I have been a full-time mom since this little lady was still a baby. I always thought I’d be a working person, a career woman. Until it became clear to me that my daughter needed my care, needed a little extra attention. She didn’t eat or sleep well as a very small baby, and I had severe OCD PPD with her for so many months of her infancy that I couldn’t even experience the joy of new motherhood. It was all anxiety and sleeplessness.
I remember a select few moments when she would sleep and I would look at her and a overwhelming love would break my heart. When that feeling came more often than the thoughts of self-harm and loathing, I knew that I was getting out of my PPD and into mothering. And it is the most trying, most beautiful job in the world. It is a job. Ignore people when they say it’s not. It’s not always something I want to do, it’s not always fun, but I do my best work mothering because the end result matters so much. So I decided, a Master’s degree in hand, job offer lined up, to be a full-time mother. It was a decision I made work in a way I know that not everyone can. I’m not even suggesting everyone should. It was simply what I thought my daughter needed.
You see, she has always been emotionally fragile, ready to storm or cry or jump with joy, always in the most extreme ways. I knew she needed me when she was a baby, infant, toddler. Even as a very small baby (13 months), just putting clothing on her took a good twenty minutes. Nothing was comfortable. Every pair of pants would be discarded because they were too itchy, too long, too tight. She would scream about the way a certain piece of clothing felt on her, and throw tremendously long fits. So I learned to let her wear fleece pajamas. No big deal. But eating, sleeping even playing have to be approached in a certain way or it becomes another explosion.
She’s smart. She’s five and will listen to chapter books being read for an hour, remembering and reciting lines that stick out to her and asking pertinent and difficult questions about the content. She will imagine scenarios for play that blow my mind, so detailed and precise. But she’s only five and reasoning is still difficult, especially since her moods are more severe than some. She has to find her calm, and she’s learning to, as we all must, but it’s just a little harder for her than some.
So I stuck by her side, helping her learn and grow and play, allowing her to attend preschool for three hours when she was 3 to 4, so she could socialize, even though every morning was a fight. It is sometimes trying, but it has mostly been really wonderful to be with her (and her brother, who was born two years later) every day. We had tea parties, read great books, went on trail walks, visited museums, played at the park, baked together, and learned how to deal with each other’s highs and lows.
But this week she starts Kindergarten. She is no longer a toddler or a baby, but she is still my child. Watching her take her seat in class broke something inside me. It wasn’t the first time I’ve let her go, but it seemed like the most significant. I know how to deal with her storms and her teachers won’t. I know what her looks mean, and they can’t. She is my reason for joy, but she is only another student when in class.
And I understand it all, now. The many times my mother shed tears over this or that milestone–a school play, sending me off to Junior High, my first dances, my first car, the day I left for college. I couldn’t know how difficult it was for her to let go, but I do now. And I’m not ready for it, even though it’s here.
I know this week has been hard for her. I’ve received calls about some fits I knew would come, been asked questions about how to care for her, what to tell her, when to let her be. And I just wanted to step in and do it all.
“I’ll pick her up, if she needs me to.”
But it’s their job to keep kids in school. “No. It’s okay. Thank-you for telling us what you do at home. That helps.”
I want to yell that I need her now, too. That my days are still busy but with things that just don’t matter as much. But I let her go when I signed her up for school. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. She’s not far away, but she is doing her little kid job. She’s learning to be without me. It’s terrifying. I am frightened every moment of the day, wondering if she is having a hard time with other kids, with the lessons, with life…if she thinks I’m abandoning her, or don’t want her around.
I wrote a poem for my mother, not long after I had Clara, when mothering and anxiety and tears seemed to go hand-in-hand. I love that poem today more than I loved it then. Because now, I am that mother letting go.
Uncontainable, implacable strength
in a length of all, five-foot five.
Graceful, swift movements, juggling
a multitude of lives, errands, jobs,
heart breaks, burdens and joys.
Boundless energy, quick dancing
step-by step, building four lives
better than what she was
born with, dealt with, ran from.
She ran towards us, full womb,
overflowing mother breasts bursting,
always giving life, giving
what she did not have.
That moment of release, standing
half-in, half-out of the home she labored in,
disciplined in, bled and sweat in,
clinging to the threshold,
fingertips white and strained,
desperate to reach out and take back,
eyes running, brown shimmering orbs
crying for me to go, begging me to stay
and become her baby again.
Heart heavily laden with the moment,
holding it fresh in an blur-thick memory—
understanding what immature neurons
threw away for a chance at a life
more exciting, more learned, less rural—
that in that snap-shot frame of a moment,
I broke the wildly in love being,
waving to her, encompassed
by the smell of a rental car,
the promise of a child-dream,
and the ignorance of one who
did not know what it took
to be a mother-letting-go
H.M. Jones is the author of Monochrome, re-released by Gravity, and imprint of Booktrope. She is also a contributing author to Masters of Time. She has self- published many of her poems, and has also been accepted as a contributing poet to several poetry anthologies, including My Cruel Invention and No More Shame. She is releasing a spooky love story Sept. 2015 entitled “Tiptoe Through Time.” She spends most of her time making sure her children are well-rounded, open-minded citizens of this world, making play dough and having tea parties.