I beg my pajama-wearing daughter to get dressed. We have twenty minutes to get to our playdate and she has not had breakfast yet. I open up her closet and tell her to just pick something to wear.
After much debate, she grabs a pink and gray dress off the hanger. I try to help her with it but she pushes me away, insisting that she can do it all by herself. She puts on the dress on backwards and when I attempt to help her, she cries. I glance at the clock and sigh.
“I just want to do it myself!” she yells at me.
I take my hands off of the dress and after ten minutes of tears, she has it on right.
She is so proud. “I did it myself!” she cries, and I nod. She twirls in the dress and the fabric flies around her. I notice she is beaming.
This is good, I tell myself. I think about her independent streak all morning. It makes me smile, but I simply wish she would let me help her sometimes. She is only two years old.
My daughter is playing with toys while I sit in the corner of the classroom with a lump in my throat. We are visiting her nursery school class – she is starting the program in a few weeks.
I catch her glancing at me from time to time, but she mostly ignores me. I notice that she goes to the teacher for help, even though she has just met her. She speaks up and asks for more water during snack time.
During the art section, she fingerpaints by herself, shrugging off any offer of help from me or the teachers. Her little hands are covered in green paint. She walks to the sink by herself to wash it off. I stand up to help her, but by the time I cross the room, her hands are already clean. I notice the green streaks in the sink.
This is good, I tell myself. It is good that she is starting school, that she will learn from teachers and that she will be in this vibrant classroom with other kids.
This is good, I remind myself again as I cry on our walk home from the pre-school.
It is a beautiful morning when we arrive at the local park. My daughter hops out of the stroller and runs onto the playground as soon as I close the gate. I park the stroller under a tree and wander over to join her.
“No Mommy come with me!” she exclaims, and then instructs me to sit on a bench and watch her. She goes down the slide a dozen times and then befriends another little girl. They run off together, giggling.
This is good, I tell myself. For two years, I have followed her around this playground, helping her on the slides and pushing her on the swings. A break is good.
So, I sit on the bench. It feels cold and lonely under my body.
Sometimes I wish I had been warned that motherhood is the ultimate exercise in letting go. Perhaps I could have steeled myself against the inevitable heartache that accompanies my daughter growing up.
This is good, I remind myself – when her fierce independence takes over and I am left on the sidelines.
This is good, I whisper under my breath when my daughter insists on doing everything by herself, without my help.
This is good, I say to my heart to keep it from breaking.