Six and a half hours

Ever notice how normal things can sometimes be the most overwhelming? There’s nothing unusual about a toddler going to nursery. Except now it’s my toddler. And it’s her very first day.

It’s my daughter’s first day at nursery. Our first full six and a half hours apart. A new record.

I’m wrestling with the push and pull of mum versus me. The paradox of motherhood. Guilt: I’m betraying my daughter. She relies on me. She expects me to be there but she turned around and I was gone. Joy: a whole day to create in the long quiet, rather than in the short spaces between my perfect girl’s increasing demands.

I find me where I left her – in front of the keyboard, drinking hot tea by the bucket; listening to Copland’s Appalachian Spring and editing in Pomodoro time. Finding the flow of the story. Just like before. I remember you.

My eyes flood at 11.14am. I miss my girl. Only 46 minutes until I’m allowing myself to call and check up on her. Is she ok? Is she playing? Is she eating? Is she cared for? Is she happy? Only 45 minutes until I can call and check up on her.

We’ve been constant companions these 14 months. We’ve become two people – at last! – as she’s found her legs and her voice and her very clear opinions. But it’s been me and her, her and me, all day every day. Through a Kiwi summer and an Aussie winter; through planes, trains and automobiles; through quiet days and long nights; with new people and places and familiar faces. We’ve been together for all of it. I know as soon as she does – and sometimes before – when she’s tired, when she’s hungry, when she’s seen a dog, when she’s happy, when she’s nervous, when she knows she’s in trouble, when she’s checking if this stranger is a good stranger. All of it.

Until these six and a half hours. We’re disrupted. She’s finding her way on her own for the first time. She’s building new relationships without me. And I’m cursing pre-baby me who would glibly tell dear friends that their babies would be fine at daycare so they shouldn’t worry – as if knowing that they’re fine negates the worry and the curiosity about what they’re doing and who they’re with and if they’re having fun without us.

I’m still new to this but already ‘normal’ is changing again; she and I are stretching the elastic bond that runs between us so she can step into the world. She’s already discovering things on her own terms and I have to just wait up for her, show up on time and pray that she’s ok in the in between, those six and a half hours until we reconnect.

I’ll pick her up. We’ll have dinner. Bathtime. Bedtime. Like normal. And tomorrow, we’ll do it all over again.

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