My little Natalie (almost 3) has been going to camp for a few weeks. She started going until noon and after about 10 days, she asked to stay longer.
At first I was a bit sad but also thrilled to have 6 hours of time to myself! Her older sister is in the same camp so this newfound freedom was thrilling.
This Thursday, she didn't want to stay. She refused to go on the swing with her favorite teacher, the one she always looks for at drop off. She clung to me. Nothing would convince her. No swings, no drawings, no craft, no snack time with friends and her favorite teacher sitting next to her. She looked at me with pleading eyes. I tried to bribe her with a treat after school (felt guilty the second after I said it).
I gave in. Feeling shame, I gathered her snack and lunch bag and told the teacher I was taking her with me. Everyone waved her goodbye.
I was fuming. I felt embarrassed for staying so long and failing to "drop her off". I felt angry because I had plans but the most uncomfortable feeling was the pit in my stomach. I felt self-judgment. Was I being a good mother in this moment? Or was I creating a pattern that would cost me. Was this the right thing to do?
She sat quietly, knowing I was not happy with how this had turned out. But I could tell she was jubilant. Victorious. 1-0 Natalie. She accompanied me to my meeting and my lunch appointment. She mostly behaved and whined a bit. After the initial anger settled, I realized that I was upset for creating this. In the morning, she was quietly reading in her bed as we had to leave for camp. She had slept in, and just woken up. Her sister was rushing her to get ready. And she just wanted to play.
I silently wished she could stay home. I felt guilty for creating a time pressure.
I had opened that door, she had sensed it and walked through.
The next day, she didn't want to stay at camp. She wanted to have another fun day with me but I felt I needed to close that door. And after another 30 minutes of patiently waiting for her to willingly walk off and play, I physically had to close the door to the room as the teacher held her. Through the glass of the upper part of the door, I watcher my child scream for me and reach towards me. It was painful.
I cried on the way home yet I knew this was the right thing for us in that moment. There was a healing and a lesson, it felt like the boundary that I needed and that she needed. I felt sharp pain in my left shoulder. I have recently learned from Eileen McKusick's pioneering work with the Biofield that this area is associated with unexpressed sadness. As she says, "emotions buried alive never die". So I allowed myself to feel the sadness, from this morning and all the sadness that wanted to be released in that moment.
Her teachers emailed me that she had quickly settled down and was happily playing. They sent me a picture (see blog image).
Natalie and I had a conversation about it last night. She was looking at a picture book of a little bear sleeping. And she said he looked sad. He didn't look sad to me. But I inquired. And she looked up at me with sad eyes and tears forming. I asked if she was very sad when I left her at school. She cried. We hugged. I asked her to forgive me and I told her that it was painful for me too. Her eyes contained so much depth and connection in that moment, I felt like the child and she looked like a sage.
This was a hard lesson, but it deepened our connection as mother and daughter. It taught me about not having to always do the right thing, that it's ok to do my best and that forgiveness heals and strengthens.