I wake up to BabyA’s sobs and find that she’s having a nightmare. I imagine that she must be dreaming of me being brutally murdered, judging by the intensity of her cries, but she wakes up and tells me her bad dream is a secret. After some coaxing, she admits, “Mamma, I was dreaming that you left me and went for dinner. I couldn’t come because it was an adults’ dinner, and I missed youuuuu”, she says as she trails off into another sobbing bout.
Talk about really slapping on the guilt: her worst nightmare was me going out for dinner? This intense separation anxiety started around one, and peaked at about one and a half, staying at an Everest-high till a few months before her fourth birthday.
I love my daughter immensely but at the worst moments, I have wanted to palm her off to any class that would give me one hour of breathing time. I felt suffocated by her constant need for me: sitting on the potty with her on my lap was always the lowest low that I had experienced as a mom!
Sending her to Nani’s house so I could enjoy some hours just doing whatever I wanted (which was usually sleeping), or sneaking out of my house like a thief (moving slickly, sticking my body to the walls as I moved and not breathing so she wouldn’t spot any motion), I have done it all! No material gift could have replaced anyone willing to take her off my hands and give me some me-time!
Once she started ‘big school’, I started seeing a change in her. She started becoming independent (“Mamma, I can open this on my own”, toys all cleaned up after playing, clips never lost- no matter how bouncy the castles had been). Slowly, she started drawing on her own: “Mamma, can you help me?” Sometimes I would, and sometimes I would ignore her and phase out, lost in a world of Insta selfies and FB viral videos that had nothing to do with snotty-nosed, attention-needy children.
After a couple of months more, I could go for a lengthy shower and come back to see her still playing with her magnetic tiles: building castles and weaving fantastic stories around them. I felt happy that she was developing such focus and didn’t need me all the time.
Now it’s over a year of going to big school, and turning 4 has completely changed her. Gone are all the tantrums of toddlerhood because she’s happy to listen if you dole out logic (or even if you give her complete nonsense but package it into a fabulous story). Along with that, is a lot of stuff that isn’t as easy to digest- namely, her growing need to not need me!
One day, she came home, opened her doll house and started playing. As Nandy and I walked in, she said, “Please go! I’m playing in my room.” On seeing her father’s face drop like she had just tap danced all over his heart, she volunteered, “After my work, I will play with you, ok?” The husband and I looked at each other, and I told him that this is it. We had a little phase (which at that time seemed insurmountable) where she needed us, but now for the rest of her life, we will be the needy ones: “Darling, give Papa just one kissy?” “Chikri-poo, just spend five minutes telling me what you did in school”.
I have dreamt, prayed, cried for this solitude, and now I wake up in the mornings to see she’s been up for hours and hasn’t knocked on my door, needing me. I feel completely dispensable. She leaves for classes, waving goodbye happily, or sits around for for hours, colouring her life-size cardboard rocket, and I can see my dreams coming true. My little girl’s growing up, and as I foresee her rocket, ready to be propelled far, far away, I’m left wondering, why did I long so much for this loneliness in the first place?