When I had my daughter, like all new parents, I had heard all of the anecdotes and advice from anyone and everyone who was willing to give it. What to expect at certain stages. Nursing versus formula. Baby Einstein. How soon to apply for pre-schools (seriously). And the big one at the time; how hard it would be the first time I said goodbye to my daughter. Goodbyes at all of the various chapters and stages would be challenging, but they would be nothing like that first time, so I should be ready.
So when it came to that first time? How hard did it turn out to be?
Yeah, it wasn’t. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of the house.
I remember my daughter was roughly six weeks old, and it was one of those horrendous, awful, Chicago January winter nights. Subzero temps, 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground. A great night to stay in and cancel whatever plans you had. Well, there was no way I was going to cancel any plans. I was headed out to a friend’s birthday party downtown, and I relished the chance to get out, including spending twenty minutes shoveling out my car, sans diaper bag. My husband strongly encouraged me to go, all the time denying he couldn’t wait to get me out of the house. “Go,” he said to me, “you’ve earned it! Go have fun and have some time for you.” Yep, pretty smooth.
And my daughter, at six weeks old? When I kissed her cheek, told her how much I loved her, and how I would be back soon, she looked me directly in the eyes, and said, “Buh.”
The party was a blast. I had quality time with a good friend whom I had not seen in a while, particularly now that parenting was changing everything. The crowd was fun, the conversation was engaging, and the food was fantastic. But mostly, what I remember most vividly is the lack of that diaper bag. I felt so free, so unencumbered, so light.
I remembered me, and that I was still a person independent of this new, amazing, wonderful blessing of a creature I had helped to create. I was still me despite the fact that I had forever changed, along with everything around me. Not only that, but that evening helped me realize that saying goodbye for a while was a good, necessary choice that allowed me to recharge, and recharging – self care – was the one of the best choices I could make in order to be the best parent I could.
And the best part of that first goodbye? In the morning, my daughter didn’t even remember I was gone. Imagine that!
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