I’ve been back at work for 10 months now and for the first time since I started back I am stood here blubbering at the station, wishing I could leave my job and be at home to look after my girl. Daisy has always loved going to her childminder, she practically runs in without so much as a bye, but today was different. She cried. And nothing pulls a big gaping hole in your heart like hearing your baby cry for you and seeing her big brown eyes pleading for a ‘cuddie’.
I remember the last phase of separation anxiety well, those long nights of sleeping (well attempting to sleep) on the floor next to her cot because she needed to hold my hand to sleep, overnight she became my own little koala baby clinging onto my side and for a couple of weeks no one else would do. Secretly I loved the closeness and took advantage of the cuddles knowing it wouldn’t be long before she was off and I would be replaced with whatever Happy Land figure was her latest bestie. I've got quite a few friends going through this for the first time and have been confidently telling them it'll pass (which of course it will), but I must admit I didn't expect to find myself with a little Velcro baby again so soon.
I read a lot about separation anxiety the first time round, like all new mums I was desperate to be reassured it was 'normal' behaviour. Disappointingly I found a lot of advice on how to stop your baby being ‘clingy’ or ‘needy’, which I always felt was a little unfair, afterall the little poppet (who at that point had only been on this planet for less than 250 days) had discovered something which was life changing, ‘Mummy is Mummy and I am me, we are separate people!’ She was suddenly very aware of her own self and even more scarily aware that I could leave her, Plus I didn't want to fix her I wanted to help her.
Fast forward 10 months and that awareness has heightened, her knowledge of who she is, who those around her are and where they fit into her life is awe inspiring. But it seems with knowledge comes fear, I’ve started to notice a little flinch as people pass us in the street, aeroplanes and 'copters send her running to mummy’s trusty leg and I’m surprised you didn’t all hear the screams when dad had to drill a tiny hole to put a picture up last night! Everything seems just a little bit scary at the moment so she’s doing what she knows best - sticking with Mummy and Daddy while she rides it out.
One theory I read and liked was the idea that babies and toddlers satellite their mums (or dads), going off to play to a safe and comfortable distance but continuously checking in. I see this behaviour a lot with Daisy and it makes complete sense, she needs to explore the world around her but isn't quite ready to go too far yet. A quick run back to smear chocolate on my trousers or stick a rogue finger up my nose apparently is enough to reassure her I’m always there.
I’m not claiming to be the perfect, gentle parent and I can certainly see how easy it is to become frustrated, not to mention exhausted, during these phases but I just have to keep telling myself it’s exactly that, ‘a phase’ and it will pass. I try to imagine how she sees the world and quite frankly it's very very big and very very scary, so in my book she's doing a pretty good job.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is although it’s hard work I can see it’s just her growing up, she's starting to truly understand the meaning of self and where she fits in our family and the world around her. Most of all it shows she has no doubt that despite all the scary stuff out there mummy isn’t going anywhere and that makes me feel pretty good.