Aside from the pitter patter of pet paws and my own keyboard clicks, the house is strangely silent. As a mom of an almost five year old, this hush doesn’t happen often.
Maeve is two houses away, playing inside with two long-time neighbor girls a few years her elder – and they all are delighted. Yesterday the new threesome played in our home, reading books, dressing up, chasing cats and even plopping down at the kitchen table to ask for a snack.
This is all so new to me. Now, we’ve shared playdates with preschool friends or meet-ups at the park – but as I’ve learned today, that’s so very different than letting her “be” without me or her dad. It’s just not about her being sans parent sidekicks, but we’ve orchestrated most every decision since we changed her first diaper. (Apologies to the future tweeny Maeve reading this. Yes, I mentioned your diapers to the world. Cue eye-roll … now!)
And in these moments I wonder if she will remember all we’ve tried to instill. Who will she “be” when not reminded by omnipotent voices from a few feet away to say thank you. Pick up the toys when you’re done. Take turns. Share. Be helpful. Use your kind voice. Make a good choice.
In five months, I’ll watch her enter elementary school as a kindergartner. Will she bravely bound inside, eager for new adventures? Or will she look back at me for assurance one last time before the door closes behind her? (If it’s anything like her first day at daycare when I returned to work, perhaps I should arrange for someone to get me home afterwards – who can see through all those tears to safely navigate a car through the streets?)
My mind sends me a reminder notice that this is just the beginning of an independence I’m supposed to be cultivating. You know, roots and wings.
Yet my maudlin heart responds with equal urgency that the moments are fleeting, the cuddles are numbered and it won’t be long before we’re not holding hands in public anymore.
I can’t help but be reminded of an excerpt in the book Tuesdays with Morrie:
“Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted. … A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle.”
That tug-of-war in my heart is as fierce as her concentration while pumping on the playground swings or pushing her little Chucks into the pavement – handlebar tassels blowing in her breeze – as she and her Radio Flyer scooter sail away. Away from me, from her dad. Away from needing us so completely. Away from the cocoon we’ve enveloped her in since the day she made us a family.
The stillness in the house suddenly cuts sharply, and my thoughts are rattled back to the here and now as I hear the laughter and chatter of three new pals heading toward me, and just a few minutes after the return time I’d assigned.
The door swings open and the gleam in her eye is blinding. The energy she radiates brings me back to the bliss of my own childhood when the only concern was what to play next and how much time before dark.
Maeve smiles at me, and in this moment of welcoming, I feel so strongly the connection we’ve carefully cultivated while in that little cocoon.
That passage from Tuesdays with Morrie ends with this: “Which side wins? Love wins. Love always wins.”