it stung. I missed her dependence on me, her giddy sharing of the day’s events, her holding my hand. Even though late at night, in her tiredness, she’d come wander back to my side to rest her head on my lap, asking me to read with her.
Today, our relationship is intermixed with sullen exchanges and hesitant interaction. It’s as if she doesn’t want to let on a need for either of her parents or that her mom could possibly be trusted to maintain this measured distance between us. At times she’s completely aloof, ignoring me completely and rebuffing my attempts at affection. Others, usually in times of great strife, she’ll call to me like long ago (now with the use of a cellphone), aching for Mommy to kiss away the booboos .
It’s a constant push pull of emotion that’s often difficult to accept. I long for a bit more balance in which we can equally enjoy each other’s company while giving each other the respect of personal space and choice. Perhaps its even too soon for me to be able to achieve that at this point in my desire to influence her choices for her life. It’s difficult for a mother to stand back while her daughter alters the vision she had for her as a little girl. Especially if she sees that it might bring her pain.
Yet despite my desire for more peace, I don’t believe this balance can possibly occur without its two extremes. Just as sleep is necessary for waking, we need the opposite to appreciate the other. It’s the natural order of the world: winter’s cold to bring about new growth in spring, our days of sunshine that are interrupted by rain – we can’t have balance without both extremes. That constant struggle for balance keeps us focused to that Eternal Source, and perhaps that was the intention in Creation. For in that struggle comes great appreciation for our blessings and within the darkness we gain insight in our seeking for answers and a deeper connection to Our Creator.