Snowplow parents clear away all the obstacles for their kids. Tiger parents place insane demands on theirs. Absent parents are…absent.
And then there’s me, the dictionary definition of a helicopter parent. Yep, just like a helicopter, I hover close, circling and looping until I run out of gas. I didn’t picture myself as a helicopter parent, and I don’t think I always have been. When I first met Shakhi and Jordan, I think I was pretty relaxed (maybe my view of myself is skewed?). Even when you were born, I think I did okay with rolling with the punches and giving you as much independence as you wanted. It was more difficult with you, because you spent your first 3 weeks in the NICU, and I was definitely super involved with all of your care decisions, and anxious when I was away from you. But I did leave you at night, and I did somehow sleep with you miles away from me. And when you came home, I was able to let you sleep in your bed and leave you for short times without falling apart. Sure, I thought about you and wondered how you were doing while I went to the movies or went to get my nails done. I didn’t like leaving you at daycare when I went back to work. I missed you a lot and hoped you weren’t too fussy and you were eating and napping well. But I don’t remember feeling like there was a hole in my chest or like I couldn’t take a full breath.
Until I heard the words that knocked that hole in my chest and took all of my breath from my lungs. Until I couldn’t take back the times I left you and I couldn’t wish or beg away the fact that you weren’t here anymore. Until I learned in the hardest way imaginable that tomorrow is not guaranteed.
After you left, a rotor the size of Texas sprouted right out of my head. I needed to know where Shakhi and Jordan and Daddy and Charlie were at all times. I needed to know that they were well and alive and breathing. I watched for the rise and fall of their chests and called to check in and had at least one legitimate panic attack when I couldn’t reach them. I did my best to give them independence but often had to take extra steps to achieve peace of mind. And then Olivia was born, and I’ve experienced a new level of fear, prompting a new level of hovering. I’ve only been physically away from her three times, for a total of about an hour and twenty minutes. I’ve slept with her every night since she was born, needing to feel her breath and smell her skin at pretty much all times.
This arrangement has suited both of us, as Little Miss has needed me too. She has needed to eat often and hasn’t been the most consistent sleeper.
**Okay, so I started this letter literally months ago, then took a huge writing break because of above-mentioned sleep deprivation and Level 10 clingy baby sister**
I’ve said before that I think it’s part of the Universe’s Grand Plan that Olivia has needed to be as close to me as I’ve needed to be to her. It gave me peace to constantly be reassured that she was alive. Yes, it’s been hard and I’ve cried and complained and felt like it would never end. But I needed to know. I needed the solid weight of her in my arms every night for the first 7.5 months to be able to function without crumbling under the weight of my anxiety that she would leave me too. And as she grew, I grew. I grew more confident in her vitality and in her independence.
And just now, as I’m editing this post, 10-month-old Olivia is napping in her crib for the first time, rather than in my arms. She also slept all night last night in her bed. I’ve also been physically away from her for lots more (short) times. I’ve toured daycares and applied for jobs. I’ve taken her to a play date with another baby and mommy to work on establishing a trusted friend who can eventually babysit. All of these are major *minor* victories for this Chinook Mama, and are going a long way toward showing me that we’re going to be okay. We are making progress. Olivia can go to daycare and we’ll both adjust; it might be hard, but we can do hard things. Daddy and I will be able to have a date night again while Olivia stays with a babysitter. I might have to call or text for status updates, but we can do hard things. One day Olivia will go to school, and I might cry but I won’t break, because we can do hard things. Even when she moves out, we can both rise up and thrive because we can do hard things.
How do I know with such certainty that we can do hard things? Because of you, my baby. If not for you, I’d never know how strong I really am. I would never know the depth of my character or that I have a steel core under all of this mushy, emotional outside. I wouldn’t know the unshakeable spirit of motherhood that has allowed me to stand tall in the face of so many sleepless nights and anxious moments. You are the light that has illuminated my true self and has helped me build the me I want to be. I can trust myself and my instincts. Even if I need to hover around for a while to give myself peace of mind, I know that in time, I’ll be able to drift back and let Olivia take her own flight.
Thank you as always for your wisdom and for making me better, not just as a mom, but as a woman and a as a human.
I love you, sweet boy, and
I kiss you,