Separation Anxiety
The Beauty of Letting Go
July, 2005 - Issue #9
My 4-year-old daughter Nicole has recently been going through a major bout of clinginess and separation anxiety. The other day, out of the blue, she put her arms around me and dramatically proclaimed, "Mommy, I don't ever want to be away from you. I want to be with you every minute, every day." On another occasion, she proudly announced, "I'm going to give just you all my love and all my heart," then proceeded to pretend that she was unlocking her heart with a key. Nicole says and does sweet things like this all the time these days. She even gets teary-eyed once in a while when I drop her off at school - surprising for a girl who's always been so independent. And while I hate to see my daughter sad, I have to admit that there's a tiny part of me that's actually cherishing every moment of this phase. Because this I know for sure: She is going to outgrow it. In a big way.

A wise and good friend of mine once gently reminded me, "You know, Patty, one of your main goals as a mother is to raise this baby so that one day she can leave you." At the time, Nicole was only 3 months old and the statement hit me like a ton of bricks. How unfair life is, I thought, that God would allow me to have this beautiful baby, to hold and feed her, take care of her every need, love her with every fiber of my being, only to have her grow up and leave me. Two profound words summed up how I felt about this letting go thing: It sucks. If it were up to me, I'd wake up to her sweet, high-pitched voice every morning, kiss her chubby cheeks all day long, and end every night cradling my baby in my arms. I'd stop time and bask in the sweetness of her innocence, attachment, and yes, adoration of me.

But what I know is that as she grows older, "Mommy, I want to be with you every day, every minute," may sound more like, "Mom, I'd rather be with my friends today. Could you give us a minute?" And I'm okay with that. Because slowly, as four precious years have gone by, I've begun to understand the beauty in my daughter growing up and apart from me. Every day, I see the beauty of her personality unfolding - a sensitive, compassionate, sweet soul who at the tender age of 4, still asks, "Mommy, are the people who got hurt in the tsunami okay now?" Her self-confidence is emerging as she, looking back at me for reassurance, boldly steps into new circles and makes friends on her own. Her dependence on me is being replaced by five strong (and often frustrating) words, "I can do it myself!" And at least 17 times a day, I catch myself thinking, "Wow, did my baby just say or do that?" She's turning into a little person, and it's amazing to see.

Yes, I still get sad at the thought of my daughter one day preferring time with her friends over me, and I dread the day she goes away to college (I can't even think about her starting kindergarten without sobbing!). But I'm beginning to get this whole letting go deal. I understand that only by letting go will she fully become the woman she's intended to be. Only by letting her go will I hopefully experience the beauty of watching her meet a man she loves as much as I love her father. And ultimately, only by letting go will she and I continue to have the sweet, unbreakable relationship we now share.
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