In all my overzealous enthusiasm regarding the gym and shaking a tailfeather, I fear that I may have just made one very big parenting mistake.
You may have read earlier that I was feeling quite chuffed and accomplished in orientating Bella to the playroom at the gym (I still can’t say crèche) so that I could work up a sweat and lose the last bit of weight that has become quite a myopic focus of mine. Whilst Bella appeared to be happy and secure enough in her attachment to let me go, I have learnt one very big lesson today that has had me in tears all morning.
Over the course of about four weeks that we have been going to the playroom, Bella has seemed happy and well adjusted. Late last week though as I was moaning through my latest punishing exercise, a spin class, a staff member came to get me as they had found Bella to be inconsolable about half an hour after I left. “She was fine” they said, right up until something triggered her into being so upset, they felt the need to get me.
On my return, she took some time to settle but we happily played and read some books for another half hour before heading home. After blowing kisses and hugs with the staff, they advised me to bring her back and try again.
This time every week has become about so much more than sweating. If that was all it was about, I’d just run around the park with her for heaven’s sake. It has however, become my way of coping with what can only be described as small “adjustment complications” with motherhood. Never before have I had to deal with the confusion of loving someone (Bella) and loving something (stay-at-home-motherhood) whilst desperately wanting to run into the woods topless at the same time. Hence, the child free gym time obsession.
So off we went early this week to “try again”, pushing to the back of my mind her strange behaviour since we left last time; clingy koala-like anxiety. More happy kisses and waves ensued on my departure and I sighed with relief when I thought it was going to be ok. But before I knew it, a staff member was searching me out again just as the elated feeling was returning, to tell me Bella was upset again.
Whilst I should have gone to her at that point, right then, I didn’t. I kept circling on that machine and I didn’t go to her. “She’ll be ok” said the endless voices in my head, “she needs to get used to it” said some more helpful advice inside.
I should have gone to her. I didn’t.
I let it go for another fifteen minutes and when I arrived in the room she was asleep in a staff members arms. Unsettled and full of anxiety from this strange behavior, I left her asleep and went again for another 15 minutes. When I returned I woke her and she was once again distraught by her surroundings.
Once again the staff told me that I should bring her back later this week and that she’d “get used to it” and no doubt she will. But today it has been playing on my mind as to why she would have fallen asleep only a few hours after she had woken for the day.
Once again, the psychology degree only serves to undermine me as a parent and even worse, my shrink on speed dial can have the same effect (who also happens to be a child psychiatrist, damn him). Nevertheless I saw him today and explained what had been happening, as well as describing our home life.
Despite my best efforts, constant analysis and sometimes crippling love for Bella, I have singlehandedly destabilized her at home (with various boring stresses) and at large by leaving her with people she didn’t know whilst tolerating persisting distress. Turns out, it’s most likely she wasn’t tired at all that day when she fell asleep in the playroom but that she turned herself off to deal with her surroundings. And oh, how I know THAT feeling so well. Sweet escape of sleep…
I should have gone to her. I didn’t.
And you know what? I just don’t know how to do this gig. I don’t know how to not hurt this little girl and stay sane in the meantime.
There seems to be a plethora of articles doing the rounds (social media of course) about Mummy Wars, judging less and lending a good ear to our fellow parent in times of need. It has become increasingly unfashionable to voice an opinion of any kind, lest you appear to be passing judgment.
But people who know me, know that I like to make a call on things. Things like…
Drug use and pregnancy: bad.
Spray tans and pregnancy: good.
Drink driving: bad.
Binge drinking at home: good.
Plastic surgery: bad.
See how easy that was? I’m usually sure of my convictions and will fight to the proverbial death to make my point heard (usually the loudest). My sister put all of our good training to use and became a lawyer. I’m just a very frustrating friend to have a hearty discussion with.
But bringing up Bella has turned me into a dithering, questioning, teary mess with only one thing to go on: instinct. I know that what my doctor was saying today was right. Bella may just not be ready to leave me and for now, that’s just going to have to be ok.
We will go back to the gym and I will sit with her for the whole time if she needs, time after time, and I will go to her if she want me, again and again. She may not be ready for months or years in which case, I may just end up running in circles in the park. It has been my biggest lesson and definitely not my last. My time is hers now and I’m last cab off the rank, so to speak.
And instinct tells me, that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.