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Baby Steps Away

Yesterday, Madeleine took two steps away from me.

 Not physical steps; she didn’t magically stand up and walk on her 4 1/2-month-old legs.  But she began her journey to independence from me in two very real ways:
  1. Madeleine ate her first grown-up food.  True, it was only a tablespoon of rice cereal mixed with a lot of breast milk, but it was the first time she put anything in her body that I didn’t make.
  2. Brian and I both left the house.  Together.  Without her.  For four hours, she was in my mother’s care, and not within earshot of at least one of her parents, again for the first time.  And what was worse, when I called to check in, I could hear her cooing and giggling in the background!  No crying, no anguish, no loneliness.  Which is good, right?

As parents, we want our children to grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults.  One of my biggest fears in becoming a mother was that I would not properly equip my son or daughter to be independent and confident.  I would make them either too dependent on me to the point that they doubted themselves and always stayed in my wingspan, or I’d throw them out of the nest too quickly in an effort to teach them to fly before they were ready and they’d hurt themselves.  We constantly walk a tightrope between wanting our kids to know we’ll always be there for them and making them so strong it never occurs to them to call on us.  I know that.  And I know that these two occurrences – her first “meal” and her time without us – are teeny, tiny baby steps: it’s not as if she’s starting to date or visiting prospective colleges.  She still needs us for more than a roof over her head and an allowance.  But she has clearly begun the indefatigable, inexorable process of taking the fences we’ve built tight around her tiny body, tearing them down, and building them back up again a teensy weensy bit further out from her.  It’s the nexus of her life as a separate entity from me.  And while I’m grateful she is content with my mom, and happy I won’t be breast-feeding for the next ten years, I found myself lying in bed last night and the only way I could describe my feeling was – sad.


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